The mechanism of the Great Clock was designed by Edmund Beckett Denison and George Airy, the Astronomer Royal. Construction was entrusted to the London firm of E J Dent, who completed it in 1854. Pugin’s tower took another five years, during which time Denison was able to experiment and instead of using the deadbeat escapement and remontoire, as originally planned, … Read More
Our cover picture illustrates a very finely carved musical tortoise. It is 9 inches long and contains a standard photograph album-type two-air musical movement, maker unknown. The novelty does not accord with the Black Forest style of carving but the maker and the place of tortoise manufacture is known as shown on the red label: Chr. Ritschard, Sculpture, Montreux. Nothing … Read More
The tin boxes remained substantially the same over a lengthy period. They were mostly orange, green or yellow, and more rarely red or blue, and contained good quality movements. Most bear prints of buildings or views, usually of the St Croix and Geneva areas, though I have seen illustrations of boxes depicting Italian cities, and one with a battle … Read More
Barrel pianos were first developed in the early 19th century as an attempt to automate piano music. Most were destined for street and commercial use although there were also domestic versions.
Many were made by Italian immigrants. Joseph Hicks was a Bristol manufacturer and his instruments have a very distinctive style, but there seems to be little doubt … Read More
The word “marotte” comes from 17th century French, meaning an obsession or foolish idea. It was adopted to mean the mock sceptre of office, carried by a jester, with a head wearing a cap and bells in imitation of the jester’s own outfit.
They first appeared in France as a doll on a stick. Some contained a musical movement under … Read More
The rare stamp of ‘Martinet et Benoit’, when seen on a musical box comb, is usually synonymous with a movement of fine quality. The fact that little is known about this partnership is probably down to the small number of examples of their work to have surfaced.
Last year I was fortunate to discover a Martinet & Benoit overture box, … Read More
The simple black horned panelled case was broken in places and badly stuck together but was redeemed with a nicely painted enamel lid of a cock fight. The bird which had lost most of its feathers, predictably did not work and had its wing caught up in the grid. The tail spike was badly bent to one side where someone … Read More
Albert, as he came to be named, turned up about 55 years ago in a pile of fire salvaged timber. The figure was completely smoke-blackened with blistered paintwork and missing both hands, but with with no sign amongst the pile of any parts of an organ on which I presumed he once stood. Looking much unloved he came to stand … Read More
Lyn Wright was a serious collector, restorer and hobbyist of automata. To convey the sense of fun as well as understanding about how these mechanical devices work, he constructed a set of ‘skeleton’ models to show how some of the basic functions worked. Before we continue with Fred a summary of his forbears is due……
The Ancient Greeks seemed obsessed … Read More
My first acquaintance with a Porter was its sound. Nearly every make or model of instrument has a different voice, and, when I heard this before I saw it, I wondered why I had no idea who the maker might have been. I expected it to be a finely restored model of one of the early makers and was astonished … Read More