A Martinet et Benoit Overture Cylinder Box

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, serial no. 3725, which appeared to be only the third ‘cartel’ to come to light, joining numbers 3830 and 3948. Nevertheless, there are also about dozen or so miniature movements known to exist, with serial numbers ranging from 2181 to 4007. They are difficult to date accurately as any changes were made over a long period. Some are encased in tortoiseshell boxes, including one with a finely painted lid, one intricately carved, and another with gold inlay. Others are simply mounted in tin boxes, and yet one other encased in a high quality ‘Palais Royale’ necessaire. A number of these small movements have upwards of the usual 70 teeth and there is even one with 123. The choice of music tends to be on the early side, mainly operatic with extracts from overtures.

This newly found cartel musical box movement is well worth closer examination, if only just to admire the fine workmanship. Its features might also give us a more accurate dating clue……………………………………

All of the aforementioned features are those you would expect to see on a late 1820s or early 1830s movement. I can find no evidence to indicate the movement might have been made in a later period. The musical necessaire, that I noted earlier, has a higher serial number of 3804 and the contents bear Paris goldmarks for the years 1819-1838 . The dates quoted in the musical box books, of circa1850, for the manufacture of these boxes must surely be based on inaccurate information and need to be reappraised.

From Issue 4, Spring 2016 of Mechanical Music World. To read this article in full, and see all the illustrations, become a member and receive a copy. Full details on Membership Page