Gramophone and Phonograph References
I am frequently asked about the origins and history of the talking machines that turn up in attics, barns and occasionally on waste tips, or that have been passed down through the family. Many are over 100 years old now and trying to find out about where they came from is often difficult.
There is no completely comprehensive history of these machines, but probably the best reference is still “Collecting Phonographs and Gramophones” by Christopher Proudfoot first published as one of Christies of South Kensington “Collector’s Series” in 1980. This book gives an excellent introduction to many gramophones and phonographs with pictures and historical detail. Later on, in 2011 Christopher Proudfoot, together with Brian Oakley produced a very full reference to almost all of the machines produced by The Gramophone Company (HMV) in a large book called “His Master’s Gramophone” a reference to the “His master’s Voice” world famous logo.
Proudfoot also wrote a useful article on small gramophones in edition 29 of the CLPGS magazine ”For the Record” in which he describes several more unusual portables
In about 2003, New Cavendish Books published a very good book by Dave Cooper “The Perfect Gramophone” which gives details and pictures of all the portable gramophones produced by HMV together with tips on repair and maintenance.
Sadly there appear to have been no other publications giving as much help and detail for other types of gramophones, and to get detailed information about Decca, Columbia, Gilbert, Academy, Edison-Bell and so on, it is a question of finding scraps from a variety of sources.
In the early 1900s magazine was produced called “The Sound Wave” and on rare occasions examples of bound editions can be found. I believe there were four bound editions and these are a priceless fund of early adverts, comment and advice on the earliest machines and recordings as they were coming onto the market.
In about 1974, EMI, which had taken over HMV and Columbia in 1931, produced “The EMI Collection” with the help of Ernie Bayly (Editor of the Talking Machine Review) a book full of black and white pictures and descriptions of the many gramophones and phonographs in their collection. Early copies of this book are an excellent reference to a wide range of machines, but the book has been reproduced many times and the images of later ones can often be of very poor quality.
Other reference books include “Talking Machines” by V.K.Chew. c1967. HMSO. Useful, but the pictures have poor detail.
“Talking Machines” by V K Chew. 1967. Science Museum. Update of earlier book.
“Old Gramophones and other Talking Machines” by Benet Bergonzi. 1995 Shire publications. Small but surprisingly useful.
“The Illustrated History of Phonographs” by Daniel Marty 1979. Coffee table book.
“Phonographics” by Arnold Schwartzman. 1993 (Chronicle Books) Pretty pictures and useful needle tin reference.
Phonoservice “Book of the Gramophone” 1995. Barry Williamson. Some useful early adverts and information but very poor quality prints.
“Veteran Talking Machines” by Brian Jewell 1977. Midas Books. Poor prints and mostly done better elsewhere.
“The Talking Machine”. By Fabrizio & Paul. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. 1997. Very well produced book reference book with strong American slant.
“The Compleat Talking Machine”. Eric Reiss. 1986 by Sonoran Publishing. An excellent American book that encourages you to take on a wide range of repair challenges. I have used this book a lot and have found it really helpful.
An essential reference for phonographs is “The Edison Cylinder Phonographs” by George Frow and Albert Sefl. 1978.
“The Edison Disc Phonographs and Diamond Discs” or those branching out into Edison’s experiment with flat discs. George Frow. 1982.
Similarly for those lucky enough to have found an EMG gramophone. “The EMG Story” by Francis James. 1998. Bakehouse Publications.