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The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

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Some items
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Piano Concertos 1 and 2
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La Mer Ticciati




simply marvellous

Outstanding music

Elite treatment

some joyous Gershwin

Bartok String Quartets
uniquely sensitive

Cantatas for Soprano


Of the 92 recordings made by Zonophone in Milan during April 1903, only about 43 were issued with light blue labels. Some seven were issued with black labels, including those of some artists whose other recordings bore light blue labels. Thus, of the six sides recorded by the great French basso Paul Plançon, X-2061 to X-2066, the first was issued with black, orange, light blue, and green labels, X-2062 and X-2064 with black labels, X-2063 and X-2066 with green labels, and X-2065 with a light blue label. (The author’s copy has a black label.) The two sides shown above were issued on a double-sided disc, probably in 1902.

Milan, April-June 1903

Paris, 1903

(Note: many of the images following were published originally in The Zonophone, compiled by Frank Andrews and the late Ernie Bayly)

10-inch, black with gold lettering
10-inch, green with gold lettering
1904 to June 1908

The Zonophone label was reorganized in January 1904, to be used exclusively for the issuance of low-price discs with green or black labels, as the British Zonophone Company under the management of Louis Sterling, who later formed the Sterling Record Company. That company reverted to recording and manufacturing cylinders, having some doubts as to the viability of gramophone discs. The Gramophone Company discontinued the use of the Zonophone label in May 1911, and thereafter replaced the cheaper recordings with dark green labels and the more expensive discs with black labels.

Paris, Sep-Dec 1902
Barcelona, October 1905
Paris, early 1905

The green Zonophones shown above are actually Gramophone Company recordings made by Cleveland Walcutt in Paris, probably in early 1905. They are seven-inch discs with matrix numbers 4381n and 4439n (originally 4381F and 4439F), respectively, and should not be confused with the 10-inch Zonophone issues X-82187 and X-82198 bearing the matrix numbers 5103o and 5161o (originally 5103F and 5161F), respectively, which were also recorded in Paris by Walcutt later in 1905.

The original Zonophone system for assigning catalog numbers was really was no system at all but simply a series of blocks of numbers assigned according to the location where the recordings were being made. It was dropped, and a new one similar to that used for Gramophone Company issues was established, as seen in the table below. The country and regional assignments were changed from those used for Gramophone Company issues, to avoid confusion. Thus, while the Gramophone Company assigned catalog numbers from 50000 to 59999 to recordings in Italian or of Italian interest, Zonophone assigned catalog numbers from 90000 to 99999 to such recordings. Within each area, however, the vocal and other instrumental designations were retained. As examples, the series 52000-52999 and 53000-53999 for solo male and female vocal recordings, respectively, became 92000-92999 and 93000=93999 for the Zonophone issues.

As shown in the table below, Zonophone catalog numbers for 10-inch discs were prefixed with X-, while those for 12-inch discs were first given an initial 0, and then prefixed with Z-. Further details may be found in the works of Alan Kelly. The recording experts employed by the Gramophone Company continued their appointed rounds, but lower-priced issues were manufactured by the newly formed British Zonophone Company, with newly designed dark green Zonophone labels, as seen below.

Country or Region



7- and 10-inch




Great Britain














Russia and Poland




























Spain and Portugal




























10-inch label, green with gold lettering

1904 to June 1908
June 1908 to February 1909

12-inch label, green with gold lettering
March 1909 to September 1910

12-inch label, shades of green with gold lettering,
October 1910 to May 1911
recorded September 20, 1906

recorded May 1906 with 1905 label


The selection on the left above was recorded in 1906 but issued with a Zonophone label used since 1905. The record on the right above was recorded in May 1906 by Fred Gaisberg in Milan. It was issued after November 1907 on the Gramophone Company label, as a Zonophone issue. The letter "Z" can be seen impressed under the label.

Milan, November-December 1906

St. Petersburg, mid-1908

The disc on the left above was recorded Milan in late 1906 by Fred Gaisberg, while that on the right was recorded in St. Petersburg in late 1908 by Franz Hampe.

The Zonophone X-41025 shown on the left above was recorded in London in August-September 1907 by Peter Dawson et al. (alias Hector Grant et al.). It was paired with X-49280, also by The Minster Singers, consisting of Peter Dawson, Ernest Pike, Stanley Kirkby, and Arthur Gilbert, under a series of aliases). The serial number 693 occurs on both sides. The disc on the right was recorded on December 30, 1926. The imprint at the bottom of the label reads Manufactured for the British Zonophone Co. by the Gramophone Co., Sydney, N.S.W.

London, April 1908
Vienna, October 1908
October 1908 London
December 1908 – June 1909

The disc on the upper right above was recorded in October 1908, and issued with the title in both English and Russian, in spite of the recording having been made in Vienna. The label on the lower left was used in October 1908, while that on the right was used from December 1908 to June 1909. Note that the artists shown on the four Zonophone Grand Opera discs above and below also comprised the Sullivan Quartet, who recorded the first "complete" Gilbert and Sullivan operettas as early as 1906.

June 1909 to August 1909
September 1909 to September 1910

The Grand Opera label was introduced in June 1908 for recordings by an unknown artist known as "L’Incognita" or "Masked Soprano." These records became part of Zonophone’s Grand Opera series by other artists, beginning in September 1908 and continuing until September 1913, when they were issued as double-sided discs. The majority of these discs were pressed from recordings made by Fred and Will Gaisberg.

Russian label with Cyrillic title manufactured in Riga , 1903
Russian pressing with overprint St. Petersburg, June 1906

The label on the right above has the catalog number X-2-62638 made in St. Petersburg (in spite of the label!) in 1903 by I. A. Alchevsky. That on the right was recorded by L. M. Sibiryakov in St. Petersburg in June 1906. The lower labels show the two recordings on a double-sided record, probably released in late 1909. The original single-sided catalog number is shown at the bottom of each label. The label to the right of the double-sided label shows a recording of November 11, 1909 by R. E. Radina-Figner.

L. M. Sibiryakov
June 1906
P.E. Radina-Figner
St. Petersburg November 25, 1909

The label on the right below, matrix number 1753r was recorded in Constantinople in August 1906 by Max Hampe. Note the Turkish lettering, and the two Turkish flags. As Turkey was at that time, and still is, a Moslem country, the portrayal of the Recording Angel was not permitted, hence the ornate, appropriately named "arabesque," designs. G&T X-102756" is of course "Zonophone X-102756" (there are no G&Ts with an "X-" prefix!). Similar red-and-white striped labels were also used for Turkish and Arabian records by other recording companies. Apparently Zonophone was prohibited from using their usual green labels because the color seems to have been "holy" according to the particular kind of Mohammedan belief in vogue at the place and time, and not to be used for profane things. The singer is Hafiz Sami Unokur Efendi, accompanied on the violin by Kemani Memduh Efendi, and they perform "Her dilber icin sinede bir yare mi olsun? - Nihavent Gazel" (all diacritics in the foregoing removed for the sake of clarity).

Madrid, 1906
Constantinople, 1906

Both labels above read "Recorded manufactured for THE BRITISH ZONOPHONE CO. LTD., by THE GRAMOPHONE Co., Ltd., Hayes, Middlesex, England" 1911

The double-sides labels below were recorded in September 1907 and June 1909, respectively. The labels are flush to the record surface, but the edges can be felt all around.

September 1907

June, 1909

Lwow, Jul-Aug 1907
Kharkov, September 6, 1912

The disc on the left above, matrix 6129L, was recorded in Lwow, Poland, in July or August 1907, possibly as late as October. The disc on the right above was recorded on September 6, 1912 in Kharkov. The language designation Little Russian indicates Ukrainian. The recording on the right below was made on November 27, 1914, just following the opening of the First World War.

St. Petersburg May, 1912

London, November 27, 1914

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The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

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