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

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Russian language labels using Gramophone Company designs were used continually until the Russian Revolution of October 24-25 (November 6-7 New Style), 1917. The Riga plant appeared to be quite autonomous in its use of labels. One frequently finds the same recording issued with a pre-DOG label and later with an Amour label, as shown above. The recording was made in Moscow about a year after the pre-DOG label period had ended for most of the Company branches. The Russian equivalent of the so-called G & T label was used as late as 1911, as seen below.

Russian pre-Amour Moscow, Feb 6, 1910
Moscow August 29, 1910
June 1908

The disc on the far right below was issued shortly after that in the center. All six labels above show extremely late use of the G&T pre-DOG design. The red label on the Smirnov disc is extremely unusual, since the Red Celebrity color was dropped in late 1906. Moreover, the quality of the ink on such labels is extremely poor, and be washed out with water.

L. A. Sobinov
Feb 27, 1911
F. I. Chaliapin
Riga, Sep 30, 1911
D. A. Smirnov
October 9, 1911

The Cupid labels below were issued shortly after those shown above, during the pre-DOG era from November 19, 1907 to February 1909. One might refer to this period of Russian manufacture of recordings made by the Gramophone Company as the pre-Amour period, comparable to the pre-DOG era for most other countries of issue. Note the alternate phrasing above the Cupid, as well as the alternate placement of the company designation and the double and single catalog numbers. Similar differences are found on GRAMOPHONE MONARCH RECORD MONARCH and RECORD "GRAMOPHONE" labels, as seen below.

 

The disc below, recorded in 1908, shows the English designation of the Gramophone Company below the trademark blacked out and the Russian overprint placed above the Cupid trademark.

Many vocal artists who made recordings in either Moscow or St. Petersburg, particularly after the introduction of the Cupid trademark, sang sometimes in Russian and sometimes in Italian. Russian language recordings were issued with Russian language labels, while those in Italian received English language labels. These labels used the general design of the original G&T labels, including the Recording Angel trademark in outline.

The HMV label was never considered acceptable for the Russian market. Apparently there is a well known Russian saying, "He sings like a dog." After the G&T period they used an angel type label which equates roughly with "pre-DOG" elsewhere, although, of course, it was not literally so; this continued until at least 1911. Subsequently, or perhaps even concurrently, they used a label with the full color representation of Theodore Birnbaum’s original "Angel" trademark together with the "Gramophone Concert (or Monarch) Record" legend around the top. Finally, they settled on the "Amour" label shown below, which continued to be used up to the time of the Revolution, after which all record production ceased in Russia for several years. The illustrated labels are generally described as a "Russian ‘Amour’" and are GCL, that is, the equivalent of pre-DOG labels; HMV was only a label, never a company, in spite of the huge sign across the factory at Hayes, Middlesex, in 1911. (courtesy of Raymond Glaspole)

A. V. Nezhdanova
Moscow, April 24, 1912

L. M. Klementev
St. Petersburg, September 1909

The two labels on the left and center above show the pre-Amour or Cupid label and the Amour label for the same recording. They both bear the interesting matrix number 2607½c.

The Russian Orthodox clergy objected to the use of the trademark being designated as the Recording Angel, since it was seen to be handled and touched by infidels, i.e., Jews and Moslems. The designation was changed accordingly to that of a Cupid (Amyr) in full color. This seems to have first appeared at the same time that the Gramophone Company had changed its label to the so-called pre-DOG format. When the London office replaced the Recording Angel with the "His Master’s Voice" trademark in February 1909, the designation on Russian labels was changed to read AMOUR GRAMOPHONE RECORD for both size discs. This practice continued until the Russian Revolution of October 1917, when all traces of Gramophone Company label designations disappeared, to be replaced by purely Russian labels.

The record at the left below was recorded in St. Petersburg in mid-1902 and processed in the manufacturing plant recently opened in Riga. It is a first stamper pressing, bearing the matrix number 184z, with REPRODUCED IN RUSSIA on the reverse. That on the right was recorded by Dmitri Smirnov on May 28, 1912. Note the sticker in the illustration below.

The word Amyr, meaning a cupid (pagan), as opposed to a cherub or angel (Judeo-Christian), was adopted after the Russian Orthodox Church objected to the use of a religious icon on a secular disc that might be handled by Jews or Moslems (courtesy Alan Kelly). This is an interesting contradiction, since the Russian Cupid, as a pagan symbol or icon, was designed originally by the German Jew Theodore Birnbaum! For the purpose of this paper, the term Cupid will be used to refer to those labels having a colored image of the Recording Angel design, but without the word AMOUR appearing on the label.

Vladimir Kastorsky, December 1906

Antonina Nezhdanova, April 24, 1912

 

It seems quite probable that Russian authorities and many dealers today refer to all labels having the Cupid design as Amour labels. Note also that those labels which show the Cupid in color and are designated as Amour Gramophone Record, the Russian phrase ПИШУЩИЙ ЙМУРЪ (in Western transliteration Pishuschiy Amur) at the lower left and right corners of the trademark translates to RECORDING CUPID, as opposed to the Recording Angel! These words are found only on Cupid labels with the Amour designation, and thus are absent from the labels shown below.

Cupid Concert labels
Maria Michailova, June 1906
Nicolai A Shevelev, September 1908

 

Amour Monarch 022161
Moscow, June 2, 1910

Amour Monarch 07923
London 1909 and 1912

The Figner labels below were probably made in December 1907, and issued on a double-sided disc. Note that the two labels do not have exactly the same colors. Prior to the issuance of the Amour labels, one finds Cupid labels, which can be compared with Gramophone Company pre-DOG labels, as shown below.

Both discs below were recorded in Moscow before the outbreak of the First World War. But were probably pressed following the October 1917 Revolution. The double-sided disc on the right below was pressed in Riga around 1912. These discs are generally considered to be sample pressings.

Leonid Sobinov
G.C.-022140
June 2, 1910
Cupid 02224
October 30, 1911

The Gramophone Company was not the only recording company to use an angel or cherub as a trademark, although it was probably the first. The Syrena and Russian Gramophone Company labels below both show a gramophone and an angel or cherub. Note that the Cyrillic logo on the top right is identical to those of the English company designations, commonly known as the RAOG, below it.

Syrena 10150
RAOG 1919/20
A Cupid is a Cupid is a Cupid….
Amour Concert
Vladimir I. Kastorsky, Nov-Dec 1906
Amour Monarch
Dmitri Smirnov, October 12, 1910

Note that the two discs shown above are of the same recording, made by Antonina Nezhdanova in Moscow on January 27, 1910. The use of the Gramophone Company pre-DOG design at this late date is most unusual, but not uncommon.

Mattia Battistini
10" Amour, June 2, 1913
I.V. Gryzunov
12" Amour, January 24, 1910

When the pressing plant in Riga introduced the Amour label, 10- and 12-inch disc catalog numbers were distinguished by the prefixes C and M, indicating Concert and Monarch, respectively, as shown above. In October 1913 it was decided to reissue the complete Gramophone Company catalog of Russian recordings on double-sided discs. According to Alan Kelly, these were issued in three series, designated Р, В, and Н, in Cyrillic, equivalent to R, V, and N in English. However, he left open the questions why they picked these letters and what they stand for. Some light on the first question was shed by Yuri Bernikov, the editor of the Russian-Records website, who believes that since Latin letters P, B and H and Russian letters P, B and H are indistinguishable when standing alone, this may be the key to answer why they picked them. Typewriters do not have dual keyboards, as computers do. If the Gramophone Company picked Latin letters that do not have Cyrillic equivalents it would be impossible to print such Catalog Numbers on Russian typewriters, i.e., it would be impossible to re-print the entire G.C. Catalog using a Russian typewriter, even if all titles are in Russian!  If the Company had picked Cyrillic letters that do not have Latin equivalents it would be impossible to print such Catalog numbers on QWERTY typewriters, thus creating considerable complications! Selecting letters that have the same shape in both alphabets made it possible to coexist English and Russian Catalog Numbers without troubles. Based on this reasoning he concludes, and this writer agrees, that letters Р, В, and Н are Latin, but printed in Russian Catalogues using Cyrillic letters. What they stand for is still open question, but the answer can be as simple as "for nothing" – they just picked convenient letters.

The first two series were ten-inch issues with blue and dark green labels, respectively, and the last was for twelve-inch issues, with dark green labels. These started at P 1, B 2000, and H 9000, respectively. The labels still showed the catalog numbers for the single-sided issues, as seen below. All of these issues came from the cheaper Zonophone Catalogue.

The disc on the left below was recorded by Fred Gaisberg in Moscow in 1907. That on the right was recorded in St. Petersburg by Franz Hampe on February 5, 1911. Both were issued with pre-Amour labels.



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

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