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

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La Mer Ticciati







A new "unlettered" series of matrix numbers was begun on November 1, 1898 in London, where some 2,089 seven-inch recordings on wax-coated zinc plates were made between that date and May 10, 1899. These were given sequential serial numbers from 1 to 2089, and catalog numbers with prefixes were assigned according to the system described above, which remained in use until sometime in 1921, when a simplified system was introduced and used until the end of the acoustical recording era. The same information was entered into the ledgers at the various processing plants. An additional 2,550 recordings were made in Europe through June 1900.

Unlettered Series
January 12, 1899
January 13, 1899

As early as February 1899 the Recording Angel trademark was added to the left of the spindle hole. Some time in early 1900 the Berliner logo, Angel trademark, and the assigned catalog number begin to appear raised on the record surface, indicating that these were all entered onto the shell or stamper, rather than onto the original recorded plate. The disc on the left above, Berliner 1109, matrix 4405, was recorded on January 12, 1899, while that on the right was recorded one day later. The matrix number is 835, while the record or catalog number is 1058, or more correctly E1058, denoting an English language recording. Note the difference in the handwriting, as well as the difference in the company logo, as well as the fact that Fred was now entering the date in American style. These London recordings show an early use of the Recording Angel trademark, which the Gramophone Company and its successors was to use in one form or another throughout the last one hundred years or more. The trademark was designed by Theodore Birnbaum, a Londoner who was appointed Managing Director of the Berlin branch of the company in 1898. European discs generally did not show the five patent dates, but merely indicated that these existed or were applied for.

The Berliner disc below is also from the "unlettered" series, which was the last series using wax-coated zinc plates. It was recorded under the supervision of Fred Gaisberg on April 6, 1899 by the violinist J Jacobs, who also made the earliest known 10-inch wax recordings in April 1901. Note that the label area is a full four inches in diameter. The matrix number 1855 can be seen just below the recording date at the upper right. One can see also a very early use of the Recording Angel trademark, as well as the phrase REPRODUCED IN HANOVER on the reverse. 

Berliner 7921, April 6, 1899, 102 mm.

The disc below, Berliner 52561, matrix 2796, was recorded by Fred Gaisberg or William Sinkler Darby in Milan on the first foreign tour. The three discs below are among the last made in Madrid by Fred Gaisberg on the first foreign tour. The matrix numbers 3461, 3498, and 3582 can just be seen to the right of the spindle holes. Both discs belong to the unlettered series, and are among the first Gramophone Company recordings to indicate the language or region and the vocal range of the artist on the label. 

Berliner 62585
Berliner 62562
Berliner 62559
matrix 3461
matrix 3498
matrix 3852

Madrid, August 1899


Berliner 52561, Milano, July, 1899

The disc below, Berliner 24, from the "unlettered" series, bears the serial number 3865, which may be seen to the right of the spindle hole. Recorded in October 1899, it shows REPRODUCED IN HANOVER on the reverse. It seems probable that not all of these recordings have survived or were ever issued.  

Berliner 24, October 1899

The records below appear to be interesting hybrids. Both have the Berliner imprint generally used on London issues in the unlettered series, and also show the Canadian patent numbers and dates. The label on the right shows the matrix number just to the right of the spindle hole. The significance of the numbers 118 and ─109─ is not clear. Note that the Canadian patent number on the right was entered upside down. Canadian patent numbers have also been seen on American Berliners. [Author’s note: Montague Borwell made one of the earliest recordings of a Gilbert & Sullivan selection with Winifred Marwood on November 1, 1898.]

probably 4109, matrix number 4236  Berliner 2147Z, matrix 4370
London, early November 1899

The disc above is an early wax tablet recording. The high relief Angel trademark almost completely obscures the date, showing only 900. An extremely complex matrix number beginning with 8 can be seen to the right of the spindle hole. Both the company logo and the catalog number are raised.

Berliner 50049X matrix 898

Milan, July 1900

The recording date 24-8-00 on the upper disc below is inscribed at the 10 o’clock position to the left of the company designation. The two figures on the left below appear to show distinct differences in the sizes of both the Recording Angel and the Company designation whereas in fact the two Angels and the company logos are each identical in size. The apparent difference is due to the fact that the central area on the upper disc is only 80 mm, while the lower disc is 103 mm. This can be seen more readily in the figures below.

Berliner 32907 Paris, August 24. 1900

Berliner 661 London, November 24, 1900

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

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