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

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At this date all recorded tablets were being processed at the Hanover plant, which would have had uniform fonts and quoins for embossing the trademark and the company designation, as well as the catalog number. When seen on the actual discs, all corresponding embossed entries are identical in size. The handwritten matrix number 1657 of the London recording is seen clearly to the right of the spindle hole, and the catalog number 661 is seen at 2 o’clock. Both discs show the recording date, the London pressing somewhat to the left of the spindle hole and the Paris pressing rather indistinctly at 10 o’clock. Although Fred Gaisberg undoubtedly cut both recordings, note the difference in the handwritings. There seems to be little doubt that he frequently had an assistant who made the actual entries on the recorded tablets, as noted elsewhere by Peter Adamson. The Recording Angel trademark is seen on the obverses of both discs but is absence from both reverses, which have the phrase REPRODUCED IN HANOVER.

The disc below is from Darby’s suffix-A series, recorded in November 1900 during his second European tour which began in December 1899 in Copenhagen. The matrix number can be seen clearly to the right of the spindle hole. The disc on the right was recorded in Berlin almost a year later. The phrase REPRODUCED IN HANOVER is discernible on the reverse, although there is no Angel trademark. Note the unusual position of the Angel trademark. At least two different sizes of Angel trademarks have been observed. Both figures show raised catalog numbers, indicating that these were entered by embossing them onto the original stampers.

We are fortunate in that Fred Gaisberg's personal diaries survived and that significant portions were reprinted by Ernie Bayly in his magazine The Talking Machine Review, beginning in No. 53, on page 1381. The diaries confirm that the dates appearing on records made on this tour are indeed actual recording dates.

Berliner 62535, matrix 2375A
Berliner 48471, matrix 1306
November 1900
October 1901

The diameter of the central area of Berliner discs varied with the length of the recording - the longer the recording, the smaller the central area. The diameters of the central areas shown above vary from 81 mm to 110 mm. The placement of the Recording Angel trademark above the Berliner name on the Berliner 32907 disc seems to have been made because of the smaller diameter of the central area. Once moved to that position, it appears to have remained there until paper labels were introduced in July 1901.

Berliner 40648, matrix 659A
Berliner 152, matrix 2361
Berlin, February 1900
March 11, 1901

The disc on the left above was recorded by Sinkler Darby in Berlin on his second foreign tour. That on the right was recorded in London by Fred Gaisberg. Note the two different company designs.

Berliner 57X, London May 16, 1901

The disc above shows a complete Recording Angel trademark on the reverse, which is seen on Berliner discs as early as March 1901. There is a discrepancy between the matrix number 2785, listed in Kelly’s catalog, and that seen to the right of the spindle hole, apparently ending in ─ ─ 95.

Berliner 12026, matrix 1982A
Berliner 39169, matrix 1033B
Bucarest, July 1900
Brussels, September 1901

The disc on the left above, Berliner 12026, was recorded by Sinkler Darby in Bucarest in July 1900; the matrix number 1982A is seen clearly to the right of the spindle hole. The label on the right above, Berliner 39169, was recorded by Darby in Brussels in September 1901. Note that the matrix suffix is B, indicating that the recording was made by the all-wax method. All information in the central area was embossed at the pressing plant, with the exception of the matrix number, 1033, which is partially worn away from wear. As late as November 1901 the reverse was blank, except for the phrase REPRODUCED IN HANOVER. Some five months later the Recording Angel trademark shown below began to appear on the reverse of all Gramophone Company discs. In November 1901 all Gramophone Company discs were issued with paper labels, and the 7-inch discs that were formerly called Berliners became Gramophone Company records.

The Berliner 38037, matrix 3827, shown below, was made in Paris during Fred Gaisberg’s summer tour in Paris in August/September 1901. All writing is raised, including the company designation, the Angel trademark, the catalog number, the selection, the performers, and the location. The serial number is incised to the right of the spindle hole. The reverse is blank, except for the phrase REPRODUCED IN HANOVER. One notes that as late as May 1901 the selection title, performer, and probably recording date, as well as the matrix number, were still being inscribed by the recording engineer or his assistant. 

 

The earliest known ten-inch Berliner G.C.-7942, shown below, was recorded by Fred Gaisberg in London in April 1901. All information is embossed in raised letters, and the Angel trademark is on the reverse. The amazing neatness, and the absence of any matrix number, is quite striking. The matrix number is 121, and is the second known 10-inch recording by J. Jacobs, whose name was entered incorrectly on the above disc. A second 10-inch Berliner was identified in The Hillandale News, Number 150, June 1986, as G.C.-24040, recorded by R.M. Raisova and N. G. Seversky in St. Petersburg in June, 1901.

 

The latest 10-inch Berliner known to me is Berliner 22519, recorded in Moscow in late June, 1901 by Leonid Sobinov, as shown below. The handwritten matrix number 263-nB-15 can be seen quite clearly to the right of the spindle hole. All other data in the central area are embossed and raised. These observations confirm the conclusions of Edge and Petts, as outlined below, that the only markings made on the original wax recording tablet was the matrix number.

 

 

To summarize the various changes in the design and format of the central area of Berliner issues from August 8, 1898 through September 1901, the company designation, catalog number, matrix number and recording date were engraved or embossed into the wax-coated zinc plate from the beginning up to the introduction of the all-wax recording tablet, as was the recording Angel trademark except for the "original" series. From as early as July 1899 the catalog number appears raised, and was embossed into the original shell. Beginning in July 1900 the company designation and the Angel trademark were also raised, while the date was engraved at the time of the recording throughout the entire period. Following the introduction of the 10-inch recording, the selection, title, performer, and location appear raised. From about February 1899 to August 1900 the Angel trademark was embossed on the zinc plate to the left of the spindle hole, after which time it was placed above the company designation, and then moved back again around March 1901. In August and November 1900 the lower half of the company designation appears in a single line, as seen above in the last figure below.

 

 

The company designation above was the first one to be used by the Gramophone Company. The words PATENTIRT____ BREVETS are German and French for Patents.

August/September 1898 February 1899

 

 

The company logo occupying the upper portion of the central area first used in the "original" series, shown on the left above, was changed as early as February 1899. The first logo shows the E. BERLINER’S 32 mm in length, while the word GRAMOPHONE was 59 mm. This design was also used in July 1900. During the "unlettered" series the former remained the same size, but the latter was reduced in font size and overall length, the latter to 35 mm, as shown above. Several other variants are known, including the three-line variant shown above in the logo from Berliner 32907 of August 24, 1900.

March-June 1901
September 1901

 

By March 1901 the compact format of 1899 had been restored, although in several different sizes. That on the left is 27 mm for GRAMOPHONE, while that on the right is 36 mm.



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Howard Friedman

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