Last Updated: 10/8/2008


" Clockwork Music," by Arthur W. J. G. Ord-Hume. Sub-titled: An Illustrated History of Mechanical Musical Instruments from the Musical Box to the Pianola: From Automaton Lady Virginal Players to the Orchestrion. Published in 1973 by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. First Edition. Hard cover with dust jacket, 334 pages with over 550 illustrations, including period articles, advertisements ands sales catalogs. The book measures 10 inches (25.2 cm) high by 7 inches (19 cm) wide.

Text from the dustjacket is as follows:

"The comparatively recent invention of the phonograph , or record player , closely followed by radio and a little later by television, marked the decline of mechanical music. Although, as a swan song, automatic music machines achieved an unparalleled perfection and complexity during the first quarter of this century, almost two thousand years of steady development were at an end.

From earliest times man has striven to reproduce music automatically, and the first automatic organs are reliably thought to date back about three hundred years before the birth of Christ. It was not until the eighteenth century that mechanical music and the instruments for producing it really flourished. From then on, until as recently as the thirties, automatic musician instruments appeared in all shapes and sizes. The early cylindrical music boxes were precursors of boxes that played metal discs, These developed into today's jukeboxes. The giant orchestrions organs, pianolas, and calliopes of the opening years of this century led to the player organs and more sophisticated player pianos of the twenties.

Clockwork Music tells the story of the instruments of mechanical music in a novel way. The history and development of the instruments is interwoven with early advertisements, announcements, catalogues and newspaper articles. These are all facsimile reproductions and included among them are many rare, long out-of-print items. Vaucason's incredible automaton duck, which not only moved and behaved like the real bird, but which actually ate and digested food, was the subject of a detailed monograph in 1742. This is a reproduced in full, along with descriptions of other automata such as the flute and tabor players, the steel spider, the Apollonicon automatic concert organ, and the automaton virginal player, built by Maillardet in the form of a life-like lady.

Descriptions are contained of these and other automata which were shown in London and elsewhere both as exhibitions and at museums of inginuity such as that established by James Cox at the end of the eighteenth century. There is also a contemporary descrtption of the unique "man-eating tiger-organ,"captured by British troops when they sacked the Palace of Tippoo Sahib at Serinapatam in 1798. This grotesque automaton is noww in the Victoria ans Albert Museum, London, and the author of Clockwwork Music was recently involved in its restoration.

Clockwwork Music contains reproductions of illustrated advertisements describing unusual automaton musical instruments from all over Europe and America. There are fine engravings of a piano played by a cardboard disc, a Polyphon which played music from a long strip of thin, perforated cardboard, a musical box played by a tin "cuff," a man operated by a steam engine...

The author has spent twenty years gathering information on his subject. The result is a rare collection of ephemera contained within the covers of this book."

  1. Mechanical Musical in Antiquity
  2. Automaton Displays and Museums of Ingenuity
  3. The Early Musical Box
  4. Tin Discs and Music for the Masses
  5. Orchestrion Organs and Automatic Orchestras
  6. Parlour Organettes and Self-Playing Organs
  7. Player Pianos and a Maestro in Every Home
  8. The Gramophone
  9. Miscellany
Appendix - Names of Instruments and their Makers

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