Unique Cylinder-Played Music Box Piano
by Christian Greinacher  (from MMDigest 000603)

grein_CylPiano0a.jpg (61 kb)Hello to all the piano experts around the world!  Some weeks ago I was happy to buy a unique self-playing piano from an auction in a small German town.  Meanwhile, I found out that this instrument seems to be quite unique.  None of the experts which I could ask ever saw an instrument like this one.  I will give you a short description:

It's a piece of furniture in the so-called "historicism" style (between 1870 and 1890).  It's a very well-manufactured table, 94 x 51 x 78 cm (breadth x depth x height).  Inside this table there is hidden a hand-cranked cylinder-driven piano with chromatic scale, 2-1/2 octaves, 18 notes from g to c, each note double stringed.  It plays 12 different melodies.

The table has a shellac finish.  There is no signature on or inside the instrument.  The only information, inside the table, says "Patent No. 2239".

I did some research with the German patent authorities concerning this patent number and it turned out that this patent was filed definitely before 1877 (when the first all-German patent law took effect).  Before 1877 the patents were not centralized, and were filed in the different German states and districts.  To get original information about these patents one has to know in which state (or better, the district or town) the patent was filed.

From the overall impression and concerning the automatic music patent information, I guess that the instrument was built around 1880, maybe in Germany -- Thuringia (Thueringen) or Saxonia (Sachsen) -- or close to the German border in Bohemia.

I sent some pictures to the editor, showing the instrument and some details of it.  I would be happy to get any piece of information which could help me to identify the instrument more precisely.  If necessary I could provide more pictures.

Thank you for your help!

Christian Greinacher
Sat, 03 Jun 2000 14:43:34 +0100

Photo montage (398 kb)

5 June 2000