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MMD > Archives > April 1998 > 1998.04.05 > 04Prev  Next

"Treasures of Mechanical Music"
By Art Reblitz

Reprinting "Treasures of Mechanical Music" is a little more complicated
than it might appear.  I began collecting the information in 1963, when
Larry Givens' landmark book "Rebuilding the Player Piano" was
published.  Larry did his best with the limited information available
in the mid-1960s, but there were mistakes in his lock and cancel
information for G, H, M, O, Wurlitzer 65-note Automatic Player Piano
and Pianino rolls.  (This isn't to say "Treasures" doesn't contain any
mistakes.  We continue to learn.)

By the time Vestal Press published "Treasures" in 1981, I put many
_hundreds_ of hours into the project, including writing the glossary
and index on a manual typewriter.  Dave Bowers, my co-author,
contributed hundreds of beautiful photographs that weren't in his
"Encyclopedia" and did all of the typesetting.  I believe it was the
last major project that he did on his old IBM composing machine, which
stored data in tape cartridges and printed out on a special IBM
typewriter with interchangeable type balls.

The total royalties on sales of 1880 copies in two years earned me
about $3.50 per hour for the time that I put into it.  That's okay.
I didn't write it to earn money.  Rather, I thought the information was
valuable and should be preserved in a "permanent" printed form for
future collectors and historians.

Since 1981, I've collected additional information that takes up about
eight more inches in a file cabinet.  Many more tracker scales, some
corrections, and much technical material could be added to create a
completely revised second edition.  Dave Bowers is willing to have the
book reprinted, and Vestal Press discussed reprinting it before the
assets were sold to National Book Network.

I don't want to reprint the mistakes.  If I correct them and add the
most interesting material, it will be hard to retain the original page
numbering, which will require a new index and almost all new printing
plates.  National Book Network doesn't want to go that far with it.

I've considered including the technical material, without the photos
and historical information, in a series of booklets.  The information
could be broken into Music Boxes & Organettes, Reproducing & Expression
Pianos & Pipe Organs, American Nickelodeons & Orchestrions, European
Orchestrions, and Fairground Organs & Dance Organs.  Each section can
be augmented with additional technical information, such as how the
intricate expression system in the Hupfeld Helios enables piano and
swell shutter crescendo, accent and decrescendo to work from one track
in the roll via three holes.

The following input from MMD readers will help steer the project in the
right direction:

1.  Who prefers to see "Treasures" redone to include all of the
pictures that were in the first edition?

2.  Who would be happy just to have the technical information without
the pictures?

3.  Is there a preference for leaving everything in one handy volume,
or having it broken down into several lower-cost sections?

Meanwhile, "The Golden Age of Automatic Musical Instruments," to be
published later this year, will include substantial text on the history
of mechanical music and collecting, hundreds of dazzling color pictures
of the world's finest instruments, as well as many of the most
important scales.  This has been an extremely costly project which will
be lucky to break even; the three collectors who are involved deserve a
lot of credit for sponsoring it.  Its availability might have some
effect on what ought to be included in the next edition of Treasures.

Let's wait and see.

Art Reblitz

(Message sent Sun 5 Apr 1998, 17:42:50 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)

Key Words in Subject:  Mechanical, Music, Treasures

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