Nicole Freres serial #1736, _if_ that's the actual serial number,
would have been made in about 1817-1818. However, I very strongly
suspect that may not be the serial number. Nicole did not produce any
8-air movements in that very early period -- they made 2-, 3- or 4-air
The first question I ask of Mr. Robinson is where specifically did
you find the number 1736? Nearly all Nicole movements had their serial
numbers stamped into the brass bedplate, usually at the right-rear
corner area. They also have the serial number inscribed on one or both
cylinder end caps, although this may or may not be easily viewable with
the mechanism assembled. Often, too, the serial number can be found
beneath the comb, or also sometime scribed into the lead of the lowest
bass tooth, again, usually not visible unless the comb is removed.
Many Nicole program cards (tune sheets) will be found with the serial
number and/or the gamme number written thereon.
I suspect that, in this case, #1736 may be the gamme number, rather
than the serial number. As a restorer, I have several dating charts
for the Nicoles and many other Swiss and French makers of cylinder
music boxes. These charts are built upon the research of the late
Henry Bulleid, the shop records of the late Keith Harding, various
other sources, combined with and regularly appended by my own ongoing
restoration shop records.
The MBSGB has published an excellent book on the Nicole family music
box legacy, entitled The Nicole Factor, which originally included
a CD-ROM of Nicole gamme numbers, by which one can find the actual
program (tune titles) for a particular gamme number found on an
instrument which may have lost its program card. Unfortunately,
gamme number 1736 does not appear within the data I have.
I would be interested to see a few photographs of Mr. Robinson's Nicole,
showing the case, close-up of any stamping directly on the top center
area of the comb, close-up of the program card (if present), and any
Another point is that very early movements had sectional combs,
not one-piece combs. The earliest had single tooth sectional combs,
and later they made section combs of 2, 3, 4 and 5 teeth per section.
All of the above must be taken into consideration when attempting to
date any music box attributed to any of the Nicole family of makers.
If Mr. Robinson would like to send me some photos as outlined above,
via email attachment, I would be glad to try to help date the box.
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