Polyphon-Schallplatte

Polyphon-Schallplatte (Germany) / c. 1905

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Design: Although the typographic layout is very simple, the treatment is typical of conservative bookwork; the lightweight Roman capitals might well have graced a formal title-page. Yet the trend towards display advertising can also be seen in the use of increasingly bold type styles for each line of imprinting, with an impactful fat-face 'modern' being used for the song title (Der rote Sarafan). The reverse (below) shows a further step in the realm of advertising, with outsized slab-serif capitals completely dominating the image.

Design (reverse): The mix of decorative elements here is very interesting. The Polyphon logo at the centre above the spindle hole shows a robed goddess, with a triangular harp in one hand and, in her other outstretched hand, a laurel wreath, through which a shooting star is about to pass, the word 'Polyphon' appearing in the star's contrail. The ornamentation either side of the spindle hole is composed of a feminine mix of curvilinear (organic) and angular (geometric) lines, dots and swirls, in the late Victorian style, while the outer border, by contrast, employs an aggressively masculine saw-tooth pattern. The wording in the outer border is (unevenly) separated by a pair of Stars of David; it is not known whether these were arbitrarily chosen, or an indication of the Jewish ownership of the record company.

History: The above scans courtesy of collector Gabriel Gössel of Czechoslovakia, who writes: "These German Polyphon discs, dating c. 1903-1905, were made of tin (sic!) with a layer of varnish on one side, the other side being printed with the logo of the Leipzig Polyphon factory, which had been making mechanical music-boxes. However, with the advent of turntables, the tin discs became obsolete, and were re-purposed by the company."




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