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What remains of the people when theyre gone? Love in the hearts of friends and relatives, memory, and of courses their deeds, especially those that were intended not for the profit and gain, but for the welfare of all people by giving away a piece of Self to the others. One of such deeds of Howard Friedman was writing of The Collectors Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 1925 that he devoted the last years of his life. In November 11, 2008 he passed away, but the Guide is here, and a piece of his Self that he put into this work will forever remain embedded into its lines! Unfortunately, while the Author was alive, we did not manage to fulfill our promise translate the Guide into Russian language and publish it on our website But as they say, the beauty of a debt is its payment we publish in two languages Preface and Acknowledgments, Introduction and the most interesting chapter for all portal participants - the Russian Recordings. And it is only the beginning!

The Collectors Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925

Preface and Acknowledgments


he seminal inspiration for this paper is the work of Michael W. Sherman, who, in collaboration with William Moran and Kurt Nauck, has presented the evolution and development of the labels used by the Victor Talking Machine Company and its successors. It was felt that a similar effort should be given to the introduction and evolution of record labels used by the Gramophone Company of London, its sister companies and its successors during the acoustical recording era. This document will attempt to place those labels that have been seen, either directly or indirectly, in some sort of chronological order, and to show the variations in colors, sizes, and other design characteristics, together with the reasons for and, where ascertainable, the times of these variations.

To my knowledge there has never been a book or other document devoted to the evolution and chronology of the labels used by the Gramophone Company, its sister companies, and successors. It has come to my attention that at one time there was in the EMI Archives a book which contained all of the labels actually used, as well as those designed for use, by the Gramophone Company. This book has since been moved to EMI Headquarters, and is no longer available for viewing. This paper will perforce deal with such labels as have been seen or made available to me during the course of this research.

Many of the images shown throughout this paper have been copied from records and other related items placed for sale or auction on various Internet sites. As such, they do not always appear in pristine condition. Many others are from my own collection. Still others have been borrowed liberally from various publications, with my grateful thanks and apologies to any authors who take exception, and in the hope that their further dissemination will stimulate further interest of current and potential collectors and devotees.

I am sincerely grateful for the many items of information relative to the labels, methods, institutions, and historical information described in this paper. The donors, collectors, and dealers throughout the world are too numerous to mention, although I have tried to give credit to the major contributors throughout the following sections. Among the many dealers from whom I have borrowed images of labels, as well as being the recipient of their knowledge, are Sergio Alfonsi, Omar Facelli, Raymond Glaspole, Lawrence Holdridge, Rainer Lotz, Kurt Nauck, Rudi Sazunic, and Andreas Schmauder. As with many papers of this nature, the contributions from the publications listed in the Bibliography, particularly those in The Record Collector and The Hillandale News, have contributed numerous tidbits of information. Of particular value are the publications and other materials afforded to me by Alan Kelly, who has devoted over fifty years to the discography of over 200,000 recordings made by the Gramophone Company. I hope that I have given due credit throughout this paper to his efforts, as well as to those of other contributors. Any omissions are purely unintentional.

Editorial comment: We would like to take the opportunity to thank collectors, whose records featured on was used in given work: Dmitry Golovko (Mezhdurechensk), Grigory Zavarov (Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod Region), Bill Breslin (England), Andrey Alehin (Toronto, Canada), Alexey Kochanov (Kazan, Republic Tatarstan), Alexander Scheglakov (Moscow) - thank you so much for your generosity and altruism! Without your participation would never become the Portal as it is right now, to the joy of everybody who interested in the history of Russian recordings!



he evolution and chronology of labels used by the Gramophone Company during the acoustical recording era appear at first to be extremely complex. These labels did not evolve in the same manner as those used by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Moreover, the designs and printing of the Victor labels were more centrally controlled than those of the Gramophone Company, which printed their labels in the various countries, cities and locations of some six or more major manufacturing plants located throughout Europe and the Far East. In contrast to their Victor counterparts Gramophone Company labels did not progress through any orderly series of more or less distinct designs, from the Consolidated to the Colored Trademark. Moreover, the factories in Hannover, Riga, Paris, Calcutta, and Barcelona took many liberties with the designs and directives regarding the labels to be used at various periods of time and for various categories of both artists and prices.

The various Berliner companies in America (see below) were making flat disc recordings almost ten years before the Victor Talking Machine Company made its first recordings in January 1900. The recording engineers responsible for making these records had been trained by Emile Berliner himself, and were the same ones who went to London in July 1898 and later. They were responsible for setting up the recording studios in London, Hannover, and elsewhere in Europe, and for developing and refining the recording methods first established by Emile Berliner. They included, among others, Frederick William Gaisberg, his brother William Conrad Gaisberg, William Sinkler Darby, and Belford Royal. Nor should one forget that Emile Berliner had sent his nephew Joseph Sanders, whom he had trained in the arts of processing completed recordings on wax-coated zinc plates for the manufactured of issued records. As early as April 1898 the Hannover plant was manufacturing finished records for sale from shells imported from various Berliner companies in the United States and Canada. Even the London recordings predated those made by Victor by more than seventeen months.


Gramophone Company records during the acoustical era fall into three major categories. The earliest are the so-called pre-label E. Berliners Gramophone, generally known as Berliners (August 8, 1898 to as late as December 1905). These discs are a nominal 7 inches in diameter, with no paper labels, but having the necessary details of the recording inscribed in the central area by the recording engineer, his assistant, various technicians at the processing plant, or a combination of these. For a short time after June 1901, 10-inch Berliners were also issued without labels.

The second group have paper labels bearing the Recording Angel trademark (see below under The Recording Angel Trademark), and include both 10-inch and twelve-inch discs known as G&Ts (December 10, 1901 to November 18, 1907) and GCLs or pre-DOGs (November 19, 1907 to February 1909), respectively.

The third group carries the His Masters Voice or DOG trademark, first known as HMV Concerts or DOG Concerts for 10-inch discs and HMV Monarch or DOG Monarch for 12-inch discs, respectively, from February 1909 to August 1910, and later as HMVs from August 1910 to the end of the acoustical era, about April 1925. These can be subdivided further according to various properties described below. Even within these parameters, numerous variations and exceptions exist.

In this regard, one must also consider the labels used by the sister companies, as well as those of various successors. The former include the International Zonophone Company of Berlin, following its purchase by the Gramophone Company in June 1903. An offshoot of this purchase resulted in the formation of the British Zonophone Company in 1909. In addition, we have included labels used by the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft, the company formed by the German government following the outbreak of World War I and the subsequent seizure of all assets of the Deutsche Grammophon Aktien-Gesellschaft, viz., Stock Company, which was the German branch of the Gramophone Company. These labels also extend to those used by the Opera Disc Company of New York, which acquired numerous Gramophone Company metal parts by purchase after the end of World War I.

Editorial comment: the following chapters are not yet translated into Russian and hence missing in the current publication:
  Historical Background
Pre-Paper or Berliner Labels
Paper Labels
Font and Size Variations
The Recording Angel Trademark
His Masters Voice Trademark
The Caruso Labels
Celebrity Labels
Foreign Language Labels

Russian Recordings 1899 - 1914


lan Kelly has provided a detailed account of the initial recording operations of the Gramophone Company in Russia. (see The story of birth of Gramophone record in Russia - as it is happened in reality. )(Extraction from the Introduction to Complete Numerical Catalogue of Russian Gramophone Recordings made from 1899 to 1929 in Russia and elsewhere by The Gramophone Company Ltd)

Berliner 20089.
April 30, 1899 (NS)
Berliner 29132, embossed in Russian
St. Petersburg, late 1901

Darbys records were different in appearance - the details written in the center of the disc did not include the recording angel trademark and were inscribed inside a square box. There are no matrix numbers, only a series of catalogue numbers beginning at 20000 and there is no possibility of confusing them with regular issues.

St. Petersburg, December 1901
Moscow, January 1902

The first 10-inch labels show the raised The variant. The label on the right above is from Chaliapins first recording session.

Label in English, 1902
Label in Russian, January 1902

When the Gramophone Company began to press Victor recordings imported from the United States, as early as 1904, most of these were pressed not only at the Hanover plant in Germany with English labels, but also at the Riga plant with Russian labels and after 1907 at the Ivry plant outside of Paris with French labels. The pressing on the left above bears the imprint REPRODUCED IN HANOVER on the reverse, while that on the right reads REPRODUCED IN RUSSIA..

7-inch, St. Petersburg 1902
10-inch, St. Petersburg, 1901

The label on the left above is from a stamper III pressing and is only 85 mm in overall diameter. The flush label within a raised ring shows the matrix number 293x-d-z, and was probably issued after November 1902. The disc on the right was recorded by Nicolai Figner in St. Petersburg in December 1901, during William Darbys second visit to Russia. It was the first of a series of ten recordings by Figner known to have been accorded a Red Celebrity label. These were followed closely by the first recordings of Chaliapin, probably in January 1902, Sobinov, and other great singers from Russia and elsewhere. The first stamper issues were processed at the Hanover plant. By 1903 the Riga plant was pressing third stamper copies of this recording, with labels in Russian.

The label below is from a recording made in Moscow in March-April 1905 by Varya V. Panina. Robert Kensch, whose name appears in Cyrillic below the label, was a major dealer in gramophones and records in Moscow prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The horseshoe was his monogram. Let us hope that he had better luck than this indicates, since all the luck would have run out!

After the pressing plant in Riga was completed in 1902, all recordings made in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other recording locations within the Russian empire were processed there. They were marked on the reverse with the Recording Angel trademark as well as the phrase REPRODUCED IN RUSSIA. The Russian language was used for all parts of the lower half of the design except the catalog number. English was retained for the record label in an arc across the top and for the language and the instrument or voice across the center of the label.

Riga overprint 1902
Russian overprint, recorded Nov 7, 1909
Caruso recording of Dec 27, 1910 with Russian designation

Darby supervised the first 12-inch recording in Russia in early 1903. The disc, GM 022000 shown below, was Nikolai Figners first and only 12-inch recording. The matrix number 1y can be seen at the lower edge of the runoff area. The content of matrix numbers 2y through 8y is unknown, and may have been further but unsatisfactory recordings by Figner. It was not accorded Red Label status; of the ninety-one 12-inch G&T issues, that courtesy was accorded only to Andre Labinsky. The CO. marking confirms Kellys statement that the disc was issued in June 1903.

Figners only 12-inch recording

The Russian branch of the Gramophone Company used a large degree of latitude regarding various policies and changes ordered by the Head Office in London. The figures below show that as late as December 1910 the manufacturing plant in Riga was still using the original G&T label design that had been abandoned by the remaining branches some two years previously. Note that the company designation in the central figure above indicates that the disc was manufactured in Riga, as were most of the others.

Russian pre-DOG Concert label
Moscow, Jan 27, 1910
All Russian fonts
Moscow, Feb 6, 1910

Because of the semi-autonomous actions of the pressing plant at Riga, we cannot determine with any certainty when the various changes in Russian labels occurred. They appear to fall into categories paralleling those of the other Gramophone Company labels. Thus, those with Russian language printing or overprints issued before the completion of the Riga processing plant in 1902 equate to the original Gramophone & Typewriter, i.e., G&T labels, and have more or less the same general design, aside from the language used, sometimes simply for the title of the selection, but occasionally also for the name(s) of the artist(s).

St. Petersburg, 1908
Moscow, Jan 28, 1910
Russian pre-DOG Monarch

It is difficult to determine when the Riga plant began to use labels with the colored Cupid. For reasons outlined below, it was probably after February 1909, when G&T had introduced the His Masters Voice trademark on its labels. The two figures above show typical Gramophone Company pre-DOG labels as late as September 1911, more than two years after the HMV trademark was ordered to be placed on all subsequent Gramophone Company issues.

The 7-inch disc on the left below was recorded by Franz Hampe. Note that the catalog number was used twice more for 10-inch recordings in 1913 and 1914 by Fred Gaisberg! The ten-inch record on the right was recorded by Franz Hampe in Lwow, Poland. Ruthenian was a historic East Slavic language, spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

St. Petersburg, December 1906
Lwow, November 19, 1909
Moscow, Feb 6, 1910

Russian language labels using Gramophone Company designs were used continually until the Russian Revolution of October 24-25 (November 6-7 New Style), 1917. The Riga plant appeared to be quite autonomous in its use of labels. One frequently finds the same recording issued with a pre-DOG label and later with an Amour label, as shown above. The recording was made in Moscow about a year after the pre-DOG label period had ended for most of the Company branches. The Russian equivalent of the so-called G & T label was used as late as 1911, as seen below.

Russian pre-Amour June 1908
Moscow, Feb 5, 1910
Moscow Feb 6, 1910

The disc on the far right below was issued shortly after that in the center. All six labels above show extremely late use of the G&T pre-DOG design. The red label on the Smirnov disc is extremely unusual, since the Red Celebrity color was dropped in late 1906. Moreover, the quality of the ink on such labels is extremely poor, and be washed out with water.

L. V. Sobinov
Feb 27, 1911
F. I. Chaliapin
Riga, Sep 30, 1911
D. A. Smirnov
October 9, 1911

The Cupid labels below were issued shortly after those shown above, during the pre-DOG era from November 19, 1907 to February 1909. One might refer to this period of Russian manufacture of recordings made by the Gramophone Company as the pre-Amour period, comparable to the pre-DOG era for most other countries of issue. Note the alternate phrasing above the Cupid, as well as the alternate placement of the company designation and the double and single catalog numbers. Similar differences are found on GRAMOPHONE MONARCH RECORD MONARCH and RECORD GRAMOPHONE labels, as seen below.

The disc below, recorded in 1908, shows the English designation of the Gramophone Company below the trademark blacked out and the Russian overprint placed above the Cupid trademark.

Many vocal artists who made recordings in either Moscow or St. Petersburg, particularly after the introduction of the Cupid trademark, sang sometimes in Russian and sometimes in Italian. Russian language recordings were issued with Russian language labels, while those in Italian received English language labels. These labels used the general design of the original G&T labels, including the Recording Angel trademark in outline.

The HMV label was never considered acceptable for the Russian market. Apparently there is a well known Russian saying, He sings like a dog. After the G&T period they used an angel type label which equates roughly with pre-DOG elsewhere, although, of course, it was not literally so; this continued until at least 1911. Subsequently, or perhaps even concurrently, they used a label with the full color representation of Theodore Birnbaums original Angel trademark together with the Gramophone Concert (or Monarch) Record legend around the top. Finally, they settled on the Amour label shown below, which continued to be used up to the time of the Revolution, after which all record production ceased in Russia for several years. The illustrated labels are generally described as a Russian Amour and are GCL, that is, the equivalent of pre-DOG labels; HMV was only a label, never a company, in spite of the huge sign across the factory at Hayes, Middlesex, in 1911. (courtesy of Raymond Glaspole)

A. V. Nezhdanova
Moscow, April 24, 1912
L. M. Klementev
St. Petersburg, September 1909

The two labels on the left and center above show the pre-Amour or Cupid label and the Amour label for the same recording. They both bear the interesting matrix number 2607½c.

The Russian Orthodox clergy objected to the use of the trademark being designated as the Recording Angel, since it was seen to be handled and touched by infidels, i.e., Jews and Moslems. The designation was changed accordingly to that of a Cupid (Amyr) in full color. This seems to have first appeared at the same time that the Gramophone Company had changed its label to the so-called pre-DOG format. When the London office replaced the Recording Angel with the His Masters Voice trademark in February 1909, the designation on Russian labels was changed to read AMOUR GRAMOPHONE RECORD for both size discs. This practice continued until the Russian Revolution of October 1917, when all traces of Gramophone Company label designations disappeared, to be replaced by purely Russian labels.

The record at the left below was recorded in St. Petersburg in mid-1902 and processed in the manufacturing plant recently opened in Riga. It is a first stamper pressing, bearing the matrix number 184z, with REPRODUCED IN RUSSIA on the reverse. That on the right was recorded by Dmitri Smirnov on May 28, 1912. Note the sticker in the illustration below.

The word Amyr, meaning a cupid (pagan), as opposed to a cherub or angel (Judeo-Christian), was adopted after the Russian Orthodox Church objected to the use of a religious icon on a secular disc that might be handled by Jews or Moslems (courtesy Alan Kelly). This is an interesting contradiction, since the Russian Cupid, as a pagan symbol or icon, was designed originally by the German Jew Theodore Birnbaum! For the purpose of this paper, the term Cupid will be used to refer to those labels having a colored image of the Recording Angel design, but without the word AMOUR appearing on the label.

Vladimir Kastorsky, December 1906
Antonina Nezhdanova, April 24, 1912

It seems quite probable that Russian authorities and many dealers today refer to all labels having the Cupid design as Amour labels. Note also that those labels which show the Cupid in color and are designated as Amour Gramophone Record, the Russian phrase (in Western transliteration Pishuschiy Amur) at the lower left and right corners of the trademark translates to RECORDING CUPID, as opposed to the Recording Angel! These words are found only on Cupid labels with the Amour designation, and thus are absent from the labels shown below.

Maria Michailova, June 1906
Nicolai A Shevelev, September 1908
Cupid Concert labels
Amour Monarch 022161
Moscow, June 2, 1910
Amour Monarch 07923
London 1909 and 1912

The Figner labels below were probably made in December 1907, and issued on a double-sided disc. Note that the two labels do not have exactly the same colors. Prior to the issuance of the Amour labels, one finds Cupid labels, which can be compared with Gramophone Company pre-DOG labels, as shown below.

The disc on the left below was recorded by Fred Gaisberg in Moscow in 1907. That on the right was recorded in St. Petersburg by Franz Hampe on February 5, 1911. Both were issued with pre-Amour labels.

Both discs below were recorded in Moscow before the outbreak of the First World War. But were probably pressed following the October 1917 Revolution. The double-sided disc on the right below was pressed in Riga around 1912. These discs are generally considered to be sample pressings.[...]

2 1910 .
022246 30 1911 .

The Gramophone Company was not the only recording company to use an angel or cherub as a trademark, although it was probably the first. The Syrena and Russian Gramophone Company labels below both show a gramophone and an angel or cherub. Note that the Cyrillic logo on the top right is identical to those of the English company designations, commonly known as the RAOG, below it.

Syrena 10150
RAOG 1919/20
A Cupid is a Cupid is a Cupid.

Note that the two discs shown above are of the same recording, made by Antonina Nezhdanova in Moscow on January 27, 1910. The use of the Gramophone Company pre-DOG design at this late date is most unusual, but not uncommon.

Mattia Battistini
10 Amour, June 2, 1913
I.V. Gryzunov
12 Amour, January 24, 1910

When the pressing plant in Riga introduced the Amour label, 10- and 12-inch disc catalog numbers were distinguished by the prefixes C and M, which stood for Concert and Monarch, respectively, as shown above. In October 1913 it was decided to reissue the complete Gramophone Company catalog of Russian recordings on double-sided discs. These were issued in three series, designated , , and , in Cyrillic, equivalent to R, V, and N in English. The first two series were ten-inch issues with blue and dark green labels, respectively, and the last was for twelve-inch issues, with dark green labels. These started at P 1, B 2000, and H 9000, respectively. The labels still contained the catalog numbers for the single-sided issues, as seen below. All of these issues came from the cheaper Zonophone Catalogue.



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