BEN BERGONZI Old Gramophones (Shire)


A curious book, this, constricting a pretty specialised subject within what I presume are series-mandated boundaries, its 32 pages only likely to fill the slenderest of stockings. As a brief travelogue through the early talking machine industry it definitely has merit, touching upon format battles that make VHS vs. Betamax look like a vicarage tea party and a relentless leapfrogging pace of technological improvement and clunking obsolescence that's suggestive of the computer industry. Under such cutthroat conditions, it's especially heartwarming to see the inclusion of company names that are still extant to some extent today, such as Alba, Thorens and HMV. It's generously illustrated with pictures of the machines themselves, including photographs of a device called the Mikiphone, "probably the smallest gramophone ever placed on the market", which folds up into something the size of a large pocket watch. I was a bit surprised, though, that the reference section makes no mention of the excellent Johnson Victrola Museum in Delaware, whose interests would seem to be coincident with those of the book.