Maelzel's Prototype 12-inch metronome, one of the two-hundred patent models made in 1815,
Lot 74
Maelzel's Prototype 12-inch metronome, one of the two-hundred patent models made in 1815,
Sold for £2,880 (US$ 4,874) inc. premium
Lot Details
Maelzel's Prototype 12-inch metronome,
one of the two-hundred patent models made in 1815,
No. 3, with small single-spring barrel-wheel, coursely-spoked escapement keeper in openwork brass movement body, weighted pendulum arm, the 50-160bpm scale in boxwood behind removeable front flap bearing impressed oval plaque with PAR BREVET D'INVENTION 1815 METRONOME DE MAELZEL PARIS LONDRES VIENNE, in mahogany pyramid case with restored pointed top, key-wind to the right; and a later bell-timed Maelzel metronome from circa 1845, to the usual 9-inch format, the 40-208bpm scale in printed paper, walnut pyramid case with pointed top, captive key-wind and bell-beat select for 2,3,4,6 timing, on three small feet; with some photostats of the patent design. (2)

Footnotes

  • Johann Nepomuk Maelzel (1772-1838), was a very talented person. Not only highly skilled in the rudiments of technical design, he was also a successful businessman who, like Edison, would seize upon another person's ideas, only to perfect, patent, build, market and sell them as his own.
    He is known primarily for two historical pieces - the metronome (1814), which was in fact first devised and drawn up by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel, and for purchasing and later selling for a huge profit, the forever infamous Turk chess-player automaton which was half-created by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1805).

    This world-famous Turk-playing chess automaton is currently being re-built on paper in London - but a version which will work from a fully mechanical computer, rather than from the design by Maelzel which involved more staged magic than advanced machanics.

    At the time his metronome patent (No. 3966 of 1815) was finally approved, he made a batch of just 200 to send out to friends, composers, musical instrument makers and the like for thier suggestions, comments and modifications. One of these composers was Beethoven, a friend who he later produced ear trumpets for when he neared complete loss of hearing.
    It is recorded that Maelzel was one of the five people who forcefully entered Beethoven's house when they heard a loud crash from outside. They found him standing over his piano with a saw after cutting off the legs in the hope he might have heard it play when he placed his ear to the bare floorboards. He didn't.
    Beethoven did however like the idea of a metronome and he made additional marks where he thought useful time points should be set. One of these was the lowest on the scale - 50. This was lowered even more into Largo by 1821 with a setting for 40. Even when deaf, he could still see when the maximum swing with each stroke was met.

    Maelzel was a musician himself, with regular performances of music scored for automatons of his creation running on a stage, whilst viewed by an audience below. During the 1820s, he toured New York with his Turk Chess-player, a panharmonicon, rope-dancing automatons, singing bird boxes, and speaking dolls - all of which were his creations.

    Eventually spending all his money on loose women and booze, he died a cronic alcoholic on-board a ship in Venezuela in 1838.
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