It all started some years ago with a couple of antique shellac records from the 1920s that I had bought basically for the music recorded upon on them. They were intended to be played on a cheap HMV suitcase gramophone. But instantly I was also very much attracted to the design of the labels on those records. In the early 20th century most records did not have individual sleeves for each artist like vinyl records or CDs in later years. They were usually sold in thin paper covers or sleeves printed with the record company’s logo on it and perhaps some more or less nice illustrations or lists of available titles by that brand. Like the sleeves, most labels were only "company labels" with identical design for different artists. But some of them were really beautiful, gorgeously illustrated with colourful images of people, musicians, animals, landscapes, buildings or whatever. Most famous - even outside the record collectors’ field of interest - is probably the "His Master’s Voice" image of a dog sitting in front of a gramophone, the trademark of the Gramophone Company and the Victor Talking Machine Company (and still used by their successors EMI and RCA for many decades). But there were so many other companies and brands who all had their own label designs. Most actually were just ordinary but some of them demonstrate the most beautiful artistic merit and technical ability of that time.
Not long after I fell in love with shellac record labels I discovered that in the beginning of recorded sound there weren’t only disc records but also cylinder records. What an odd format for a record, most people may think today, but for a short time before the year 1900 Thomas A. Edison’s invention of a cylindrical record was indeed sounding and therefore selling better than his competitor Emil Berliner's flat disc records. The easier handling and the better durability of disc records, as well as the longer playing time finally marked the end of the entertainment cylinder records in the late 1920s. Cylinder records didn’t have a label stuck directly on them, as there was no space for it on the surface with its groove, so, usually artist, title and catalogue number were printed on or engraved in one of the rims of a record. Also to give the fragile cylinders some protection they were sold in individual tube shaped boxes made of cardboard and those boxes usually had a printed label pasted around their outside surface. Again those labels were record company or dealer labels with usually one design for the entire range of music a company was offering. Some of those had a relatively plain design while some others were excessively illustrated. After I had seen photos of some of the latter I knew that this would be an area that I entirely like to discover and to explore. Hence the cylinder record boxes have become the main focus of my "obsession".