Swiss Sectional Comb Cylinder Musical Box with Early Fusee Drive

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Swiss. Circa 1820. 9” x 3” x 4” (23 x 8 x 10 cm). Serial number 2789. Presented in a fine fruitwood box with dove-tailed construction, the comb consisting of seven sections of ten teeth per section, with fusee movement. The bottom of the case has ink inscription indicating that the case was restored in 1859 by B.A. Bremond. Another inked inscription on the bottom of the case indicates the serial number and the name of three tunes: Overture de la Rose Blanche de Rossini, Valse de Ch, and Cavatine de Taneride de Rossini. The music functions nicely and has a lovely sound. Historical References: This very musical box was shown and described in History of Musical Box and of Mechanical Music by Alfred Chapuis, page 187 with the notation “This is an experimental model”. Chapuis did not explain the comment but may have been referring to the 10-teeth per section that would have been considered advancement in 1820. The use of Rossini tunes is interesting. Cavatine de Tancredi, for example, was wildly popular after its 1820 premiere at Kings Theatre in London, so it was a natural to appear on a musical box of the era. The 1859 notation concerning Bremond enhances the historical trail of this unusual piece that has been carefully cherished and tended for nearly 200 years. The musical box was created by an unknown maker about 1820, was restored by Bremond in 1859, later belonged to the collection of Foucou (according to Chapuis) and is now being sold from the collection of Paul Gendre. Sectional combs and fusée drives evolved over a long transition period. c.1814 through the mid-1800’s. The sectional comb was an attempt to group ever-larger pieces of steel into a semblance of a musical scale. The disappearance of the sectional comb resulted when makers gained greater access to consistent quantities of rolled steel plate, allowing them to create single-piece combs of larger size. The component on the left-end of the musical movement, resembling a wound-up bicycle chain, is known as a fusée drive. This chain drive ensured that the spring could wear down in a more regulated manner, allowing a steadier tempo to the music. For economic reasons, the fusée drive was eventually discarded in favor of directly-wound spring barrels of every-growing dimensions.
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