Music Engraving Studio Paris, Berlin

The sound of silence

By German Museum of Technology

Ole Guapo (Tango)German Museum of Technology

“Notes are black dots. And if you can´t somehow bring them to life then you are clearly not a musician”, observed the Berlin guitarist Coco Schumann. But how did the black dots und dashes actually make it on to the paper for larger print runs? Until just a few decades ago, there was still a separate profession for notation engravers – as was practiced by the Paris family over four generations. Large parts of their workshop, as well as photographs and documents, have been collected and stored in our museum.

Paris Music Engravers company, View through the workshop window onto the tracks by Clemens KirchnerGerman Museum of Technology

Photographs of a
bygone craft

In April 1991, Clemens Kirchner, museum photographer, entered the abandoned workshop spaces of the Paris Musical Engravers Studio on Kopenhagener Strasse 16, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. The rooms looked as if the artisans had just left them, as if they were in the middle of work. In fact, the music engraver Hans-Joachim Paris, who had died on 8 November 1990, had for the most part been working there alone for more than a decade – as probably Berlin's last musical engraver. As he looked out of the window, Clemens Kirchner photographed a 1928 S-Bahn train passing on the Ringbahn (Circle Line), which was still broken up into two sections as a result of the Berlin Wall being built.  

Paris Music Engravers company, Ovens and hand-operated gravure printing press by Clemens KirchnerGerman Museum of Technology

Interior view of the workshop

Clemens Kirchner was commissioned to document the workshop as accurately as possible in order for it to be reconstructed in the museum. Thanks to their cool objectivity, the photographic views are now able to provide insights into the working situation at that time.

Outside of the workshop the ICE era got underway (in June 1991), the Scorpion's "Wind of Change" was number 1 in the single charts for months, Freddy Mercury died, and the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado gave its first European concert as a way to bring back memories of the common cultural heritage of the Old World. The Berlin S-Bahn-Ring (Circle Line) would not finally integrate all the previous East Berlin stations into its circle until 10 years after German Reunification.  

Paris Music Engravers company, View towards the entrance, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Materials warehouse at the end of the room, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Cabinets with engraving plates, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Workspace with natural light, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, A safe in the background, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Paints and chemicals by Clemens KirchnerGerman Museum of Technology

Attention to
detail

In addition to the documentary images, black and white photos were also taken in which Clemens Kirchner utilised his special detail oriented perspective to capture the atmosphere in the workshop. The pictures make it clear that not much had been renovated in the Paris Music Engraving Studio for a long time and that no preparations had been made for a handover of the business. But the pictures also tell a story about scarcity and extremely hard working conditions. They are certainly evidence of a time in which nothing remained as it was in both West and East Germany in terms of industrial production and the artisanal trades.

Paris Music Engravers company, House slippers and paper, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Cabinet with stamps, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Tools for working on the engraving plates, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Paris Music Engravers company, Key holder and curtain, Clemens Kirchner, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Sheet music print from Henle Publishers by G. Henle Verlag, MünchenGerman Museum of Technology

The craft of
music engravers

Since at least the 15th century, musical notes were no longer just written down, but also printed and duplicated. In addition to simple notation symbols there were also complete notes used in lead typesetting. Engraving notes in copper and other metal plates enabled the printing of one whole sheet at a time. The advent of the lithographic printing of notes made possible a kind of "copying" of sheet music by means of transfer printing for the first time. Since the 18th century - and in the workshop of Hans-Joachim Paris as well - engraving plates were made of soft lead (pewter): this made both engraving and corrections easier.

Film clips 1-3 by G. Henle Verlag, MünchenGerman Museum of Technology

Music publishers provided the engravers with the draft version of the notation to be engraved. They then sized the draft and transferred the sections onto engraving plates as mirror images. For this, the layout was initially sketched with a steel scoring tool and the distance between the notes was measured with a compass.

Film clips 1-3 by G. Henle Verlag, MünchenGerman Museum of Technology

Rastra, which are like five-pronged rakes, were pulled along a metal ruler to engrave the five staff lines. When stamping noteheads, signs and symbols, each stamp required a special hammer strike. Pearl-, Cadenz-, Peters- and Gewöhnlich Zeug were names for the different sizes of the notation script (in German).

Film clips 1-3 by G. Henle Verlag, MünchenGerman Museum of Technology

The drawing of stems, ledger lines or bar lines was done freehand across the five staff lines with hooks or gravers. Special requirements such as breaks in the individual voices (melodies) had to be taken into account during the process. This work was made considerably easier when pewter plates, which consisted of a softer lead alloy that was much easier to process, replaced copper or zinc plates.

Green proof sheetGerman Museum of Technology

After completion of the engraving plate, a proof was made, which showed a negative image of the notation on a green background.

Black baryta printGerman Museum of Technology

After completing the necessary corrections, final black prints were made on Baryta paper to serve as originals for offset printing. The plates themselves were no longer used as printing media.

Paris Music Engravers company, Pewter engraving plate (soft lead)German Museum of Technology

Pewter engraving plate for a song, probably for a religious hymnal. Today, digital techniques are used for typesetting music notation.

An old Paris Music Engravers company signboardGerman Museum of Technology

The Paris family - notation engravers over four generations

Typeface sample bookGerman Museum of Technology

I. Conrad Paris Anastatic Printing House

On 01.10.1883 Ernst and Conrad Paris founded a book and litho printing workshop, which later became the "Conrad Paris Anastatic Printing House". It consisted of a music engraving studio and a printing shop. According to the Klimsch address book of 1890, the shop at that time consisted of eight engravers, three lithographers, a machine master, three manual press printers, a printer's apprentice, a bookbinder and three day labourers operating a lithographic press, three hand presses, three auxiliary machines and a hand operated Gutenberg copper plate star-wheel printing press.

Excerpt from 1945 telephone directoryGerman Museum of Technology

The company headquarters was at that time in the Pappelallee 27. A bomb hit this location in 1945. The printing house, which Conrad Paris had assigned to his three daughters, was probably liquidated between 1945 and 1950 after the printing presses had been confiscated.

Exterior view of Schönhauser Allee 134aGerman Museum of Technology

II. The K and R Paris
Bros.

Conrad Paris' sons Konrad and Rudolf inherited the music engraving studio and ran it from 1920 to 1954 under the name "Notenstecherei Gebr. K und R Paris"; after 1945 it was located at Schönhauser Allee 134a. Examples of scores they were contracted to engrave included compositions by Paul Lincke.

On the basis of a certificate obtained from the Department of Nutrition in Prenzlauer Berg that described the allocation of milk for workers exposed to lead fumes, we now know exactly who worked in the music engraving studio in 1950. In addition to the founder's two sons Konrad and Rudolf, there were the granddaughter Annelotte Paris, who was also a trained engraving specialist, her cousin and later master music engraver Hans-Joachim Paris and his maternal grandfather, as well as three journeymen.

The music engraver Annelotte Paris, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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The music engraver Rudolf Paris, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Measuring an engraving plate, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Rudolf Paris is engraving note stems, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Rudolf Paris working on a star-wheel press, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Polishing an engraving plate, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Rudolf Paris's identity cardGerman Museum of Technology

III. The Rudolf Paris Music Engraving Studio

After the death of Konrad Paris in 1954, his brother Rudolf took over the business as the sole proprietor and named it Notenstecherei Rudolf Paris. He had already moved to the factory building at Kopenhagener Straße 16 one year earlier, in 1953: this was the business's last location before being transported to the museum.

Around 1950, there were three other music engraving companies in Berlin, whose employees would end up working for all the different companies depending on the changing work loads and sometimes just worked on a freelance basis. In the 1950s, the music publishing businesses became centralized in West Berlin in the area around Berlin Zoo, Kurfürstenstraße and Savignyplatz. The higher wages being paid there made it increasingly attractive to work in West Berlin.

Photographs by Hans-Joachim ParisGerman Museum of Technology

IV. Hans-Joachim
Paris Music Engraving Studio

Hans-Joachim Paris, the last professional master music engraver in Berlin, was initially a leaseholder in the 1960s and eventually become the sole owner of the business at a later date. Ever since he had to get state approval from the GDR for contract work in West Berlin there were always delays; this had a particularly negative affect on contract work that had to be engraved on short notice. His most important clients were the music publishers in Leipzig, first and foremost of which were the Evangelical and Catholic publishing houses.

In order to prepare the bars and the breaks of a score, Hans-Joachim Paris would draw a sketch of the segmentations at home with the help of his piano. In the workshop he would also use an accordion to play the notes registered on the green proof sheet and was thus able to recognize any possible mistakes in the musical text.

Vorderseite der LangspielplatteGerman Museum of Technology

In 1966, Hans-Joachim Paris completed his master's examination, was entered into the East Berlin Registry of Craftsmen and received a teaching certificate. His only apprentice left the business in 1970 after having completed his training. He was then unable to attract any other apprentices.

Schandauer revolver oven by Clemens KirchnerGerman Museum of Technology

Up until the mid-1980s, Hans-Joachim Paris was assisted in his workshop by an older music engraver from Zepernick, but only in the warm months of the year. Before a gas heater was finally installed, the workshop was extremely cold. Six electric hot plates, however, did make working in the workshop more bearable. The workers would put them under their hands and sometimes even under their feet.

High racks with parts of the workshopGerman Museum of Technology

Depot of the museum,  2017

The Paris Music Engravers Studio failed to be reproduced in the Deutsches Technikmuseum and ended up being forgotten just like Clemens Kirchner's photographs. It wasn't until twenty-five years later that during an overhaul of a permanent exhibition employees of the museum became aware of the inventory of the Paris Music Engraver Studio in the museum's depot and historical archive.

The keys for the safe in one of the boxes being unpackedGerman Museum of Technology

Boxes with the workshop equipment were reopened in the depot for the first time. And Clemens Kirchner's photos were found in the historical archive in the guise of hardly recognizable photocopies.

In the museum depotGerman Museum of Technology

Some of the objects from the engraving studio have been on display in the permanent printing technology exhibition since 2019.

Lime wood charcoal from the storage box shown above, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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Rastra and tools to draw the staff lines, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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A small eraser and cork, From the collection of: German Museum of Technology
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An old Paris Music Engravers company signboardGerman Museum of Technology

Clemens Kirchner's photographs were presented in a photo exhibition in 2018. The gradual disappearance of the different craft trades and industrial occupations had already begun in the 1960s. In the last few decades, the velocity and dynamism of this process has significantly increased in the coarse of the digital transformation. The Deutsches Technikmuseum keeps our intangible cultural heritage alive – in this case as exemplified by historically important printing techniques. Those techniques are a key to understanding our rich typographic heritage as well as all the cultural assets that have been handed down to us.

View through the workshop window onto the tracks, 2019German Museum of Technology

In June 2019, Clemens Kirchner was given the opportunity to revisit the view from the former workshop's window along the S-Bahn tracks from the same perspective as in 1991.   

The AccordionistGerman Museum of Technology

Credits: Story

Editor: Kerstin Wallbach
Archivist: Marcel Ruhl
Photography / Photo editor: Clemens Kirchner
Co-Editors: Isabel Wanger, Bettina Gries
Technical Support: Jannes Repke, Patrick Mehnert
Translator: Barry Fay

Musician: Jens Seidenpfad

Special Thanks to G. Henle Verlag, München

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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