About The Database


Starting in 1898, the Gramophone Company used various numbering systems to keep track of all the recordings that were made and a separate numbering system to track the recordings that were issued. The first set of numbers were called matrix numbers and the second set of numbers were called issue or catalogue numbers. The matrix numbers were engraved on the metal stampers and the issue or catalogue numbers appeared on the printed labels that were affixed to the records that were sold. As the business became more successful, the company altered its numbering systems several times to cope with the ever increasing number of recordings and so that the number conveyed information about the recording to those who understood the numbering system.

Dr Alan Kelly

Dr. Alan Kelly (1928-2015) spent decades coming to a complete understanding of the file numbering and lettering system used by The Gramophone Company and HMV, and in listing the recordings that were made. It was an extraordinary achievement. He developed an MSWord document for each group of recordings in the numbering system. There are over a hundred files of matrix numbers and several dozen files of issue or catalogue numbers. Some of the files are very large and they vary sufficiently in their internal set-up that it was very difficult to develop a single program to scan them so that a searchable database could be created of the whole. There are over 410,000 recordings in the database as it currently stands. The data all comes from Dr. Kelly’s own files with some additions and corrections done by others since his death in 2015. There may be further additions and corrections made to this database over time, as the completion of the database is a work-in-progress.

The Database

The database was developed by Stephen R. Clarke and Roger Tessier. Stephen Clarke is the Chair of The Historic Singers Charitable Trust (formerly Historic Masters) and the Executor of the Estate of John Stratton, a well-known record collector who died in 2001. His estate has supported the work of Historic Masters in the past and currently supports re-issues of the recordings of early singers on Marston Records. Roger Tessier is a retired computer coding expert whose work has been essential to this project, especially in the design of parser programs to scan the various Kelly files. All the work on the database project has been done on a volunteer basis.

The Site

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