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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Paris Music Engraving Studio, Berlin

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SW Photo: Felt slippers are arranged neatly on the ground. Next to them are a broken stool, wooden beams and boxes.

Anyone spending extended periods in the poorly heated music engraving studio will need cosy slippers.

SW Photo: With its six handles, the large hand wheel on the printing press resembles a star.

The hand-operated gravure printing press was used to manufacture the galleys.

SW Photo: Wooden shelf with crates holding the assorted tools.

Notation cases with punches or counters are kept in an old set of shelves from a children's room.

SW Photo: The drawers in the chest are stuck with labels bearing inscriptions like "ink" or "large envelopes".

A chest to store work and office materials.

SW Photo: One solitary key and a washing-up brush dangle from key hooks.

The photographer Clemens Kirchner has an eye for special details.

Paris Music Engraving Studio, Berlin

Photographs of a deserted studio

Permanent gallery on the technical history of photography

11 July to 18 November 2018

Tables strewn with punches, gravers and other tools, printing presses and opened ink containers, as well as neatly arranged felt slippers. The photographs create the impression that the owner of the studio will return to his workplace at any moment.

SW Photo: Paris' workbench by the window with a large number of gravers and other tools. An overall is still draped on the chair.

View from the studio window of the circular railway line in Berlin. A commuter train is just leaving Schönhauser Allee station close by.

These atmospheric pictures were taken in early 1991 by the museum photographer Clemens Kirchner.

They provide an authentic impression of where the master music engraver Hans-Joachim Paris worked prior to his death in November 1991. Paris was the last remaining master of this old craft in Berlin. His family had run the music engraving studio at a variety of locations in the north of Berlin since the late 19th century. In the last years of his life, Paris largely worked alone in the studio on Kopenhagener Straße in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg.

The German Museum of Technology purchased the inventory and tools from Paris' widow. Before its closure, Clemens Kirchner shot remarkably reserved images that captured the magical aura exuded by the studio in its abandoned, untouched condition.

The old craft of music engraving

Music engraving remained an essential part of duplicating sheet music for centuries. It involved cutting and hammering the notes into soft metal printing plates.

SW Photo: View into the studio – with tables, chairs, ovens, shelves and printing presses.

The deserted studio of master music engraver Hans-Joachim Paris, 1991

In a first step, the music engraver sketched the outlines on the printing plate using a steel stylus. Then he used punches to hammer the notes into the plate – each punch required a particular blow with the hammer. Stems, ties or beams were cut into the plate freehand using gravers. Incorrect notation was marked with pliers on the reverse side and then beaten back into shape with a matching punch. To ensure correct annotation, it was necessary to smooth the front and retrace the lines.

This was the painstaking, laborious procedure by which the engraver created inverted print templates for sheet music by hand. A feel for music was indispensable to ensure legibility and a pleasurable experience for the musicians. Ideally, the look of the sheet would reflect the character of the piece. This work has been computerised since the early 1990s. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of sheet music still in use today is based on print templates that were created by hand.

Museum photographer Clemens Kirchner

Clemens Kirchner, born 1960 in Berlin-Tempelhof, initially worked as a portrait photographer after graduating, before setting up business for himself. He has been employed at the German Museum of Technology since 1985. Kirchner attaches particular importance to the right perspective and aesthetic value, especially for documentary images.

Header image:
Tools to work the printing plate: The gravers (on the stand at the back) are used to cut lines and curves, while the note heads and letters are stamped with punches (centre).

© for all photos (all black and white): SDTB, Historical Archive / Photo: Clemens Kirchner