For sale, a Victorian Padbury’s Patent Indispensable Music Leaf Turner.
This fascinating machine is comprised of a mahogany case with spring clips attached to the base for it to be secured to a music stand. To the left-hand side of the case are located six hinged arms which may be drawn across to the right-hand side and loaded behind a spring catch mechanism which is hidden within the case.
A book of sheet music is intended to be held against the back section which is fretted with musical motifs throughout. In front, a central pole which can be folded down when not in use, acts as a stay against the central spine section of the sheet music.
Once in place, the leaves of sheet music are individually loaded into the arms of the machine and when required, the musician can turn the page by pulling down on a string attached to the front lever on the main case. The downwards action provided by the foot or leg of the musician releases the arm held in position to the right and it travels to the left-hand side thus revealing the next page.
The front of the case has a brass plaque stating, “Padbury’s Patent Indispensable Music Leaf Turner” and the arms, the central spine pole and the backrest all hinge conveniently flat in order to make the instrument more portable.
Little is known of the ingenious RH Padbury although he seems to have been a serial inventor for many years prior to the appearance of his music leaf turner. He is noted in the patent records between 1867 and 1877 where his work is largely related to the improvement of the sewing machine, but this seemingly simple conundrum must have been too enticing to pass up. The first invention of the mechanical page turner is considered to have been invented by the Anglo-German pianist Charles Halle but there are numerous patent records relating to sheet music page turners and it seems from the numerous attempts since that it remains an enduring difficulty, however Mr Padbury’s very early attempt must have been well received as he was able to secure an exhibitor’s space at the London International Health Exhibition of 1884 to sell his new product. His accompanying advertisement of the period states:
“This ingenious contrivance, which is the result of many years study, is as its name implies, “indispensable” to the performer on any musical instrument, and to the vocalist. It is so simple that a child can use it. It can be fixed to a piano, organ, harmonium, or ordinary music stand, in an instant. The music can be set up without loss of time, and all that remains to be done to turn the music at the proper moment is to touch a small key with the finger, of depress a pedal by the foot. It is also of great assistance in turning back leaves for repeats or choruses. It likewise has the advantage of being folded in a small compass, so that it may be carried in the ordinary music roll”.
A slightly later and more grandly named example, “The Empire music leaf turner” was produced by The British & Colonial Industries Association in the 1890’s, an example of which is amongst the collection of the Oxford History of Science Museum. It works on largely the same principles but has slightly different operating methods.
This early and very scarce example can be dated for certain to 1884 but may have been produced a little prior to that date.