Return to Home page

Joseph Merlin in London, 1760 1803

The journal-published article by Margaret Debenham (2014) cited below presents novel findings drawn from contemporary primary source materials that illuminate the life and activities of Joseph Merlin in London from 1760 until his death in 1803.

As of September 2020, this is the second of two 'most read' papers from the Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle currently made available for reading and/or downloading free of charge by kind courtesy of the publishers, Taylor and Francis Group, the first being Debenham and Cole's 2013 article on Roger Plenius, Frederick Neubauer and Herman Viator. Follow the highlighted link in the citation below to access the full text article via the journal website.

Margaret Debenham, 2014. Joseph Merlin in London, 1760–1803: the Man behind the Mask. New Documentary Sources in The Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, Vol. 45, Issue 1, 130-163. Abingdon: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group,.
DOI: 10.1080/14723808.2014.888175


Joseph Merlin (1735–1803), ‘Ingenious Mechanick’, musical-instrument maker and flamboyant showman, is perhaps best remembered for his Museum in Princes Street, London, with its scintillating displays of automata and extraordinary inventions. Two newly identified sets of Court documents, Nicholl v. Merlin, 1779 and Merlin v. Celsson, 1779–81, now provide insights into previously unknown aspects of his business dealings and personal life. The former concerns a dispute over a house that Merlin commissioned to be built in 1776, the latter a violation of his 1774 combined harpsichord-pianoforte patent rights. Material relating to Lavigne Verel, his musical instrument foreman from 1773 to 1781, is also reported. Amongst other novel findings, perhaps the most surprising is Merlin’s marriage in 1783. Contemporary primary-source material consulted includes original manuscripts held at The National Archives, UK, the Scone Palace Archives, Parish Registers, Land Tax and Apprenticeship records and numerous contemporary newspaper advertisements and notices.



Copyright © Margaret Debenham 2013-2019. All rights reserved.     Website design : Michael Debenham & Alexander Tse Debenham. Webmaster