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Mannborg at Paris exhibition 1900


This text is a translation for the original German text published in a Mannborg catalog without a date. This catalog was published around 1908-1910. This text is the introduction of an intriguing reed organ, built by Mannborg, and exposed at the World Exhibition 1900 held in Paris, France.

The German text was translated by dr. J.W. Poynter, [1] and was published in ROS Bulletin 1985-1.

In historic perspective it is curious that Mannborg never after the Exhibition mentioned this instrument in catalogs. Even more curious is that this instrument was not mentioned in the 1929 Jubilee book of the Mannborg company.
The instrument is documented in literature by Alfred Brener [2] and Oskar Bie [3].

The history of this instrument is unknown. Should it still be extant, this is a extremely well kept secret.

The reader should be aware this text is not an objective description of the instrument. It is a commercial text and appraisal by the Mannborg company. Hence it is pure advertizing.   


Mannborg Exposition Instrument 1900       

Advertorial text by Mannborg

In this instrument, which is indeed the only one of its kind in the world, the great difficulties involved in the construction of a complicated mechanism have been solved brilliantly. On more than one occasion pressure operated reeds and pipes have been combined in the one instrument and people have sought many times to use pressure and suction systems together without, until now, achieving a satisfactory result. This instrument has all three systems; pressure, suction and pipes combined in one and despite the enormous obstacles the wind proportions are exactly what is required. From the adjacent illustration it is possible to observe many of the aspects of this complicated project. The wind required for sound production is, as it were, employed twice through specially constructed bellows. That sane air which is drawn in to operate the suction system on the second manual is compressed to supply the pressure for the first manual.

The extremely complex and thoughtfully constructed wind supply mechanism consists of eleven feeder/evacuation bellows and five reservoirs supplying six distinct wind channels to the tonal mechanism and is so built that it can be set in motion by two foot treadles. In addition there are thirty-eight small pneumatic bellows for the operation of the different stops available.



The extraordinary difficulty of the design concept of this instrument lies, above all, in the fact that these dif­ferent systems and wind channels are com­bined in a comparatively very small space, without impairment of the tonal quality, and moreover, allow full voices to be achieved easily. The complexity of such a layout will be appreciated readily by every expert.

The principal complexities of the construction are removed if one considers each of the manuals as a separate system. Indeed it is through the combination of these different systems that a tonal variation with delightful effects is achieved which would be quite unthinkable for an instrument incorporating one of these systems only.

By means of the appropriate foot operated levers, the following variations are at the player's immediate disposal:

  1. Mechanical wind supply on all manuals and pedal.
  2. Player-controlled wind supply, via the treadles, for the first manual (which can then be played with Expression as desired) with simultaneous mechanical wind supply for manuals 2 and 3.
  3. Player controlled wind supply via the treadles for the second manual with simultaneous mechani­cal wind supply to the first and third manuals.
  4. Player controlled wind supply via the treadles for manual s 1 and 2 with  simultaneous mechanical supply for the third manual.



Windmotor met handbediening

An al most inexhaustible variation of tone colours can be achieved with the help of the numerous couplers. In this way the instrument achieves an unusually pleasing sound and with Full Organ, a majestic sonority for which the powerful pedal pro­vides the    appropriately balanced foundation.

The casework is shown in the accom­panying illustration and, with its costly ornamentation and splendid overall impression produced, provides a worthy exterior for the valuable internal mechanism.


21 rows of Reed and Pipes on 3 manuals and pedal, range 5 Octaves, c-c, Pedal c-f, 30 notes.

MANUAL I: (Pressure) 5 ranks of reeds:
Melodia 8', Oboe 8’, Bourdon 16’, Piccolo 4’, Flute 8’
MANUAL II: (suction) 8 ranks of reeds:
Diapason 8’, Flute d’amour 8’, English Horn 8’, Clarinette 16 ', Viola dolce 4’, Waldflöte 2’, Cornet-Echo 8’, Aeolian Harp 8’,
MANUAL III; (Pipes) 3 ranks of pipes:
Gedackt 8’ (wood), Salicional 8’, Principal 4’ (tin metal)
PEDALS: (suction) 5 ranks of reeds:
Sub bass 16’, Posaunne 16', Trumpet 8’, Octave 4’, Bombardon 32’

Totals: 943 reeds, 183 pipes
Pitches: 1 x 32’ (5%), 4 x 16’ (19%), 11 x 8’ (52%), 4 x 4’ (19%), 1 x 2’ (5%)

Mechanical stops:

Great prolongement, Octave Coupler, 3 Manual Couplers, 3 Pedal Couplers, 10 Foot Levers, 3 Knee Levers,  6 Pneumatic combination Pistons.
Electric motor for mechanical wind­ supply, with crank for hand operation. (As shown in illustration)

The mechanical wind supply can be operated by hand, the equipment for this being shown in the adjacent illustration. There is an electric motor also available which reliably provides for mechanical blowing. This motor can be controlled conveniently from the front bench. From the player’s sitting position the mechani­cal wind supply can be switched on and off by means of a hand control and the strength of blowing regulated at will.

As the casing is itself a work of art, it will interest every connoisseur of music and art to become acquainted with this unique instrument.



[1] J.W. Poynter is both a member of ROS (Reed Organ Society) and ROPSA. (Reed Organ Preservation Society of Australasia).  He is a lector in Geography at South Australian State College. His collection of reed organs counts 11 instruments.

[2] in:  The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. 8, p. 174, and
" Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart" (MGG) 1956 edition, Vol. 5, p. 1707-1708.
[3] in: "Klavier, Orgel Und Harmonium, Das Wesen Der Tasteninstrumente." pp. 97ff //The characteristics of the keyboard instruments: piano, organ and harmonium Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1910 - 1921.

The text as published by Oskar Bie, taken from the original publication:


Comment in "Das Harmonium" august 1901

Mannborg (Leipzig) showed a big organ-harmonium with 3 manuals, one of them for voices on suction, the second one for voices on pressure and the third for voices of organpipes. This instrument has 21 complete ranks and 46 stops, 35 of them for all manuals, 11 for the pedal. The combination of these three systems was very usefull, however, the musical effect of this instrument at 'tutti' could not fullfil our expectations.



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