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Frank V. de Bellis Collection - Recordings


It is not surprising that in the early 1910ís opera devotee Frank V. de Bellis regularly parted with $3.00 out of his $8.00 weekly salary as a messenger boy in Boston in order to purchase the latest arias released on platters. And it is natural that he would begin his collecting as an adult with recordings of great singers prominent in his youth and in the so-called Golden Age of Singing.

While this is the one part of Mr. de Bellis´s collection built on a broader base than his later strictly Italian materials, including as it does singers and composers of all nationalities, there is, nevertheless, an emphasis on Italian singers. Reflected also in recordings of various sizes, speeds, and materials is his interest in the record industry itself, a facet which seldom escaped the fascination of collectors in this now nearly barren and exhausted field.

A selection of recordings in the collection

  • A Zonophone green label 5-inch 78 rpm.
  • Practically the complete output of pre-electric Pathés of Italian artists, including the only three recordings Caruso made for this firm, recorded about 1900-1902 and released simultaneously on cylinders and on 11 5/8 -inch discs.
  • The wax cylinders* Parthés in the Collection, of 3 ½ -inch diameter and less than four minutes in playing time, were popular from the turn of the century until about 1910 when the discs began to supersede them.
  • 10-inch (1/4-inch thick) Edison platters*. These play four or five minutes, as long as any of the 12-inch discs produced in that period. They have been produced in quantity, partially because they were practically unbreakable laminated discs containing high quality shellac.
  • Extremely rare 10-inch blue label Zonophones. Zonophones were products of the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company, each disc containing a hurried announcement of the title of the composition, the singer and a "plug" for the company.
  • Almost the entire vocal output of Fonotipia. These are mostly on the typical disc - 10 5/8 - and on a few 10-inch and 14-inch discs.
  • The Collection also abounds in long defunct labels such as Homophone, Aerophone, Lyric, Okeh, (a Parlophone and Odeon subsidiary), La Cigale, Disco Gramophon, Odeon (as a product of Fonotipia), Apga, La Fonografia Nazionale, Brunswick, Sonora, Phonotype, Parlophone, Vocalion, Beka-Record, Actuelle (lateral-cut Pathe re-issues), Excelsius, and Dominion.
  • Approximately 19,500 recordings in the Collection are in the category of early vocal emissions.
  • The remainders of the recordings are devoted to a collection of 78 rpm and 33 1/3 rpm discs. It is a collection of international labels and artists, but entirely of Italian composers, consisting of instrumental music, art song, choral music and opera.

* In the de Bellis collection there are phonographic machines available to play archival recordings and modern audio equipment to record selected audio materials.

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