Lioret phonograph – €20,000 (£17,500) at Auction Team Breker. Image copyright 2020 by Auction Team Breker, Cologne, Germany.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The celluloid cylinders he created for the toy proved more robust than others on the market and could be easily duplicated by the moulding process. By the late 1890s he was recording and manufacturing several sizes of musical cylinders (some 1400 titles in all) to be played on a range of patented clockwork phonographs he called Lioretgraphs.

Perhaps the most ambitious of these was Le Lioret No 3, a nickel-plated brass phonograph on a wooden tripod that was driven by weights.

A contemporary engraving showing Lioret demonstrating its merits to an audience at the Trocadéro auditorium, c.1898, is perhaps better known than the instrument itself.

Relatively few have survived. The example offered for sale at technology specialist Auction Team Breker (21.8% buyer’s premium) in Cologne on May 16 came with its original reproducer and horn plus three celluloid cylinders that confirmed it was in ‘playing condition’.

Estimated at €7000-9000, it sold to a phone bidder at €20,000 (£17,500).