On the whole, we don't have very early printed record covers like this in the UK, but instead we often find plain coloured thick paper without any printing. The early paper covers that turn up here usually seem to be from continental Europe. I think that Berliners may have been sold in the UK without any covers at all, and customers just bought standard plain covers for them. (I have some Berliner discs with a dealer's label attached to the actual disc surface.) So it is good to see some paper material as old as this.
The gramophone in the picture is like my own and may be from 1900 -- it's *not* the same as in the (1899) HMV trademark picture, as the brake mechanism here is a small 'bolt' on the top instead of the original lever at the front (at the right-hand side in this picture).
I presume that this cover is earlier than the incorporation of The Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd (late 1900), so it may therefore be from some time between late 1899 and late 1900.
If I can find out more about the company's usage of 'Ltd' or about Mailund, I shall post another comment. The printer's mark I shall leave to you! -- maybe a directory of businesses or telephones in Riga around 1900 will give you the full name, as the first few letters appear to be quite readable.
[My first posting on this seems to have disappeared -- luckily!]
Dating the "improved" brake mechanism is difficult, as it doesn't seem to be patented and advertisements by the Gramophone Co., Ltd. haven't been placed before December 1899.
But I found a remark by Peter Martland (Since Records Began, EMI, The first 100 years, London 1997, p. 43), that the Berlin office - mentioned on the sleeve - was established by Theodore Birnbaum only in November 1899 and I expect a synchronous opening for N. M. Rodkinson's St. Petersburg office.
I therefore second a printing date of late 1899 at the earliest. Most likely for the Christmas trade.
I have now been in contact with Christopher Proudfoot (ex-auctioneer at Christie's South Kensington, London) and also with Peter Martland.
Relevant information that they were able to give me is as follows:
Change to Gramophone Company Limited: Peter Martland says that the Gramophone Company became the Gramophone Company Limited on 1 September 1899, and 'Ltd' would indeed appear in all new references thereafter.
There was a Russian sales office in St Petersburg in 1899. In November 1901 Joseph Berliner reported to a company board meeting that a factory for pressing records in Riga was postponed. Another board meeting (June 1902) approved the decision to build a factory at Riga, and by September 1902 Joseph Berliner had 40 presses in Riga and 50 in Hanover. Alas, company board meeting minutes are frequently silent on matters of detail -- such as whether setting up the St Petersburg office coincided with setting up the Berlin office in November 1899.
Bolt brake: this first appeared in late 1899 -- Christopher Proudfoot suggests that it was 'on the way' in October 1899. He says that some are found on machines that show a label with the old 'un-Limited' Gramophone Company name (so the cases at least were perhaps made before the end of August 1899). He believes that the cases were pre-drilled with holes to accommodate the spring for the original cam/lever brake; so the company now had to block the hole and hide it with an Angel transfer! But the Angel transfer is found also on cases that show the Limited company name, suggesting cases made in September.
So... it would appear that the record sleeve depicting a bolt-brake gramophone and with the 'un-Limited' company name does indeed date to the time of both these changes (company name and bolt-brake) around autumn 1899. How this ties in with the details of company offices or sales offices in Russia unfortunately remains much less clear.
Very interesting details and a new insight into the early Gramophone Co. history. Thank you very much, Peter.
It is not generally known that the Riga plant was already producing in 1902 and I didn't expect that it was nearly as large as the Hanover plant. This explains why (and how) the Gramophone Co. made a large portion of its profits on the Russian market.
The example of the bolt brake shows that its best to include all acquirable primary sources (documents and instruments). The outcome of your researches is convincing, therefore!
After all I am very proud to hold a record sleeve this early.
Stephan, I live in Baltimore, Maryland, some 3500 miles from the EMI archives. I am in my ninth decade and a bit weary of travelling. I do my research on the basis of what I see in front of me, mainly the records in my own possessions and such images of related items as may come to hand. Do you have any other suggestions?