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John Joseph Merlin

(1735-1803), Known as 'The Celebrated Mechanic'

Sitter in 4 portraits

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John Joseph Merlin, by George Perfect Harding - NPG D5250

John Joseph Merlin

by George Perfect Harding
mixed-method engraving, published 31 July 1803
NPG D5250

John Joseph Merlin, by George Perfect Harding - NPG D5251

John Joseph Merlin

by George Perfect Harding
mixed-method engraving, published 31 July 1803
NPG D5251

John Joseph Merlin, by George Perfect Harding - NPG D5252

John Joseph Merlin

by George Perfect Harding
mixed-method engraving, published 31 July 1803
NPG D5252

Web image not currently available

John Joseph Merlin

by George Perfect Harding, published by Ralph Smith Kirby, and published by T. Scott
mixed-method engraving, published 31 July 1803
NPG D14296


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Dr Margaret Debenham

13 October 2018, 16:22

You may find my article reporting on archival materials relating to Joseph Merlin of interest - free access has been made available by the publishers, Taylor and Francis, as one of the two 'most read' articles in the journal

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, Abingdon: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 130-163.

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.

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