Sound and vision blog

18 May 2009

Early Spoken Word Recordings

The newest spoken word collection on Archival Sound Recordings provides a journey back through some of the oldest commercial recordings held in the Sound Archive.

The Early Spoken Word collection features literary readings digitised from 78 rpm Linguaphone discs. The Linguaphone company, which is still going strong today, was founded in 1901 by translator and language teacher Jacques Roston. He was quick to recognise the educational opportunities offered by the invention of sound recording, and pioneered the production of study materials that combined texts with sound recordings, initially on wax cylinders and later on flat discs.
Celebrity speakers include Bernard Shaw, whose two-disc set ‘Spoken English & Broken English’, issued in 1927, features the writer’s own signature reproduced in the run-out grooves of each side of each disc. This unusual feature can be seen in the image that accompanies the sound file.
There are also many well-known actors of the past reciting famous works.  These recordings, such as John Gielgud’s rendering of scenes from Richard II  recorded in 1931, highlight how declamatory theatrical styles have changed since the early 20th century.

Over the coming months, the Early Spoken Word collection will continue to grow as copyright is cleared for many more recordings.  Check back in the early summer for additional material drawn from the worlds of literature, politics, sport and the monarchy.


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