It is now a quarter of a century since Historic Masters Ltd was formed to continue the series of historic reissues of vocal recordings initiated by the BIRS.

During that time there have been twenty-nine regular issues containing five, six or seven records as well as special boxed sets of recordings of Tamagno, Patti, Melba and a De Lucia set. Some how or other we have existed for longer than any of our predecessor organisations even though regular manufacture of 78rpm discs ended in the 1950s.

Many have contributed to this, but I want to pay particular tribute to the EMI Archive and its staff for their continuing help over all this time and to the John Stratton Trust – without the financial help of which we would not have survived the difficulties of recent years.

This series began back in 1971 under the aegis of the British Institute of Recorded Sound and subsequently continued after 1982 through Historic Masters Ltd. Our mission is to give collectors an opportunity of purchasing recordings in original format, of outstanding singers in interesting repertoire – drawing where possible on previously unpublished material. Over the years this has entailed much detailed research, careful and painstaking finding and handling of original metal masters, combined with time-consuming and subsequently more often than not, very costly test-pressings of selected items, thought suitable for issue. We believe this has resulted in a unique series of now much admired vocal treasures. Historic Masters can claim to have made available to devotees of – recorded vocal art-  outstanding discs that outstrip anything produced by previous legendary re-issue organisations.

It must be appreciated that Historic Masters Ltd can perforce only offer recordings from metals which still exist and which have withstood the ravages of time. Bear in mind many of them have laid unattended in the archives, in some cases for almost a century. All too often diligent research discovers that certain recordings widely believed as still available in their original metal form simply no longer exist. Some precious metals of original recordings look to be – on paper-  truly wonderful material; they subsequently, turn out on examination or after making tests to be in such poor state, that it is impossible to get a sufficiently acceptable commercial pressing.

Our mission goes on and we will continue, where possible, to explore archives in the hope of further exciting finds of great singers. Throughout our existence we have owed a huge debt of gratitude to the EMI Archive. More recently and thanks to the DG Archive we have been able to issue important boxed sets of three of the earliest – greats-  – Patti, Tamagno and Melba.

Issue No 31 will hopefully contain something for all tastes. The artists selected hail from Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, France, Spain, and Russia, the performances splendid, the music is varied, and the quality of pressings should reveal excellent audio results.

In addition to the support Historic Masters still receives from the John Stratton Trust, we have on this occasion received generous sponsorship from Michael Bott, a long time enthusiastic collector and contributor of articles to the Record Collector Magazine. His choice is a disc of Joseph Hislop the noted Scottish tenor, with whom Michael studied many years ago. Heard on vinyl, as opposed to the previously published shellac, his voice takes on a new perspective. We hope that other subscribers may be prompted to underwrite an issue of an artist with whom they have a special interest, affinity or musical bond. Details of costs involved can be obtained on application to the Managing Director; Prof. Stanley Henig.


We are looking into the possibility of sending future prospectuses by email in a .pdf format, so you can print it out for yourself if you wish. Not only would this reduce our costs a little but you would get the prospectus so much earlier. If you would like like to receive future issues electronically, please send your email address to Roger Beardsley.

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