Rather like the medium by which it was marketed, the box had represented the cutting edge of entertainment when made around 1828. It thus ranks among the first instruments created by the celebrated Geneva firm and one of only a few of this period in private hands.
Although the box, consigned by a local vendor for the sale on July 10, entered the catalogue with an estimate of around £1000, something close to ten times that sum was anticipated after huge pre-sale interest. Perhaps 30 times, one of the fours airs was played over the phone to worldwide callers during viewing, with other European bidders flying in to view and hear the box in person.
It was thought that it had originally formed part of the base of a clock with the 13in (33cm) mahogany and giltwood case largely original save the addition of the scrolling lockplate. These early cylinder musical boxes are typically very plain, lack serial numbers and have combs cut from a single steel plate - this example with exceptionally fine teeth was stamped F. Nicole.
After competition from six phone lines and a large commission bid, it was knocked down to a European collector at £22,000 (plus 20% buyer's premium).
Two other very early musical box have appeared in the regions in recent memory. Back in June 2008, Cirencester auctioneers Moore Allen & Innocent sold a box c.1825 by François Nicole (only a very distant relative of the brothers Nicole) for £54,000.
Meanwhile, a useful price comparison is provided by a similar Nicole Frères box sold for £23,000 by Gildings of Market Harborough in Leicestershire in December last year.