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The oldest saxophone in the world confied to the mim!

The oldest preserved saxophone known to this day - an instrument with exceptional historical value - will be exhibited after cleaning from October 2020 as the showpiece of the existing sax collection.

Engraved in the instrument is 'Saxophone baryton en mi b breveté, Adolphe Sax à Paris' [Patented baritone Eb saxophone, Adolphe Sax in Paris]. And its number is 2686. The instrument with these indications that the King Baudouin Foundation was able to purchase is easy to locate in time: it is one of the oldest saxophones, coming directly from the studio of its creator Adolphe Sax. It is even the oldest in the University of Edinburgh's 'List of Adolphe Sax Instruments', which is generally accepted as the most reliable and scientifically supported list of preserved instruments.

The instrument dates from 1846, the year in which Adophe Sax requested and received a patent for his saxophone. Moreover, on the design drawings accompanying that patent application, only the baritone sax in Eb and the bass saxophone in C are elaborated in great detail: the other types are merely sketched.

Adolphe Sax started his career as a clarinet builder in his father's studio in Brussels, where the family had moved from Dinant shortly after the birth of Adolphe. Adolphe soon began devising improvements to the clarinet, which led to his first patent. He quickly gained a reputation as an instrument builder and settled in Paris, where in 1843 he founded a company under his name that made wood and copper instruments. Building on the improved clarinet, the sax horn and then the saxophone emerged.

On loan to the mim

The King Baudouin Foundation was recently able to purchase the instrument from this beginning period from a private owner, with financing supported by the Courtin-Bouché Fund that it manages. As is fitting the Foundation's mission to preserve pieces of heritage and keep them accessible to the public, it will be given on long-term loan to the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Brussels.

The mim houses one of the largest collections of instruments from the studios of the Sax family. Until now, the oldest instrument in that collection was an alto saxophone with the number 9935. The instruments from the first series that are preserved in other museums also carry higher numbers: one with number 4634 in the US, one with number 5111 in France, and one with number 5140 in Germany.

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Baritone sax in Eb , Adolphe Sax, Paris, 1846, inv. D2020.001
Baritone sax in Eb , Adolphe Sax, Paris, 1846, inv. D2020.001