If you studied with Louis Henri Merck you would play a horn like this
C. Mahillon
Model 499 Single Horn

Label (Bell):
[arms of Belgium]
C. Mahillon
Model 499 ("Merck") single
Serial Number:
Date of Manufacture:
ca. 1875?
A, A-Flat, G, F or E-flat depending on terminal crook
3 Périnet
10.95 mm
Mouthpiece Receiver:
8.5 mm
Crook Socket:
13.0 mm
Bell Flare:
very wide (about 180o) gusset
Bell Throat:
about 7 cm
Bell Diameter:
Base Metal:
raw brass

This horn is associatied with Louis Henri Merck (1831 - 1900), professor of horn at the Brussels Conservatory from 1866 to 1900. The firm of C. Mahillon was founded in Brussels in 1836 by Charles Borroméee Mahillon (1813 - 1887), who after serving apprenticeship in England returned to Brussels to become a partner with his brother-in-law, C.G. Bachman as Bachman & Mahillon. In 1844 they opened a branch in London and by 1847 were exhibiting both brass and woodwind instruments. By 1856 C. Mahillon became the most important wind instrument manufacturer in Belgium and was suppplier to the army, and also maker of percussion instruments. Around 1865 eldest son, Victor Charles Mahillon (1841 - 1924) was taken into the firm as a partner. The firm continued in operation by the family for a century until 1935. Two years later the firm was taken over by Jean Adrien Smits doing business under the name "Mahillon & Co. succ. J. Smits."
The simple label on underside of the bell of the horn includes the smaller seal (above right) of the arms of Belgium according to the Royal Decree of March 17, 1837 one year after the founding of C. Mahillon. This was probably required as a supplier of instruments to the army.

V.C. Mahillon, Éléments D'Acoustique, 1874, p. 140
The above illustration from Victor Charles Mahillon's landmark Éléments D'Acoustique of 1874 shows the same characteristic Mahillon single horn wrap as this horn. In particular it has the peculiar folded over double loop wrap of the third valve slide (above center and right) as found on this this horn and the "Merck" model 499, shown at the bottom of this page. A later version of the 499 (see below) incorporated the simpler "J" slide as commonly found on French and English instruments.
The valve section comprises three rather short Périnet valves. (The second valve cap is a replacement.) The terminal crook is marked for E-flat but plays in modern E (A=440). It is also stamped with "D R" for no apparent reason. The accompanying mouthpiece is marked "5" has a medium-wide rim (4.2 mm), deep cup (32mm), and very small throat (4.0 mm). The bell brace plate (shown below) is doubled and not particularly well finished. Overall the workmanship is competent but there are numerous remaining file and tool marks.

Victor Charles Mahillon

Model 412, 1926 Catalog p. 8
Larigot, No 26, p. 16

Model 499, 1937 Catalog (Smits)
Larigot, No 32, p. 16
Victor Charles Mahillon (1841 - 1924) was born in Brussels on March 10, 1841. He is of outstanding importance as a writer on acoustics and musical instruments, and was the honorary and zealous custodian of the museum of the Brussels Conservatoire.
After studying music under some of the best professors there, he applied himself to the practical study of wind-instrument manufacture and was taken into his father's business in 1865. He started a musical journal L'Echo musical, in 1869 and continued it until 1886, when his time became too much occupied to attend to its direction. In 1876 he became the honorary curator of the museum of the Conservatoire, which, begun with Fétis's collection of 78 instruments, was, through his special knowledge and untiring energy, increased (1888) to upwards of 1500. An important contribution to it, of Indian instruments, was a division of the fine collection of the Rajah Sir Sourindro Mohun Tagore between the Brussels Conservatoire and the R.C.M in London. Victor Mahillon published two very important works, besides three synoptical tables of harmony, voices, and instruments. The first is 'Les Éléments d'acoustique musicale et instrumentale', an octavo volume published in 1874, which gained for him in Paris in 1878 he distinction of a silver medal. The other is the catalogue of the Conservatoire, which appeared in volumes annually from 1877 and is of the highest interest. As well as these noteworthy works he contributed to the ninth editon of the Encyclopedia Britannica several historical and technical articles of great value on wind instruments, both wood and brass. As soon as Mahillon could introduce a workshop into the Conservatoire he did so, and he had reproductions made of many rare instruments which, through their antiquity or the neglect of former owners, had too much deteriorated for purposes of study. Among these reproductions the Roman Lituus and Buccina in the Music Loan Collection at Kensington, in 1885 were prominent objects of interest in the fine selection contributed under Mahillon's auspices by the Brussels Conservatoire. He reproduced from authentic sources the complete families of wind instruments that were in use in the 16th and 12th centuries. Victor Mahillon's services to the Inventions Exhibitions of 1885, in the above-named contribution of instruments to the Loan Collection, and the historical concerts under his direction performed by professors and students of the Brussels Conservatoire, at which several rare instruments were actually played upon in contemporary compositions, were so highly appreciated by the Executive Council of that Exhibition that a gold medal was awarded to him. [Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Fifth Edition, Volume 5 (1954), p.511]
Later models of the C. Mahillon single horn include the updated 499 with the standard "J" third valve slide (above right), the 412 with s reconfigured main tuning slide and third valve slide (above center) , and the 325 "Mahy" model described (but not pictured) in the 1926 catalog (see illustrations below). After the company was taken over by Jean Adrien Smits in 1937 the original company name was retained but with Smits' name added. On one example single horn the bell is engraved as follows:
C. Mahillon, Succ. J. Smits, Brevete, Fournisseur de L'Armee et Des Conservatoires Bruxelles [cartouche with Arms of Belgium and "L'Union fait la Force"], Modele adopte M. G. LeBrun.
Larigot, No 26, pp. 19, 23

Louis Henri Merck (1831 - 1900) was born in Landau, Bavaria on September 7, 1831. He learned to play the horn at a young age from his father who was a member of the 42ndRegiment of the Ligne Français and by 1847 he was allowed to perform as solo horn with the 8th Belgian Regiment. In 1851 he became a student of Hubert Massart at the Conservatory in Luik where he received the first prize for valve horn by a unanimous vote. In 1853 he became solo horn with the Regiment of the Guides accompanying this corps on foreign tours, and for twenty-five years participated in the large festivals at Niederrhein. In 1866 he succeeded Jean-Désirée Montagney Artot (1803 - 1887) as Professor of horn at the Conservatory in Brussels. Merck's exceptional virtuosity was witnessed in the large number of solo concerts he played in his lifetime. Édouard Gregoir (1822 - 1890) described the horn playing of Merck as follows:
Il a prouv que le cor, cet instrument si ingrat, se prete fort bien la virtuosit quand il est jou par un matre.

He proved that the horn, that ungrateful instrument, lends itself well to virtuosity when it is played by a master.

He joined the orchestra of Munt and remained there no less than through the 1898-99 season. Merck published several solo works, but nevertheless his most important work was his Méthode and 24 Études for Cor à 6 Pistons by Sax, which remains possibly the only study method which was ever written for this omnitonic horn. [see title page below]. He also wrote works for two horns, fantasies, theme and variations, etc. Upon his death in 1900 Merck was succeeded as Professor of Horn at the Brussels Conservatory by his student, Théophile Mahy (1873 - 1951).

[200 Years of Belgian Hornschool (translated by Dick Martz)
Above images provided by Pierre Dubar. (click to enlarge)

Larigot, No VIII Spécial, p. 30

Larigot, No VIII Spécial, p. 30


Billet, Jeroen. "200 Years of Belgian Hornschool" and personal correspondence.

Blom Eric, ed. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Fifth Edition. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1954

Cools, Jacques. Essai de Classification Alphabetique Des Facteurs, Ouvriers, Inventeurs, Marchands... Belges D'Instruments de Musique à Vent Larigot No VIII Spécial. Paris: l'Association des Collectionneurs d'Instruments à Vent, 1997

Mahillon, Victor Charles. É'léments D'Acoustique Musicale & Instrumentale. Bruxelles: C. Mahillon, 1874

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