Specials: Table, end of the 19th century; courtesy of Leipzig's Grassi-Museum of Applied Arts
Automatic instruments enjoyed a rebirth in popularity at the end of the 19th century. Leipzig became something of a centre for builders of these instruments, including the firm Clauss & Co., which patented the automatic zither. The firm in fact specialised in making automatic zithers and sold great quantities of them. The holes and pins on the underside of a round steel plate correspond to the notes of the melody to be played. A clockwork attached to a crank handle sets the plate in motion, causing the pins to pluck the appropriate strings. A contemporary advertisement touts the virtues of the automatic zither of a particular company thus: "The "Cordeophon" is the one mechanical zither that matches the charming tone of a concert zither and indeed surpasses it, for on the automatic instrument it is possible to play almost any piece in arrangement, which is something that even players with the best finger technique cannot do."