A COLLECTION of rare 19th century French automata owned by the singer and actor Roger Daltrey could fetch more than £50,000 at auction in Edinburgh.

The Who lead singer, 72, and his wife Heather collected the seven “complex mechanical wonders” over several years.

Made by some of the best known craftsmen working in France in the “Golden Age” of automata, some of the figures stand over three foot tall and play music – albeit of a gentler nature to their rockstar owner.

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The collection will go under the hammer at Lyon & Turnbull’s Fine Furniture & Works of Art auction on September 28, when they are expected to make up to £52,500.

One musical automaton, “The Mandolin Player”, valued at £5,000-7,000, plays his instrument while he rocks and nods his head, blinks his eyes and moves his mouth.

Another, “The Tea Drinker” estimated at £10,000-15,000, raises a cup to her mouth while spinning her parasol.

One of the oldest, “The Monkey Conjurer” (£3,000-5,000), dating to around 1885, presents tricks with jumping dice, all to soft musical melodies.

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The most expensive lot, however, is a musical figure of Pierrot sitting on a crescent moon, which is expected to make £12,000-18,000.

The 1890 figure, made by Leopold Lambert, strums a lute, nods, and sticks out his tongue while the Moon blinks and moves its mouth.

Theo Burrell, specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said: “This is quite an incredible feat of engineering, made by one of the greats, Leopold Lambert.

“It is as captivating today as it was when it was made, creating the same sense of wonder and enjoyment to those who view it.

“What makes this collection noteworthy is not only the rarity of some of the automata, but their being in good unrestored and original condition.

“I don’t know whether someone who is a big fan of the Who is necessarily a fan of automata, but as items in their own right, above and beyond the provenance, they are incredibly rare and interesting.”

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The word automaton comes from the Greek “automatos”, meaning “acting of itself”.

This basic idea of a thing driven by its own self-contained modus is as compelling now as it was over 2000 years ago.

By the 17th and 18th centuries, advances in clockwork movements enabled specialist makers to create wondrous and apparently magical life-like machines which enthralled the courts of Europe.