Welcome to

Friends of Square Pianos

This is a website for anyone who owns, or would like to own, a square piano, or possibly a spinet. Or anyone who is just interested, and would like to learn a little more.

 

Please get in touch with me, David, on friends.sp@btinternet.com with questions, comments, or just to say 'Hello'.  This is a site for everyone, especially those new to the world of Square Pianos.  And of course, we very much appreciate the support of those with more experience.

 

Update  22nd January 2022

 

Broadwood 1808 - Free to Good Home

 

Morley Clavichord - Free to Good Home

 

 

Broadwood 1808 - Free to Good Home

This sleeping beauty is generously being offered Free to Good Home.  It is a challenging restoration project, but apart from the extra fret at the right of the keyboard seems to be in original undisturbed condition - how we restorers like them.  We are assured that it has its full complement of legs and the pedal.  Please see the Sale Page for details.

Morley Clavichord - Free to Good Home

(Not this one - Details may vary)

 

A Morley clavichord is generously being offered free to good home, for collection in Worcestershire.  Believed to be the five-octave model as above, but details of stand and veneer may vary.  No faults reported, but it has not been played for some years, and may need some attention.  Please contact  Michael     michael@historicalguitars.co.uk

Three Pianos - Good Homes Found 

More Pictures and Notes Added

All part of life's pattern...  Three square pianos, rescued by an amateur harpsichord-maker with a view to restoration, have now been rescued again.   Please see the Sale Page for details.

Felix Yaniewicz

  A couple of years ago, a piano appeared on the Sale Page of this website, bearing the name Yaniewicz.  The piano itself was evidently from the Clementi factory, and shared the same beautiful presentation of the name.  It was in first-class playing condition, having been skilfully restored by Douglas Hollick.  

  By a stroke of good fortune, it was spotted by Josie Dixon, a direct descendant of the famous Polish musician.  She was immediately attracted to it, and devised a plan to secure its future as a tribute to her several-times-great-grandfather.  Please take time now to enjoy this beautifuly-made short film to hear the story, some music played on the piano, and the plans for the future.

 

https://www.yaniewicz.org/piano.html

Last Chance to Buy

The Catalogue Booklets of the Colt Collection

There are now only ten copies remaining of the two catalogue booklets of the Colt Collection, which was dispersed in 2018.  So for your last chance to buy a record and souvenir of this remarkable collection, please see the Bookshelf page.

Piano Auctions' Sale Results

Some good results at the sale; perhaps unsurprisingly the top price (by a wide margin) amongst the 'Early Keyboards' was £15,500 for the Elwerkemper grand.  Please see the Auction Page for the full results.  

A Remarkable Man

One of the special items in the Piano Auctions' Sale is a beautifully-made clavichord by 'Roguski'.  This was a name not familiar to me, but thanks to Peter Bavington for leading us in the right direction.  Bronislaw Roguski was a truly remarkable man, and his son has written a short history of his eventful life, starting in Poland in 1913.  

 

Please click on his image below, and take a few moments to read the story of a remarkable man.

This clavichord deserves a loving home, not only as a fine musical instrument, but as a tribute to Bronislaw Roguski (1913 - 1993).

*******************

 

There is a slightly sad footnote to this.  Like so many mid/late 20th-century instruments, this one had ivory cappings to the sharps.  This was discovered at a late stage, and so Piano Auctions had no option but to remove them carefully.  Fortunately, it will be a simple job to replace them with bone,  casein, or Elforyn - any of which will make its future life more comfortable.  Regular readers of this site will be very familiar with the background to all this, but there are some updated notes on the Ivory Page.

A Miniature Piano with Provenance

An unusual and charming miniature square piano will be lot 66 in the Cotswold Auction Company sale on 14th December. It was the gift of Caroline (Bonaparte) Queen of Naples to George Hepburn in 1828, and has been in the same family ever since.

Note the retractable keyboard.   The estimate is £2,000 - £3,000.  Sold for £1,950.

An Early Ganer at Gardiner Houlgate

This nice-looking Ganer sold for £1,700 hammer-price at Gardiner Houlgate.  The auctioneer made the following observation:

 

"Although the name board is inscribed 'Christopher Ganer Musical Instrument Maker' which suggests a date after 1784, it is probable that the name board was overwritten for resale and the actual date of manufacture is earlier. The absence of a bottom f sharp, the key escutcheon, that the dampers have built in pivoting rods and the overall style suggests this is an earlier date."

 

I wonder who offered that advice?  Obviously somebody who has made a study of Ganer's pianos...  

 

See the Auction Page for more pictures, and to learn the fate of the other 'Early Keyboards' in the sale.

A Pianoforte Classic

Originally published in 1933 and a reprint in 1989 of the revised 1978 edition book by Rosamund E.M. Harding. A comprehensive development of the pianoforte until the middle of the nineteenth century at which point the instrument which we know today was almost completely evolved. The book starts with the almost simultaneous invention of the pianoforte in Germany, France, and Italy easily in the eighteenth century and traces the technical development over the next 150 years. The text in the book is illustrated with vast amounts of diagrams, pictures and information about the piano players and makers of this time.

Please see the Bookshelf page for details of ordering.  The price for this classic book is just £15 plus postage.  Everyone should have a copy!

Plans for Keene & Brackley Spinet -

Now Affordable!

The famous Keene and Brackley spinet is rightly the model for many reproductions, both amateur and professional.  I am happy to announce that by courtesy of the copyright owner of John Barnes' original plan, we are now able to offer copies at an affordable price; they are now available through Friends of Square Pianos for just £20, plus carriage at cost. 

Please see the Spinet Page - Plans and Designs for details.

 

Even if you are not going to build an instrument yourself, anyone with an interest in spinets will find this plan fascinating.  

Boalch Online - Announcement

Donald Boalch’s Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440 – 1840 has been a valued resource for us all for many years – the first book we turn to when we encounter an original instrument. The third and most recent edition (edited by Charles Mould) is now very difficult to obtain – the cheapest on-line offer is currently over £1,400.  Moreover, since its publication in 1995, the development of the internet in particular has brought to light a wealth of new information, and the ownership of many instruments has changed.  So we are delighted to announce that with Charles’ blessing, the launch of ‘Boalch Online’ is now assured.  It is expected to be available by the end of the year, as a free-to-access database.  One change will be that the scope will be increased by eighty years to 1920, to include the early pioneering work of Arnold Dolmetsch and others. 

 

It will run alongside Clinkscale Online, the database for early pianos, and will follow a similar format.  Photographs will be included where possible.  The work of transcribing the data from Boalch III is now complete, and development of the database itself is well advanced.  The work is being undertaken by Tom Watson (formerly of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), Tom Strange (Sigal Music Museum, South Carolina) and Tom and Michelle Winter (Clinkscale).  I am happy to be a small part of the team – I was the grit in the oyster!

 

A lot has changed since 1995;  Amendments and new information will be invited in due course.  In the meantime, I will be happy to be a point of contact, and to receive any preliminary offerings. 

Harpsichord after Ruckers 1638 For Sale

Douglas Hollick is a well-known harpsichord player with many recordings to his credit, and he is also an accomplished builder.  He made this fine double-manual instrument for a client in 1979; it is based on the 1638 Ruckers in the Edinburgh collection.  It was carefully maintained by the original owner, and in the early 2000's it was returned to Douglas' workshop for repainting and re-gilding.  It was regularly played until shortly before the owner passed away recently.  

 

Please see the Sale Page for details of this fine harpsichord.

Moeder et Stiefdochter

Yes, I know it's not a square piano, but it is at least square...  Today, the 5-voet Muselaar formally adopted the 3-voet 'Stiefdochter' and they played together for the first time. After Ruckers, of course.  Not a true Mother and Child, because the main instrument is not big enough for the little one to fit inside.  I would have preferred to have made a full-sized 6-voet muselaar, but my hut isn't big enough - and full of square pianos and spinets.

 

Still a bit of work to do for some of the notes, to ensure accurate corespondence of the jacks of the stepmother with the keys of the little one (via a slot in the baseboard).  But the sound of those which do engage neatly is very enjoyable.  The octave instrument has a cheerful trumpety sound for the upper part, but inevitably a weak bass, deficient in fundamental.  However, when added to the booming bass of the main instrument, the effect is rather splendid.

A Guide to CITES

It is encouraging to report that after a slow start, sales to the EC are starting to pick up.  These sales do of course require CITES certificates for pianos with ivory keys, and experience is good.  We just need to know the codes to put in the boxes, and which boxes should be left blank.  The attached PDF is based on successful applications, and model answers offer guidance on filling in the form correctly.  A blank form is also attached.  These are for applications to APHA in the United Kingdom; it is my understanding that application can also be made in the destination country.  For practical reasons, it is usually simpler for the seller to complete the form and make the application, but the cost should be passed on to the buyer.  The fee is currently £37 in the UK.

CITES Example.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [121.7 KB]
CITES Blank.odt
Open Office Writer [22.9 KB]

APHA aim to give clearance within 15 working days of receipt of the application.  

 

Please note that from a UK perspective, CITES approval is needed for transfer to the Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man - these are Crown Dependencies and not part of the United Kingdom nor of the European Community.  Also, by an anomaly, CITES is required for transfers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland - but not between Northern Ireland and The Republic.

 

I hope these notes are of some use, but please let me know if I can offer any more help.

Bespoke Tuning Hammers

Early keyboard Instruments, whether originals or replicas, do require more frequent tuning than modern iron-framed pianos.   The costs of professional tunings mount up, and it can also be a problem finding a tuner who is happy to work with our ancient instruments.  For this and other reasons, most of us do our own tuning.  To offer some help to those thinking of having a go, I have prepared a short PDF guide, available on request.

  

It is very important to have a properly-fitting tuning hammer, which should bear on a good portion of the two flat faces of the wrestpin (tuning-pin).  If the fit is too sloppy, the corners of the pin and the socket of the tuning hammer will be damaged, and the backlash makes accurate tuning difficult anyway.  If it is too small, it will grip the top of the pin only, with the same result.

 

Tuning-hammers are available from Lucy Coad or David Law - see 'Suppliers' page of this website.  Alternatively, I am now able to offer a limited number of hand-made hammers tailored to your own pins, either directly or via a template.  Please see the Tuning and Tuning Hammers page for details

 

I have made a number of very short and lopsided hammers; these have proved popular with owners of Broadwoods and other pianos with the pins at the back, and also with spinet owners.  In both cases the lid makes tuning difficult (unless it can be thrown right back) and these special hammers can help.  They don’t look as elegant as the long-stemmed symmetrical type, but they are quite practical!

 

Chelveston 2022

Sadly, we had to cancel our parties in April 2020 and 2021.

It's a bit early to make firm detailed plans, but I can announce that I have booked the hall for April 8th and 9th 2022.  

Priority will be given to those who were disappointed in 2020, but if others would like to drop me a line, I will be happy to put their names on a list subject to the availability of space.  Please email David friends.sp@btinternet.com

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasy - Names, Numbers, and Dates

The second of these two essays builds on the first ('1664 and All That' - see below) and offers a new interpretation of the data concerning the establishment of Thomas Hitchcock as the leading spinet maker.  It explains the somewhat confusing numbering sequences, their relationship to dates of manufacture, and the change on the nameboard from Thomas to John.  As before, the piece is rather long to transfer directly to this page, so please open the PDF below.

The Spinets of the Hitchcock Dynasty Apr[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [1.2 MB]

1664 and All That 

Some confusion still surrounds the early life and career of Thomas Hitchcock.  When was he active?  Who was ‘Thomas Hitchcock the Elder’?  One of the first histories of keyboard instruments in Britain was written by Edward Rimbault (pub. 1860).  He tells us that “John [!] Hitchcock made these little instruments of a compass of five octaves. Several specimens still exist bearing dates between 1620 and 1640”  It is likely that Rimbault mistook front numbers for dates, and numbers as high as this would indeed have carried the name of John Hitchcock, but it seems surprising that he had apparently never seen Hitchcock spinets carrying numbers which could not possibly have been dates, such as 1460.

Perhaps the most important early historian for keyboard instruments was Alfred Hipkins of Broadwoods.  He compiled the catalogue for the 1885 International Inventions Exhibition, and used this experience for his 1888 book ‘Musical Instruments – Historic, Rare, and Unique’.  It is in this book that Hipkins makes the notorious statement “…Thomas Hitchcock, whose autograph appears in spinets from 1664 and 1703.” 

His famous 1896 book ‘A Description and History of the Pianoforte’ repeats this as “Thomas Hitchcock’s written dates found within instruments made by him cover the long period between 1664 and 1703.”  But he then goes on to note that Hitchcock was the first to number his instruments, so he did realise that the numbers on the nameboards were not dates. 

As so often happens, later authors followed these statements as unchallenged facts, and the misunderstanding is repeated in James (1933) and Russell (1959).  Boalch ‘Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord’ (2nd edition 1974 and presumably 1st edition 1956) has a variation of the muddle, ascribing ‘1664’ to ‘Thomas the Elder’, and ‘1703’ to ‘Thomas the Younger’.  Even the 3rd edition (1995) still has the entries, but the editor (Charles Mould) does realise that something is not quite right, and offers the plaintive statement: “…1664 does seem early for a wing spinet in London, and the date may have been misread.  If it were possible to locate this, and the other early Hitchcock instruments, it would be possible to be more precise about the identity and dates of the members of the Hitchcock family in the early years of their workshops.” 

So it was that, having kept a low profile since 1885, the mysterious ‘1664 Hitchcock’ emerged from the shadows.  This is the story of an important little spinet – it is my privilege to be part of the story.

The essay is a bit long to transfer to this page directly, so please open the PDF below.  All comments welcome!

1664 and All That.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [959.1 KB]

Making a Spinet

  Some of you may have been following the construction - starting from a pile of wood - of this replica of a remarkable and important instrument.  The spinet is now complete and playing well, and has gone to its new home in Scotland; a second replica has joined the Carolina Music Museum.   Please see the Spinet Page for the story.

The Spinet Page

  We all love those beautiful English Spinets, and now they have a Page of their own, where I hope to encourage interest, ownership, and amateur makers.

About the 'Webmaster' (David Hackett)

My only claim to respectability is that Carl Dolmetsch once offered to take me on as an apprentice.  This was in 1962, when I had just shown him my first clavichord, and been his guest at Haslemere.  However, he also advised me that it would be better to go to University, and I accepted his advice.  Early Keyboard Instruments have therefore remained a hobby, and now happily retired, I am able to spend a bit more time enjoying them - and encouraging others, I hope..

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© David Hackett