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, possibly to learn a little more.
Please get in touch with me, David, on email@example.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 17th August
Farewell to a Blunt Spinet
This is unusual for a Pohlman in carrying the date 1787 on the nameboard; apart from this one, the latest know dated example is 1778. There are examples that appear to be later, but they have no visible dates. However, the really remarkable thing about this one is the damper mechanism. Wooden-lever overhead dampers with baleen springs were standard at this time, but this piano has an elegant under-damper system with weighted levers operated by the ends of the shorter-than-usual keys.
The nearest parallel I can find to this system is the 1790 patent granted to James Ball, but the Pohlman version seems to me to be better engineered, and it is also three years earlier. Surely it must be quieter and more reliable than the old system? Perhaps we will find out when this piano is restored. Evidently it never caught on - this is the only example that I know of. Perhaps it was just too expensive to make?
I'm happy to say that this historically important piano quickly found a buyer, and we can be sure that it will be sympathetically restored. Even better, I do know the buyer, so we will be able to learn more about the remarkable action of this piano, and ideally to see if we can establish ay connection between this innovation and the James Ball patent.
The name on the front is Owen, Stodart & Co. We do not know if they were related to other Owens active in the piano industry, or to the famous Stodart dynasty. But we do know that they were active at 36, Red Lion Square, just along from where Conway Hall now is, home of Piano Auctions Ltd and our occasional informal gatherings. They were active at this address from 1840 - 1855 at least, which fits with the likely early 184os date for this piano. The piano itself closely resembles contemporary Collard and Collard instruments - note the dampers and the perforated string-plate.
We are happy to say that - just in time - a rescuer has come forward to save this piano.
I am happy to be able to support the new Carolina Music Museum, and to this end I have been building a second replica of the beautiful 1704 Edward Blunt spinet, the orginal of which is in my care.
It has just been collected by G&R Removals, and is now on its way to its new home in Greenville, South Carolina. There it will be used to make music, and to encourage young players and (I hope) builders.
The story of the construction of the first replica is detailed on the Spinet Page of this website. It's always good to learn, and there is no finer way of learning than to build an instrument. I like to think that this second replica is an improvement on the first in some small ways; I am certainly happy with the sound, which stands comparison with the original (just visible at the extreme left of the first picture).
The original spinet is perhaps notorious as the origin of the false statements, repeated by the highest authorities for many years, that Thomas Hitchcock was making spinets as early as 1664, and indeed led to the invention of 'Thomas Hitchcock the Elder' as a spinet maker. The re-emergence of this spinet in 2014 enabled the history to be corrected. The tale is recorded in the PDF below.
We wish this spinet a safe journey, and a happy life in America. More news about this spinet, its journey and the activities of the Museum will be featured on the Carolina Music Museum page.
Broadwood 1832 For Sale
This handsome piano is number 41761. The nameboard and keyboard look good, and the pedal is present. Please see the Sale Page for details.
Tomkison 1816 For Sale
Restoration of this one will require quite a lot of work, but it looks like a good prospect to me. Please see the Sale Page for details.
Collard & Collard 1833 For Sale
Another one where the pedal is not shown, but does survive! This one is unrestored, but still in original condition and working order. It would surely benefit from some careful work now, but it is another tribute to the stadards of quality and reliability that Collard & Collard (and Broadwood...) had achieved by the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Please see the Sale Page for details of this one.
Collard & Collard 1836 For Sale
This exceptionally attractive Collard and Collard has been restored, and is in working order. The pedal is not shown in the photograph, but is present; the stool is included in the sale. Please see the Sale Page for details.
A Little Bit of History
I’m happy to say that I’m now the proud owner of a spinet by Keene & Brackley.
No, not the famous one formerly owned by John Barnes, but a lesser-known example. Admittedly, there are a few bits missing, like the keys, soundboard, lid, case… well actually it’s just the nameboard that has survived. The one that was in the Colt Collection for many years, and sold in the recent auction. According to the writing on the back, it had previously belonged to Taphouse of Oxford, who gave it to A J Hipkins. Boalch says that it then belonged to Henry Tull, who presumably gave it to Colt. Also on the back it says “Date written on key 1719.” This is interesting, because presumably when that was written more of the instrument survived. And also because Stephen Keene’s will was proved in 1712 (and he would have been about 80 in 1719 anyway.)
Another interesting point is that the design of the marquetry on this nameboard, characteristic of the period, was used as the pattern for the nameboard of the 1973 ‘D A’ harpsichord, also in the Colt Sale.
Beautifully done, if not entirely appropriate, as the harpsichord is in the Italian style. More about this later…
Colt Collection Booklets - Available Now
Amongst the lots in the sale of the Colt Collection were the remaining stocks of the two booklets about the instruments, published in 1969 and 1981. Why the second of these, 1944 - 1981 is called the 'Golden Jubilee' edition remains a mystery to me! Do please let me know if you have any ideas.
Anyway, our friend Luke Bradley was the successful bidder for the remaining stocks, and he now offers these for sale at £5 each or £10 for the two. Postage (the same for one or two) will be £2.00 UK, £4.50 Europe, £5.50 World. Please contact Luke firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Please see the Spinet Page for the story.
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.
Please take time to visit our sister website www.squarepianotech.com This is run by our Friend Tom Strange in America, and is rapidly growing into a treasure-store of permanent wisdom.
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..