This little instrument is early for sure, but how early?
The '1776' on the label is clear enough, and although we are right to be cautious, why should it not be a date? Or is it just a number, not a date at all? At least one Friend is sure that it cannot be right. The script '1767' is clear enough, and the style is old. Perhaps it's a surprise to see blue ink, rather than the brown/black that we are accustomed to, but 'Prussian Blue' was the first artificial pigment to be synthesised, and it was in use as early as 1724. And Königsberg is in Prussia!
Little is known of 'Mechanicus' Lieves, but an unusual guitar also survives.
This lovely little instrument is now being offered for possible sale by Peter Thresh, who has supplied the following note:
Early Pantalon-style Square Piano with ‘Viennese’ action. A rare chance to buy a most unusual instrument previously in the collection of John Barnes, the Curator of the Russell Keyboard Collection in Edinburgh. Originally a Pantalon, a crude damping system was added at a later stage. Still later, work was begun (but fortunately not completed), on converting the instrument into a clavichord before John Barnes rescued it in the mid-1970s. The instrument comes complete with John Barnes’s hand-written notes, the original label removed from the soundboard during the clavichord conversion and the ‘crude’ English style dampers. The label reads: Eduard Lieves / Mechanicus / und / Musicalischer Instrumentenmacher / zu / Konigsberg in Preussen 1767.
The instrument is constructed of oak with a lovely figured walnut ? interior and a beautifully made keyboard of ebony and bone.
The instrument is offered by one of our UK based friends who is selling reluctantly due to a house move.
Since it is so difficult to name a price – see David’s comments on the date - the suggestion is ‘offers please by the end of September’ to email@example.com
The appearance of this instrument has started a discussion on what we mean by 'Piano' or 'Pantalon'
It is not easy to agree definitions, especially internationally and across history. For example, the word 'spinet' has a rather precise meaning for me, but we must remember that hundreds of antique dealers did (and still do) use the word to describe a square piano. Then we have the widespread usage (especially in America) to describe small upright pianos, and electronic organs.
But back to 'Pantalon'. I am assured by an expert that it defines a stringed keyboard instrument with hammers, no dampers, and a variety of mutation stops. But what if an instrument has all of these attributes except mutations? If it was designed and built never to have hammers, is it a piano?
Your thoughts, please! Drop me an email. David at