Information on early British pianos
This is an information service for restorers, players, owners, amateurs and researchers into Pianos built BEFORE 1837 and similar important historical instruments.
The main reason for this website it to publish the Register of Extant Broadwood Grands and provide some information about research and conservation of early stringed keyboards.
Offers, or requests of information about Broadwood Grand pianos built BEFORE 1837 can be forwarded via email to:
cesarherz(at)mail.com Please replace (at) for the @ symbol. We are not affiliated to any institution and any advice is provided free and 'as it is' and is intended to be just a rough guide for anyone interested in the world of early keyboards. If you need professional advice or consultation, please contact me at the email address above. I am able to respond queries in most major European languages.
Contents of this website:
Other sections in this site:
There is some need for new professional technicians, especially in UK. The Finchcocks Charity is helping young (and not so young) people to be trained as professional technicians. But the charity is also offering training for amateurs in tuning and maintenance of early keyboards so they can be less dependent on a tuner. At the moment the courses are offered in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and are in a Saturday and Sunday, offered several times a year. There you will meet other amateurs and make friends with similar interests. Please write to me at cesarherz(at)mail.com for more information.
RESEARCHABLE ONLINE DATABASES
Clinkscale online. A research database dedicated to the worldwide cataloging of pianos built before 1860
Harpsichord and Fortepiano Peacock Press Scout Bottom Farm Mytholmroyd Hebden bridge West Yorks HX7 5JS .
PERIODICALS with occasional articles:
RECOMMENDED PUBLICATIONS. In no specific order.
Artifacts in Use. The paradox of restoration and the conservation of organs.John R, Watson, OHS Press in assoc. with Colonial Williamsburg. Don't be mislead by the mention of organs, all the principles of this book apply to early keyboards in general. If you intend to restore an instrument, you should know the ethical (and some technical) problems that are involved. From the back of the book: 'Some historical astifacts are best preserved behind glass in museum exhibits, but what about objects that only reveal their full meaning through use? Artifacts in Use merges the goals of conventional restoration with the values, sensibilities, and methods of restorative conservation to describe a holistic form of preservation'. I highly recommend this book and basically any of this author.
Abate Wood in Rome: the ingegnosissimo mattematico who made the first pianoforte ‘that was brought to England’.
Early Music, Volume 46, Issue 3, August 2018, Pages 501–516. I started my own investigation on Father Wood, as I would not believe he was an invention of Charles Burney, so I thought I will start with any institution In Rome that may have had links to England. I came across the Venerable English College in Rome, so I contacted the archivist, who kindly confirmed that Father Wood and his brother were students there. He provided me with a copy of the register, but he also told me that Patrizio Barbieri already did that research. I found it fascinating (as most of his other publications) and therefore I recommend it here. Louis or Lewis Wood was born at the Jacobite court in exile at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, on 11 November 1709, and died at Frascati, near Rome, on 23 June 1755. His father, Laurence Wood, was the doctor to James II in exile. C. Hernandez.
The Keyboard Stringing Guide, Jean Louchet. edited by Lulu.com. Available through Amazon. This guide is a very complete resource for those who want to know and understand the nitty-gritty of stringing. Starts with more or less easy explanations but at some point it goes into hard maths and physics calculations. There are some bugs, like some decimal commas instead of points and a few other minor typos in the formulas but nothing that can confuse a physicist.
Strings. Interpreting wire gauges, by Paul Poletti. One of my favourite researchers who has brought light into the rather obscure topic of stringing. We highly recommend any of his publications.
The Art of Tuning. A self-Guided Manual for Piano Tuning, Design, Action Regulation, and Repair from mid-19th-Century France by Claude Montal. Translated by Fred Sturm, RPT. The original text of the book written by Montal (the father of piano tuning for blind people) in 1836 with the updates of 1865.
A Treatise on the Art of Pianoforte Construction, by Samuel Wolfenden. Published by Hecksher & Co. Reprinted by photolitho from the original edition of 1916 together with the supplement of 1927.
Contemporary Theory of Conservation. Salvador Muñoz Viñas. Edited by Routledge. I recommend this to anyone who wants to acquire a solid base in conservation theory, or to update their principles to the 21st century. Everything is questioned in the book, including - believe it or not, and with good reasoning - the principle of reversibility.
Piano, by David Crombie. A Photographic History of the World's Most Celebrated Instrument. Published by Miller Freeman Books. In this book you will find a history of its devolpment and numerous atypical pianos.
Ruckers, by Grant O'Brien. Published by Cambridge University Press. Though this book is devoted to the harpsichords and virginals built by the famous Ruckers family, the insights, approach to study, etc. are relevant to any person interested in early keyboards. O'Briens contribution to the study and research of pre-19th Century stringed keyboards are capital for the understanding of the pianofortes.
The British Art Piano and Piano Design Vol I. by G S Gadd. Published by The Very Yellow Press, 18 The Green, Twickenham TW2 5AA. ISBN 0-9553264-0-0
Broadwood Square Pianos, Michael Cole. Published by Tatchley Books, 334 Prestbury Road, Cheltenham GL52 3DD. ISBN 0-9551777-0-7. A must-have for anyone interested on fortepianos.
The Stringing, Scaling and Pitch of Hammerflugel built in the Southern German and Viennese Traditions 1780-1820, by Michael Latcham. Published by Haags Gemeentemuseum,Stadhouderslaan 41 NL-2517's-Gravenhage,Netherlands.
The Care of Historic Musical Instruments. Edited by Robert L. Barclay. Code of ethics, guidelines etc. for conservation and restoration of instruments mostly from the point of view of museums. Pdf file can be find for free on the net.
The Piano-Forte, by Rosamond Harding. (Pianos to 1851) Published by Hecksher and Co. To get a hardback copy (£15 plus postage), please email me at the address found at the bottom of this page.
The Early Pianoforte, by Stewart Pollens. (Pianos to 1763) Published by Cambridge University Press. 1995 ISBN 0 521 41729 5.
The Pianoforte in the Classical Era, by Michael Cole. (Pianos 1760-1830) Published by Clarenden Press Oxford. 1998. ISBN 0 19 816634 6.
Makers of the Piano 1720-1820, by M N Clinkscale. Published by Oxford University Press. 1993. ISBN 0 19 816323 1.
A History of Pianoforte Pedalling, by David Rowland. Published by Cambridge University Press. 1993. ISBN 0521 40266 2.
The Cambridge Companion to The Piano, by David Rowland. Published by Cambridge University Press. 1998. ISBN 0 521 47470 1.
Keyboard Instruments in Eighteenth Century Vienna, by Richard Maunder. Published by Clarendon Press Oxford. 1998. ISBN 0 19 816637 0.
A Handbook of Historical Stringing Practice, by M Rose & D Law. Published by Malcolm Rose and David Law. 1991. The Workshop, English Passage,Lewes,BN7 2AP. ISBN 0 9518590 05.
PUBLICATIONS PRESENTLY OUT OF PRINT:
Company of pianos, by Richard Burnett. Finchcocks Press. Includes 1 CD (a copy might be available through finchcocks.co.uk)
Clementi,his life and Music, by Leon Plantinga. Published by Oxford University Press. 1977. ISBN0 19 315227 4.
Broadwood by Appointment, A History, by David Wainwright. Published by Quiller Press. 1982. ISBN 0 907621 10 4
MAJOR UK COLLECTIONS
The National Trust. 150 Pianos of all ages. Catalogue of early instruments being prepared.
Colt Clavier Collection, Auctioned in 2018, this collection no longer exists. It was based in Bethersden, Nr Ashford, Kent, and consisted from about 110 Pianos.
Finchcocks Charity: The Richard Burnett Heritage Collection and The Finchcocks Charity, Waterdown House, 51 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells,TN25LE Phone 01892 523203. 14 representative instruments of the 18th and 19th Centuries from the former Finchcocks collection. Visits upon appointment.
Cobbe Collection Trust, Hatchlands Park, East Clandon, Nr Guildford, GU4 7RT. 27 Pianos, of which 20 pre- 1837, 17 pre-1820, 11 pre-1800. Instruments that belonged to Chopin, Mahler, Elgar, queen Marie Antoinette, Haydn among others are in the collection.
Victoria and Albert Museum. South Kensington, London. SW7 2RL 11 Pianos.
Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments.St Cecilia's Hall, part of the University of Edinburgh. Niddry Street, Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1UL. 11 Pianos pre-1837, of which 9 pre-1820, 5 pre-180, and some of the earliest examples of harpsichords.
Museum of London London Wall, London. EC2Y 5HN. 14 Pianos, of which 8 pre-1837, 2 pre 1800. Recently acquired 3 instruments from the Finchcocks collection, now restored to playable condition.
Royal Northern College of Music 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD 9 Pianos, of which 7 pre-1837, 3 pre- 1820, 2 pre 1800.
The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP. 4 Pianos.
Bate Collection. Faculty of Music, St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1DB. 4 Pianos, of which 3 pre-1820, 2 pre-1800.
Fenton House. Windmill Hill, Hampstead, London NW3 6RT. 3 Pianos pre-1820, of which 2 pre-1800.
Royal Academy of Music, Marylebone Road, London NW1 5HT.
Horniman Museum and Gardens. 100 London Road, London, SE23 3PQ.
Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Rd, London SW7 2BS.
Holdenby House/Musical Museum Brentford.
REPAIR, PARTS AND STRINGS SUPPLIERS
Lucy Coad: squarepiano.co.uk Leather and cloth for restoration, reversible seccotine glue, leg threads and much more. She is now the only distribuitor of Walker cloth, which is the perfect substitute for period material. She can also provide advice, instruments for hire, restoration and conservation, etc.
David Law: traditional-brassware.co.uk. Brassware for Early Keyboard Instruments (and other nice things).
Cesar Hernandez (that's me): cesarherz(at)mail.com. Bespoke replicas of tuning pins. Conservation, tuning, service and repairs of early stringed keyboards in all South England. Calculation of string gauges and manufacture of wound (covered) strings. See the section 'Strings for early keyboards' in this website.
LINKS TO USEFUL AND RELATED SITES
The Finchcocks Charity. Apart of being the keeper of the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection of Early Keyboards, the charity activities include concerts and allow the use of the instruments for research. Every year we have a number of PhD students for that purpose. Also, the charity is probably the only institution in the country that can help individuals to be trained as early keyboard technicians. This is done by different ways of founding workshop experience with top restorers and by supplying master classes in a one-to-one basis with recognised technicians. Please send your enquiries to email@example.com or to myself at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucy Coad: squarepiano.co.uk - Restoration, parts, hire, etc.(Lucy has been my mentor, teacher and friend and is probably the most regarded specialist on square pianos in the world).
Friends of Square Pianos - Website of news , resources, sales, etc. Plenty of information and advice coordinated by legendary instrument maker and restorer David Hackett (one of the people I respect the most). He also organises a yearly meeting where all the enthusiasts of early keyboard gather around instruments, presentations, etc. in a very friendly atmosphere. If you live in Europe you shouldn't miss this event (usually in April).
Pianohistory.info - History of piano in general. Probably the biggest archive of piano history in the world, compiled by Bill Kibby. You will find very useful and interesting information that you won't find elsewhere. Recently he obtained permission from the queen herself to copy related historical documents from Windsor. He has also a collection of pianos arranged in a timeline with relevant information. He is actively looking for sponsors to house and maintain the collection in Burwell, Lincolnshire, UK. (Bill has collected this enormous amount of information and pianos on his own).
William Southwell: substantial research into the life of this important maker by Margaret Debenham.
Michael Cole's blog: www.squarepianos.com Utmost interesting blog of this important restorer and researcher.
Instrument making, tuning and hire:
Peter Barnes Harpsichords. Maker of instruments of the harpsichords family, hire and tuning, based near Frome, Wiltshire.
Simon Neal. Hire, tuning and transport of harpsichords, based in Oxford.
Daniel Flew Harpsichords. Maker of harpsichords based in Bristol.
Cesar Hernandez (that's me): I have an Italian harpsichord for hire (single keyboard strung in brass), copy of a Ridolfi by Clayson and Garret, real inner-outter, ideal for continuo. email: cesarherz(at)mail.com, or mobile 07463.325.335.
Valuation and Restoration of early keyboards.
This is a difficult matter as some instruments are unique and some other were mass produced. Some were kept in good conditions and some other were neglected. I find there are very few rules of thumb for valuation and probably this is the reason why so few people do it. Auction houses may provide estimates but sometimes the final price could be far from the predicted. As with most antiques, the scarcity and condition is the most important points to consider. Another point is the presence of working original parts, specially leather hammer covers and soundboards. A cracked but original soundboard would be preferred to a modern replacement by an experienced restorer. In the case of pianos, squares of about 1810 - 1815 start to be less sought after than previous ones. Those made in the 1820s and 1830s are the most common and often you can find them for free, usually unrestored or badly restored, but sometimes you can get a playable one whose owners are looking for someone sympathetic to have them for free. If bought, the price is usually less than five hundred pounds. Any money spent in their restoration will never be payed back if you want to sell the instrument, certainly. A playable instrument usually can be found for much less. If you want to find out if what you have could be valuable, you can see online the archives of most auction houses, or send us a few photographs. We don't give valuations but we could say if the instrument has some potential interest to someone.
Grand pianos are better valued than squares and we give the same advice: look online and/or talk to collectors. And have always as much details as you can, like make, serial number, date, compass, a list of broken or missing parts (like the pedal[s]), if it looks like it has been restored in the last 50 years, etc. If you want to submit photos, take one overall shot, then details of the hammers, dampers, soundboard, nameboard and tuning pins, and try to use a high resolution, as it may be necessary to check some details. A video of the instrument playing a few notes can be very revealing.
A typical restoration of a square piano, could range from five to eight thousands pounds in UK, and that could include replacing hammer hinges, restringing, realigning bent or broken parts, replacing action and dampers cloths, securing lid hinges and some other repairs like mending pedals, lids, etc. But please take this as a very-very rough idea as every restorer have their own way of quoting. Some restorers do not give quotes, but estimates, with the final sum depending on the work that actually have been done and this will be supported by a report with photographs, in most cases.
"I have an old square piano, what can I do with it?". Please read the previous section too. You can write to us if you have such a query, but I strongly recommend to see the website of Friends of Square Pianos (friendsofsquarepianos.co.uk) which is probably the main resource for buying/selling square pianos (and really any early keyboard). David Hackett has been doing an amazing job to the community of early keyboards. He probably can help to find a good home for an unwanted square piano.
Tuners and technicians of harpsichords and pianofortes (including tuners of square pianos).
There are not many tuners of early keyboards. If you need one, please contact me and I may be able to recommend one in your area. I cover myself a big part of the South of England. My contact details are at the bottom of the page. If you want to learn how to tune and maintain your instrument, I can do a course for you based on your needs. I have been tuning for the next festivals: Early Opera Festival, Malta; Cheltenham, Bath, and Tetbury Festivals and I am in charge of the tuning and maintenance of the Richard Burnett Collection (ex-Finchcocks). In February 2023 I will participate in the Temperament Festival, Southampton.
This page was created by David Hunt who after easing into retirement kindly passed it on to me, Cesar Hernandez, an independent early keyboard technician based in England. D. Hunt's registry of Broadwood grand pianofortes was a tremendous task and he made it available to the general public as a free source of information. It is in that spirit that we now take over and will try to add some other useful information.
The main purpose of the site is to offer all kind of information related to early fortepianos (and early keyboards in general), especially the one that is needed for conservation. As now there are no organised programs to acquire the knowledge and skills required to keep these instruments in acceptable conditions, we will try to offer (in the near future and as time permits) some resources in the form of text, documents and videos. If there is any specific topic that you would like to know about, please write to me an email: cesarherz.(at)mail.com (please substitute the (at) for the @ symbol.
Other purposes of this page are to offer some sources of historical information for researchers, and to help the community of early pianos enthusiasts to get in touch to share their passion. Any ideas toward these aims will be very appreciated.
Many thanks to David Hunt who started and maintained this site for many years and who has been guiding me in this adventure of becoming a restorer. Other restorers who have helped me in getting experience and knowledge include Lucy Coad (who I consider my mentor and along with Richard and Katrina Burnett have provided me with a career), Jean Maurer, who appart from sharing his techniques with me, has given me guidance every time I need. I am also indebted to other restorers/conservators who have passed me valuable information, tuition and/or advice: Ben Marks, Peter Barnes, Malcolm Rose, Grant O'Brien, David Law and David Hackett.