Original Instrument Report

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DOUBLE-MANUAL HARPSICHORD, Jacob and Abraham Kirckman, London 1775

1775 Kirckman Double-manual harpsichord 67K jpeg
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Double-manual harpsichord by Jacob & Abraham Kirckman, London 1775

Maker
Jacob Kirchmann (1710–1792) was born in Bischweiler near Strasbourg and went to England in the early 1730s to work with Tabel, anglicizing his family name. His earliest surviving instrument is a double-manual harpsichord dated 1744 believed to be now in private ownership. The latest surviving instrument signed with his own name is a double-manual harpsichord from 1772, now in the Horniman Museum and Library. In the same year as that instrument was built, Jacob took his nephew Abraham (1737–1794) into the business, and the instruments were signed with both their names from then until at least 1790. Abraham’s son Joseph (1763–1830) had joined the firm in 1789, and managed it from 1794. According to Harding’s research of the London trade directories, the business survived in various forms and was still active building pianos in 1896.

Further discussion
Boalch, Donald H Makers of the Harpsichord & Clavichord 1440–1840 Third Edition, Oxford 1995, pp103–108; 423–460
Clinkscale, Martha Novak Makers of the Piano 1700–1820 Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995, pp165–167
Clinkscale, Martha Novak Makers of the Piano Volume 2 1700–1820 Oxford University Press, Oxford 1999, pp210,211
Harding, Rosamond E M The Piano-Forte — Its History traced to the Great Exhibition of 1851 Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1933, p397
Mould, Charles; Mole, Peter & Strange, Thomas Jacob Kirkman, Harpsichord Maker to Her Majesty Lulu, 2016



1775 Kirckman lute jacks 58K jpeg
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Keywell detail
after restoration
1775 Kirckman Dolmetsch inscription 49K jpeg
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Pencil inscription № 11 on the lowest key
and lower keyboard keyframe of the 1775 Kirckman

Inscriptions
The nameboard batten is inscribed Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1775 and the soundboard contains the third type of rose used by Kirckman, a ø74mm gilt metal trophy of musical instruments reading from the keyboard and incorporating the initials I.K. The pencil inscription № 11 appears on the upper surface of the lower FF key behind the balance point, and on the upper surface of the pine bass stile of the lower keyframe.

1775 Kirckman nameboard inscription 33K jpeg
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Inscription on the 1775 Kirckman nameboard batten

Previous restoration
The instrument was previously restored in 1956 by Leslie Ward of Dolmetsch as noted in ink on the reverse of the keyboard batten:

RESTORED BY C. L. C. WARD, F.R.S.A., M.S.I.A
OF ARNOLD DOLMETSCH LTD
HASLEMERE
1956.

From evidence remaining on the instrument, the following work was likely to have been undertaken at that time in the Dolmetsch workshop:

1775 Kirckman Dolmetsch inscription 51K jpeg
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Ink inscription on reverse of keyboard batten, 1775 Kirckman

Keyboard
The five-octave keyboards have sixty notes FF,GG–f''' (ie without FF). The Stichmaß is 485mm. The lime keylevers are each numbered by hand in ink in front of the balance mortise. The keys of both manuals are guided by front pins and the lower manual keys are appreciably head-heavy. The lower balance rail and frontrail are oak. The upper keys are arranged on an oak plank. The ivory-covered naturals have 40mm heads (39mm for upper keyboard) with two score marks (one at the join, the other about 5mm in front) and 99–103mm tails (100–107mm for upper keyboard). The moulded boxwood keyfronts and ivory covers make the natural heads 22mm (23mm for upper keyboard) deep. The beveled solid ebony sharps are 9.5–12mm wide, and 82–87mm (72–76mm for upper keyboard) in length. The sheepskin-covered keyend cloths appear to be original. All the other cloths were modern replacements including the cloth balance punchings.


1775 Kirckman lute jacks 58K jpeg
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Bass of the lute register of 1775 Kirckman prior to restoration,
showing leather plectra installed by Dolmetsch in 1956
1775 Kirckman lute jacks after restoration 62K jpeg
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Lute register after restoration,
showing crow quill in replacement holly tongues

Disposition & Action
There are four registers: Lute 8⁠´ ←, Front 8⁠´ ←, Back 8⁠´→ & 4⁠´ ←. The Lute register plays from the upper keyboard, and the Front 8⁠´ jacks are dogleg, so when that register is engaged, it plays from both keyboards. There is neither coupler nor harp stop. The jacks are pearwood and the tongues are made of holly except those of both unison choirs (not Lute) from the tenor up, which are of boxwood. The action is well preserved, but all of the jack tongues were broached with square mortises to hold leather plectra during the Dolmetsch restoration.. All jacks were stamped by Kirckman with the note number and choir number, the Lute 8⁠´ being register 0, the Front 8⁠´ being 1. All jacks have staples to prevent the tongues from flying back, and the unison choir jacks have double damper slots. All jacks are original to this instrument. The registers were carefully and precisely made from single pieces of maple, controlled by an original and complete set of brass-knobbed iron hand-stops and by the machine-stop pedal which pivots on a bottom brace on the front left stand leg. The ironwork was painted black during the Dolmetsch restoration. The machine stop—probably an early addition—is of the simple variety normally found on single-manual instruments. In usual operation, the 4⁠´ is ON, and when depressed and held, the pedal disengages the 4⁠´ against spring tension. The 4⁠´ handstop is superfluous, but the machine mechanism can be overridden by wedging the 4⁠´ register in the OFF position with a stylus of flattened brass rod which is tethered to the spine soundboard moulding. The hand-stops penetrate the nameboard and are arranged as follows:
      At the bass:   Lute ←     4⁠´ ←     At the treble:  Front 8⁠´ ← & Back 8⁠´→

!775 Kirckman machine stop detail 66K jpeg
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Detail of machine stop after restoration (with jackrails removed)

Stringing
During its 1956 restoration by Dolmetsch, the original tuning pins were carefully drilled as was the custom at the time to facilitate restringing with yellow brass and hard steel. These modern strings were measured before being removed and discarded; the total tension calculated to be approximately 963kg at A415 pitch, or 1082kg at A440. A new stringing schedule was devized and the instrument restrung with P-wire yellow brass, and P-wire. The total tension was recalculated to be approximately 865kg at A415, a reduction of at least 10%. As on many Kirckman instruments, the string gauge numbers are stamped on the 8⁠´ but not the 4⁠´ nut. The 8⁠´ bridge pinning is staggered to allow more uniform string lengths for the same note of alternate choirs than if they were inline. The left-facing front 8⁠´ dogleg jacks pluck the slightly longer string. The bridge is backpinned for the bottom three notes of the 4⁠´ choir (FF,GG,GG), and the bottom twenty-nine notes of the 8⁠´ choirs (FF,GG–b, with the upper note having only its front 8⁠´ string backpinned). The 8⁠´ nut is pierced to allow the 4⁠´ strings (from c up) to pass through it to reach their tuning pins: The bass tuning pins of the 4⁠´ register are on the distal side of the lute register, and are easiest tuned by removing the lute jackrail.

Materials
The quarter-sawn spruce soundboard is c3.2mm thick at its visible front edge. The bridges and nuts are beech. The oak wrestplank is veneered with mahogany, and the gaps spanned by six maple gap spacers arranged in pairs. The spine, tail and cheek are unusually mahogany, and the bentside oak. With the exception of the spine, the case is veneered with crotch mahogany panels, separated by sycamore(?) stringing from the cross-banded mahogany. The three faces of the keywell are veneered likewise, but with burr walnut panels, separated from tulip wood(?) cross-banding by double obliquely chequered, stringing. The same stringing appears in two lines on the keyboard batten, in a single line on the lower keyfront batten, and in the middle of all four keyend blocks. The case rim around the soundboard is veneered in mahogany with two separated lines of plain stringing. The nameboard batten and keyboard batten are veneered in burr walnut. The lid and lid flaps are solid mahogany with boxwood stringing, the main lid a single plank. The front and back bottoms are softwood. The instrument retains its original brasswork, although the screws are later brass replacements. The original escutcheon pins for all the hinges had been replaced with small screws. The original music desk was missing its central sliding carriage. The scantlings are c21.5mm on all case sides, including the unveneered spine. The harpsichord case without lid but including bottom mouldings (not on unveneered spine) measures 2375mm long, 944mm wide and 322mm in depth. The mahogany moulded square leg trestle stand is original to the instrument and supports the bottom of the harpsichord at 605mm above the floor. The pedal for the machine stop is likely an early addition. The metal casters are believed to be later, replacing the original Kirckman wooden-wheeled casters.

Provenance
The harpsichord was acquired by private purchase on March 27 2017 from the present Lord Kennet, son of the Honorable Wayland Hilton Young (1923–2009) who had purchased it by auction at Sotheby’s on 27 April 1956 for the hammer price of GBP390. Previous to that auction, the instrument was in the immediate possession of the Morant family of Brockenhurst Park near Lymington, Hampshire [see below]. It is not unreasonable to conjecture that the 1775 Kirckman was originally bought by Edward Morant (1730–91), a wealthy land owner in Jamaica, and a Member of Parliament from 1761–68 and 1774–87. He had purchased his estate Brockenhurst for £6,400 in February 1770, and it remained the seat of his family until its contents were dispersed in 1956 prior to the house being sold then eventually demolished in 1958 and replaced with a modern country home by the new property owners.

1775 Kirckman internal structure 124K jpeg
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Internal structure of the 1775 Kirckman, seen for the first time since the original makers’ workshop


I am grateful to my colleague Claire Hammett for alerting me to the availability of this instrument after it was passed in at two auctions, and the advice received from Christopher Nobbs.

Literature
Gardiner Houlgate auction catalogue: Miscellaneous Musical Instruments including Guitars, 10 March 2016, pp28,29

[Lot] 532.
A two-manual harpsichord by Jacob and Abraham Kirckman, London 1775 The case of mahogany, the sides with slab-cut panels with stained fruitwood, holly stringing and quarter-cut mahogany crossbanding, the lid with shaped brass strap hinges, the keywell with burr walnut facia and cheeks, the soundboard with inset gilt rose pierced and carved with King David playing the harp flanked by the maker’s initials, the five octave keyboard, FF [sic] to f3, with ivory naturals and ebony accidentals, four brass hand levers controlling two 8ft. stops one 4ft. stop and a lute stop. One pedal controlling simple machine stop, with music desk and on trestle stand. Inscribed on a boxwood plaque on the name batten Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1775, also inscribed on the reverse of this [sic] batten ‘Restored by C. L. C. Ward, FRSA, MSIA, of Arnold Dolmetsch Ltd., Haslemere 1956’, length 7ft 9 1/2˝, width 3ft 1˝

* Recorded by Donald Boalch in Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, 3rd edition, edited by Charles Mould, p.446 (listed as No. 57a in the 1st and 2nd editions). Purchased by the Hon. Wayland H. Young (later Lord Kennet) at Sotheby’s on 27th April 1956 and then by descent. Always known as the Kennet Kirckman.

A COMPREHENSIVE CONDITION REPORT WAS UNDERTAKEN BY
CHRISTOPHER NOBBS IN 2008 AND IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

                                                                                                                ESTIMATE: £20000–30000

Gardiner Houlgate auction catalogue: Miscellaneous Musical Instruments including Guitars, 10 Dec 2015

[Lot] 561.
A two-manual harpsichord by Jacob and Abraham Kirckman, London 1775 The case of mahogany, the sides with slab-cut panels with stained fruitwood, holly stringing and quarter-cut mahogany crossbanding, the lid with shaped brass strap hinges, the keywell with burr walnut facia and cheeks, the soundboard with inset gilt rose pierced and carved with King David playing the harp flanked by the maker’s initials, the five octave keyboard, FF [sic] to f3, with ivory naturals and ebony accidentals, four brass hand levers controlling two 8ft. stops one 4ft. stop and a lute stop. One pedal controlling simple machine stop, with music desk and on trestle stand. Inscribed on a boxwood plaque on the name batten Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1775, also inscribed on the reverse of this [sic] batten Restored by C. L. C. Ward, FRSA, MSIA, of Arnold Dolmetsch Ltd., Haslemere 1956  (with tuning keys and other accessories)

Length 7ft 9 1/2˝, width 3ft 1˝

* Recorded by Donald Boalch in Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, 3rd edition, edited by Charles Mould, p.446 (listed as No. 57a in the 1st and 2nd editions). Purchased by the Hon. Wayland H. Young (later Lord Kennet) at Sotheby’s on 27th April 1956 and then by descent. Always known as the Kennet Kirckman.

A COMPREHENSIVE CONDITION REPORT WAS UNDERTAKEN BY
CHRISTOPHER NOBBS IN 2008 AND IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

                                                                                                                ESTIMATE: £35000–45000

 

Boalch, Donald H, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440–1840, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 3rd edition edited by Charles Mould 1995, p446:

Type: Two-manual harpsichord.
Date: 1775.
Ownership: THE HON. WAYLAND H. YOUNG.
Previous history: Bought by Wayland Young at Sotheby’s, 27 April 1956.
References: Sotheby’s catalogue of 27 April 1956.
Information supplied by: B2.
Boalch 3 number: KIRKMAN, J. and A. 1775(1).
Boalch 2 number: 57a.

 

Boalch, Donald H, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440–1840, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2nd edition 1974, p91:

No.: 57a
G-D [Grove] (5 edn.) no.:
Date: 1775
Maker(s): J&A
Kbs.: 2
Past owners: [empty]
Present owner: Hon. Wayland H. Young
Remarks: Sotheby’s 27 April 1956

 

Boalch, Donald H, Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440–1840, New York: Macmillan Press, 1st edition 1956, p65:

No.: 57a
G-D (5ed) no.:
Date: 1775
Maker(s): J&A
Kb(s): 2
Past owners: [empty]
Present or Recent Owner: Hon. Wayland H. Young
Remarks: Sotheby’s 27 April 1956.

 

Sotheby & Co. auction catalogue: Textiles, Tapestries, Oriental Rugs and Carpets and Fine English Furniture, 27 April 1956, p16–19

Portrait of Edward Morant later MP by Joshua Reynolds 1759 34K
JOSHUA REYNOLDS [PUBLIC DOMAIN] WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Edward Morant and his son John,
Portrait by Joshua Reynolds, 1759
250 x 148.6cm PRIVATE COLLECTION

The Property of John Morant, Esq.
Removed from Brokenhurst [sic] Park, Hampshire.

[…]

ENGLISH AND CONTINENTAL FURNITURE

[…]

[Lot] 136 A FINE DOUBLE KEYBOARD HARPSICHORD by Jacobus and Abraham
Kirckman, London
1775, in a figured mahogany case with satinwood stringing
and cut-brass hinges : the keyboard surround in burr-walnut ; with a keyboard
of five octaves F-F [sic] ; four stops, quilled throughout, two unisons, octave and
lute : controlled by four brass handstops, the octave, exceptionally, withdrawn
against spring mechanism controlled by a foot pedal ; on the original stand,
94 in. long. With the rare original music-stand with sliding candlestand.

      * * *   In generally very good condition : a few strings broken.



Outline of Work

Acknowledgments
Grateful thanks to those who encouraged and assisted me: Miles Hellon, Ben Marks, Charles Mould, Christopher Nobbs, Mimi Waitzman, & Graham Wells (UK); Stephen Birkett (CA); Claire Hammett, Norm Purdy & Tim Krol (US); Eddy Valk & Colin van der Lecq (AU).

 

1775 Jacob & Abraham Kirckman double-manual harpsichord postcard thumbnail 7K jpeg
Download postcard.

 


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