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Title: The development of the English harpsichord with particular reference to the work of Kirkman
Author: Mould, Charles
ISNI:       0000 0001 2462 7981
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1976
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This thesis is an attempt to summarise the extent of the current knowledge concerning the development of the harpsichord in England. This knowledge is derived partly from documentary sources, partly from a review of the modern writers who have treated the subject, but mostly from careful examination, measurement and recording of the surviving instruments. The work is divided into two main parts, of which Part I treats the English harpsichord before the time of Kirkman. The first eleven pages are given over to a brief summary of the instruments before the time of Tabel, the maker to whom Kirkman was apprenticed. Tabel's one surviving harpsichord receives a more detailed treatment as does a double manual harpsichord by another of his apprentices, John Wilbrook. The surviving harpsichords by Joseph Mahoon are also examined, and it is noted that it is quite likely that two harpsichords by Francis Coston are still extant. Patents and other inventions of this period are also treated, and the section ends with an overall survey of the development until the time of Kirkman. The author traces no particular theme in the period until the last quarter of the seventeenth century, influence from Italy, and the Low Countries being found alongside elements of entirely native practice. It is noted however, that probably by the last quarter of the century English makers were beginning to make double manual instruments in imitation of the Flemish harpsichords of the time, but this took place alongside the development of a school of makers producing simple single manual harpsichords with 2.8ft choirs only. These harpsichords also contain elements of continental practice with the use of English case styles, native woods and a particular type of diagonal bracing. These instruments are so similar that they might be called the English school of the period. At the beginning of the eighteenth century this school began to develop double manual harpsichords in the same case style, but also drawing on aspects of design probably introduced to this country by immigrant workmen such as Tisseran. It was at the turn of the century that the dogleg 8ft register was probably first introduced to England. It was to hold sway in all double manual English harpsichords for the next one hundred years. In part II, the work of Kirkman is examined closely. It is noted that the layout of the string band for the 8ft choirs is the same in all Kirkman harpsichords regardless of the presence of a 4ft choir or a lute stop. It is also demonstrated that there was an interesting change in length of the Kirkman harpsichord from 96.75" in 1745 down to about 92.5" in the early 1760s and then increasing back to around 94" in the late 1780s. This change in length was accompanied by a change in the length of the FF string from 71" down to about 68" and then back to about 70". No explanation for this can be offered. Other aspects receiving detailed treatment in this section are the structure of the instruments, the types of roses, the signing of the nameboards (a change in the order of the wording is noted between 1758 and 1760), keyboards, jacks, slides, stringing, voicing etc. There are sections on the other instruments by Kirkman, the Changeable Harpsichord, marquetried harpsichords, Queen Charlotte's harpsichord, the instruments by Faulkner, and a comparison with Shudi harpsichords of the period. The section is terminated by a summary of the patents on musical instruments of the period and a summary of the overall development in the period 1730-1800. The thesis is complemented by a number of Appendices. Of these, the first is a detailed look at the life and times of Kirkman, revealing him to have been a man of some substance and resource. Having acquired a good grounding in his work from Tabel, and having married Tabel's widow when on the threshold of his career, he soon made enough money to start speculating and lending money so that by the 1770s he probably spent little time in harpsichord making and gave himself to pecuniary matters. Other Appendices complement this first appendix, giving further details of such matters as Kirkman's friends, relatives, property, legal dealings and domestic matters. One appendix is given to a report on the way in which the harpsichords seen during the survey have been measured and recorded. Finally, there are nine tables, giving general data on the harpsichords up until the time of Kirkman, surviving harpsichords from the period 1744-1800, chronological development of English furniture styles, a chronological table of events in the development of the harpsichord from 1439-1800, and more specific details and dimensions of Kirkman harpsichords. The thesis ends with some 75 illustrations all of which are original.
Supervisor: Harrison, F. L. ; Boalch, Donald Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Music ; Instruments ; harpsichord ; Jacob Kirkman ; Herman Tabel ; Burkat Shudi ; John Wilbrook ; Thomas Hitchcock ; Francis Coston ; Joseph Mahoon