Original Instrument Report

Copyright © 2019 CBH

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

1775 Kirckman Double-manual harpsichord 120K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
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


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 bass stile of the lower keyframe.

1775 Kirckman Dolmetsch inscription 61K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
Pencil inscription on the lowest key and lower keyboard keyframe of the 1775 Kirckman

 

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
CAREY BEEBE
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 nasale jacks 57K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
Bass of Nasale register of 1775 Kirckman prior to restoration,
showing leather plectra installed by Dolmetsch in 1956

Disposition & Action
There are four registers: Nasale 8⁠´ ←, Front 8⁠´ ←, Back 8⁠´→ & 4⁠´ ←. There is no harp stop. The jacks are pearwood and the tongues are made of holly except those of both unison choirs (not Nasale) 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 have been stamped with the note number and choir number, the Nasale 8⁠´ being register 0, the Front 8⁠´ being 1. All jacks have staples 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. The simple machine stop disengages the 4⁠´ when the pedal is depressed and held: In usual operation, the 4⁠´ is on. The hand-stops penetrate the nameboard and are arranged as follows:
      At the bass:   Nasale ←     4⁠´ ←     At the treble:  Front 8⁠´ ← & Back 8⁠´→

Stringing
During its 1956 restoration, the harpsichord was restrung in phosphor bronze and steel, and the original tuning pins carefully drilled as was the custom at the time. The 8⁠´ tuning pins measure around ø5.3mm and the 4⁠´ tuning pins around ø4.85mm. These modern strings were measured and the total tension calculated to be approximately 814kg at A415 pitch before being removed. The instrument restrung with P-wire yellow brass, and P-wire. The string gauge numbers are stamped on the 8⁠´ nut 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´ plucks 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.

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 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 and walnut cross-banding. The nameboard batten and keyboard batten are veneered in burr walnut. The lid and lid flaps are solid mahogany, 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 with its pedal appears original to the instrument and supports the bottom of the harpsichord at 605mm above the floor. The metal casterhs are later additions.

Provenance
The harpsichord was acquired by private purchase on March 27 2017 from the present Lord Kennet, son of the Honorable Wayland Hilton Young (2 August 1923 – 7 May 2009) who purchased it at Sotheby’s on 27 April 1956. Its earlier history is unknown. 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.

1775 Kirckman internal structure 124K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
Internal structure of the 1775 Kirckman



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 B
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.


St Alfege Greenwich 90K jpeg
CAREY BEEBE
St Alfege, Greenwich: Final resting place of both Jacob & Abraham Kirckman
Outline of Work

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

 

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

 


Original instrument collection index:


CBH Icon 1K gif Original Instrument Collection
CBH Icon 1K gif Site overview
CBH Icon 1K gif Harpsichords Australia Home Page