Edinburgh Research Explorer

Inventions and ideas on the peripheries of British piano design between 1752 and 1832

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMuzio Clementi and British Musical Culture
Subtitle of host publicationSources, Performance Practice, Style
EditorsLuca Sala, Rohan Stewart-MacDonald
Place of PublicationOxford
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2018


The development of the piano is well rehearsed: today we can easily read about the linear development of the instrument from Cristofori’s original ideas in the early 1700s to Erard’s double escapement 100 years later and beyond. There have also been explorations of some of the ideas which were in a sense tangential but nevertheless contributed to the general direction of travel. However, here we examine some of the more obscure and peripheral modifications, additions and concepts which appeared in Britain between 1752 and 1832. The main sources used for this research are archival, most notably patents and newspapers, although extant examples are considered where possible. Major firms such as Broadwood and Clementi & Co are discussed within the wider context of lesser-known yet ingenious individuals such as William Southwell, George Buttery and Charles Clagget. The ideas and inventions have been grouped and are discussed based on broad themes: keyboard design; shapes, sizes and layouts; the action; additions – metal framing, maximising resonance, extending the keyboard; alternative materials; dynamics & timbral alternatives; combination instruments; and tuning. As well as considering the musical aspects of these ideas and the instruments in which they are manifest, the instruments are framed as items of material culture within the context of the wider desire for innovation and novelty in the market place of early-industrial Britain.

    Research areas

  • music, Clementi, musical instruments, 19th century, Britain, London

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