A few months ago we had a question regarding a small book on early English spinet harpsichords. We’ve also had some visitors to the shop desire more info on them. Given that I am banished from my tools to let my hands heal from tendonitis, I’ve been catching up on the recent literature that’s out there.
The little book in question is Making a Spinet By Traditional Methods by the late John Barnes (Mac and Me Publishers, Welwyn, England, 1985). It covers aspects of building an early 1710s style spinet based on the residual evidence from an original instrument by Stephen Keene and Charles Brackley. It was intended to introduce woodworkers to the process of analyzing an old spinet for its historical construction methods and offer options for recreating them in a modern shop. We do the same study here in the Hay shop, both for furniture and spinets, except that we try to reproduce those same historical methods. I still refer to Barnes frequently, especially since my current project is based on the 1726 Cawton Aston spinet in CW’s collections. It’s less useful for relating to the later, post-1750 spinet models.
I thought it was out of print but apparently it is available from the Friends of St. Cecilia’s Hall and Museum at Edinburgh University. Barnes worked as curator and historian there for many years. If that’s too complicated, scour the Web and good old-fashioned interlibrary loans. Check out the main St. Cecilia’s Hall site for a look at one of the great collections of early keyboard instruments. The museum also has technical drawings for several of them, if you’re interested in more details.
Speaking of Edinburgh University, I have been carefully reading a recent dissertation by Peter Mole on the late Stuart and early Georgian spinets. I understand Mole is an attorney by training but recently turned his attention to the study of early keyboards, with emphasis on spinets. Having access to records and instruments not previously studied, he has uncovered new biographical material on these early spinet makers such as Keene and Brackley and has personally examined many of the surviving spinets where he was allowed to do so. This work will not provide enough information on which to build a spinet (that’s not the intention here), but his wide research, data sheets, detailed photos and comparative analysis have expanded our knowledge considerably. He has made it all publicly available for download through the Edinburgh Research Archive.
A warning: Mole’s is a two volume academic work and not a quick read. But if you want a deeper understanding of the world of early spinets in England, look no further. And read the footnotes. I’m not kidding! They have lots of information with excellent links.
Yeah, I’ve pecked this posting out in pieces over several days. But I wanted to share this during my continued forced rest. It’s good stuff: history, wood and music.