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Pioneer Piano Makers in London, 1737–74: Newly Discovered Documentary Sources

  • Margaret Debenham (a1) and Michael Cole (a2)


The most historically significant and widely influential pianoforte designs, both for use in public concerts and for domestic music making, first appeared in the later 1760s, mostly as the work of immigrant German-born craftsmen working in London. But their work was preceded by a handful of pioneering instrument makers whose lives have been largely unreported until now. In this paper the authors report on the life and work of three such immigrant craftsmen who made pianofortes and related instruments in London in the period 1740–65. Two of them, Roger Plenius and Herman Viator, met with great personal misfortunes, while the other, Frederick Neubauer, crowned his career with a great triumph which has never been widely reported, though unhappily not one of his instruments is known to survive. The authors' findings are drawn from newly located contemporary newspaper notices and original manuscripts held at The National Archives, Kew and the Bancroft Library, London.


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1 Stewart Pollens, The Early Pianoforte (Cambridge, 1995), describes the pianofortes made by Cristofori and later instruments inspired by his work, up to 1760.

2 For a survey of divergent designs seen in the work of contemporary German makers see Michael Cole, The Pianoforte in the Classical Era (Oxford, 1998), 144–77.

3 Two newspaper notices reveal that Mr Backers of Jermyn Street, St James, fulfilled prestigious commissions in the early months of 1773. The first of these was a grand pianoforte for the Dauphinois of France (Marie Antoinette), the second a similar instrument for the Empress of Germany (Public Advertiser, (11812), 1 February 1773; and (11860), 10 April 1773). After his untimely death in January 1778, someone – most likely his executor seeking to maximise the value of the estate for the benefit of Backers' two surviving orphaned children – continued to place advertisements for his remaining instruments over the course of the next two years, for sale at his late address, No. 4, Jermyn Street. These notices confirm the distinction of his former patrons:

… The several crowned heads who have been pleased to order them, the numbers of persons of the highest rank and fashion in this country, who are possessed of some of them, together with the approbation of the most eminent music masters, sufficiently shew their great excellence … Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (2014), 30 March 1779.

Similar notices appeared in the Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (2016), 1 April 1779 and (2340) 25 April 1780.

4 The majority of contemporary advertisements reported here have been accessed via the Gale British Library newspapers online databases. Digital images of original documents have been obtained from The National Archives, Kew. In addition to the time saved in travelling and spending many hours trawling though original documents (or microfilms) in conventional archive repositories, skilled interrogation of online digitized databases can bring to light material in quite unexpected places, thus opening up previously undreamt-of opportunities for scholars.

5 Roger Plenius adopted the Anglicized version of his name sometime after his arrival in England in 1736. He was originally known as Rutgerus Pleunius, as is evidenced from his signature on legal documents in 1737 and 1741, which we shall discuss.

6 Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser (4754), 10 December 1756; see also n. 43.

7 Alan Curtis, ‘Dutch Harpsichord Makers’, Tijdscrift van Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeshiedenis (1960), D. 19de. Afl. 1ste/2de. 44–66. See also Edward L. Kottick, A History of the Harpsichord (2003), 297.

8 See also n. 36.

9 Curtis mentions four sons and we can now be certain that a fifth son, John, also survived since he is specifically mentioned by his father in court documents dated 1757 as having worked with him from 1737 onwards.

10 See elsewhere in this article for more information about Reza Cornelia (as she was later known) in London in 1763–4.

11 Donald H. Boalch, ed. C. Mould. Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440–1840, 3rd Edn. (1995), 146, citing Arend Jan Gierveld in Tijdschrift van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 30, nos. 1–2 (1981), quotes verbatim extracts from two of these advertisements.

12 In Dutch the original text reads: Rutgert Pleunis woond op de Utregtse straet, tusschen de Keyzersgragt en Kerkstraet, maekt bekend, dat by hem is uytgevonden, en gemaekt, een Clavecimbael zynde een Staertstuk met twee Zangbodemen, welkes weerga nooit gezien is, overheerlyk en kragtig van geluyt, met 2 Clavieren, 4 Registers, en nog 2 halve Registers van 16 voet, die niet gezien worden, en kan dagelyks van de Liefhebbers werden bezigtigd. Amsterdamse Courant 37 [34?], 16 April 1735. Historische Kranten-Nederlandse. [Accessed 17 May 2012].

Two advertisements placed in Amsterdam in spring the following year provide similar information: Amsterdamse Courant 27, 3 March 1736, 2; and Amsterdamse Courant 28, 6 March 1736, 2. Historische Kranten- Nederlandse. [Accessed 17 May 2012]. Twelve years later, in November 1748, an Amsterdam auction house, Daniel Ad. Beukelaer, advertised for sale: ‘twee fraeye Clavecimbaelen, zynde het eene 2 Clavieren en 5 Registers gemackt door Rutger [sic] Pleunis’. Amsterdamse Courant 143, 28 November 1748, 2. Historische Kranten-Nederlandse [Accessed 17 May 2012]. One may infer that at the time he left Amsterdam Plenius had left behind, sold or about to be sold, at least one, perhaps two harpsichords of two manuals.

These advertisements assume particular significance later, demonstrating as they do that Plenius was already displaying creative skills as a musical-instrument maker at this early stage. This refutes Charles Cope's claim that Plenius had trained merely as a cooper in the wine trade in Amsterdam and had no particular expertise as a musical-instrument maker before arriving in London.

13 Short descriptions of the documents consulted relating to Plenius' bankruptcy are given in Table 1, together with their respective National Archives call numbers. The documents include certain legal deeds dated 1737 and 1741 relating to arrangements between Plenius and his backer, Charles Cope. These agreements contain provisions which are highly advantageous to Cope and deeply onerous for Plenius. (See Appendices 1–3 and Table 1, Documents 1:1 and 1:2; 2:1, 2:2, 2:3 and 3).

14 See Table 1, Document 10:1.

15 London Daily Post and General Advertiser (470), 4 May 1736.

16 Raymond Russell, The Harpsichord and Clavichord (London, 1959).

17 Cope himself claims they had first met when he employed Plenius to repair a clavichord for him; see Table 1, Document 8:1.

18 See Table 1, Document 10:1.

19 See Appendix 1 and Table 1, Document 10:2.

20 Plenius says that his two sons were apprenticed to him and later worked as journeymen (see Table 1, Documents 10:1 and 10:2). Cope, on the other hand, claims that Plenius' two sons were not old enough to do any useful work at this time; see Table 1, Documents 8:1, 8:2 and 9. The evidence that Rutgerus was not born until 1729 would seem to bear this out at least in his case, though John must have been several years older.

21 Plenius plaintively claims that during this period he had frequently done unpaid work on Cope's house in the evenings, for example constructing new banisters for all the stairs from top to bottom; see Table 1, Documents 10:1 and 10:2.

22 See Appendices 2 and 3 and Table 1, Documents 2:1, 2:2, 2:3 and 3.

23 On 30 December 1741, under the name ‘Pleunius’, Roger Plenius was granted English letters patent for certain specifications for harpsichords, lyrichords and spinets. An abstract of the specification appears in Bennet Woodcroft's Appendix to Reference Index of Patents of Invention (1855), where it has been allocated the number 581. (Early patents were not originally allocated numbers). Since the patent specification is written in fluent English, this begs the question of who wrote it, since Plenius claims he did not speak the language well at this time. Two possible explanations spring to mind. The first is that he wrote it in German which Cope then translated into English. The second is that Plenius was lying and that his English was in fact fluent. The first of these seems more plausible, especially given that Cope paid the costs of filing the patent and that Plenius only arrived in England as an immigrant in 1736.

24 See Table 1, Documents 10:1 and 10:2. This latter patent was also filed in Plenius' sole name, but paid for by Cope. It was for improvements for harpsichords and spinets and an abstract also appears in Woodcroft's Appendix in 1855 (No. 613). The original scribe's copy (inscribed No. 22) is extant in the patent rolls held at The National Archives, Kew, c66/3617. A contemporary announcement that this patent had passed the Great Seal appeared in the Daily Gazetteer (5071), 20 July 1745.

25 London Evening Post (2766), 27 July 1745; repeated (2770), 1 August 1745; and Daily Advertiser (4603), 25 September 1745.

26 Daily Advertiser (4459), 1 May 1745.

27 By his MAJESTY's Royal Letters Patent,

Grant'd to RUTGERUS PLENIUS, Harpsichord-Maker,

for the sole Making, Use, and Benefit, of a new-invented

Musical Instrument, call'd

A Lyrichord which imitates a Vio–

lin and Violincello; but

when play'd full, a per–

fect Organ; altho' by

Catgut Strings only, without Pipes: It admits of playing For–

te and Piano; as also of swelling any single Note (or Notes

ad Libitum) on the same Key, by the simple Pressure of the

Fingers. But what is most surprising, its Strings never go

out of Tune; a Thing which has been so long wished for

and desir'd, and ‘till now, by every one deem'd impossible to

find out: It being esteem'd and approv'd by all, particularly

the eminent Masters in England.

The Price of seeing and hearing it between Ten in the

Morning and Seven at Night, is Half a Crown each Person,

at the Inventor's House (the King's–Arms being over the Door)

South Audley-St [illegible word], near Grosvenor-Square. London Evening Post [2721], 13 April 1745.

A similar advertisement appeared a few days later, this time in the Daily Advertiser (4449), 19 April 1745.

28 Eric Halfpenny's reproduction of an article published in a contemporary journal in 1755, which includes a diagram of the mechanism, provides the fullest description available of the instrument: E. Halfpenny, ‘The Lyrichord’, The Galpin Journal, 3 (1950), 46–9.

29 Published as an Appendix to the second volume of his Syntagma musicum.

30 F. J. Hirt, Meisterwereke des Klavierbaus (Olten, 1955), 162–3, reports the inscription as ‘Fray Raymundo Truchado Inventor 1625. ‘Inventor’ implies no more than maker.

31 Information drawn from the evidence of Charles Cope; see Table 1, Document 8.2. Later, in December 1761, Mr Zucker, a German magician/conjuror (who refers to himself as ‘the celebrated Mr Zucker’) advertised performances on what he claims is the only Lyrichord ‘before it was to go abroad after Christmas’.

32 Presumably this was the later model of the two made, which as we shall see, Cope later sold (see also n. 34). A newspaper notice placed on 14 December 1747 by an unidentified person states that the Lyrichord which had been purchased from the maker, Mr Rutgerus Plenius, was now to be seen and performed on by ‘an excellent hand’ at ‘the House between Rawthmell's Coffee-House and the Duke of Bedford's Head in Henrietta-Street, Covent Garden’, the cost being ‘One shilling each Person’. The timing of this advertisement is consistent with the reported year in which ownership of this instrument passed to Charles Cope: the Daily Advertiser (5279), 14 December 1747, 1.

33 See Table 1, Documents 10:1 and 10:2. This is at odds with Cope's story that the money he had taken from showing the instrument had not covered his costs!

34 On 8 April 1758 Cope himself testifies that he had ‘lately sold the Lyrichord’ for £210 (see Table 1, Document 8:2). Convincing evidence that Lord Baltimore was the purchaser is found in an advertisement placed by Mr Lineham [sic], an organ builder in Berwick Street in 1772.

TO be Sold, The LYRICHORD made by the

celebrated Rutgerus Plenius, being the only instru–

ment of the kind, except one other in the possession of the

late Lord Baltimore, made by that artist. It imitates ex–

actly the violin, violincello, and double bass; and, when

played full, is equal in loudness, and superior in tone,

to a church organ, and is constructed so as to remain con–

stantly in tune. This instrument was formerly for many

years exhibited to the public at the price of [1?]s. each person;

it is in perfect repair, a considerable sum having been lately

expended with the maker and other artists on its improve–

ment. To be seen at Mr. Lineham's in Berwick–street

Soho, opposite the auction -room. Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (13460), 20 April 1772.

Mr Lyneham [sic] had previously placed a notice advertising the Lyrichord for sale in November 1770 so clearly it had remained unsold at his premises for some time: Public Advertiser (11245), 22 November 1770. Michael Cole has given this name as ‘Lyncham’ (‘The Twelve Apostles? An Inquiry into the Origins of the English Pianoforte’, Early Keyboard Journal, 18 [2000], 23 n. 24); however it is in fact ‘Lyneham’ – or ‘Lineham’. James Lyneham, Organ builder of Berwick Street Piccadilly, is recorded as voting in the Westminster elections on 1 January 1774 (London Lives database, pollbook_128-12828). [Accessed 7 May 2011]; and a James Lyneham, musician of 16, Berwick Street, took out a Sun fire-insurance policy on 1 January 1785. 1785 SUN 1 331 16\07\79 ML; fire_1785_1787_20_126225. London Lives database. [Accessed 7 May 2011].

35 In August 1756, John Pratt of the Parish of St George Hanover Square, a Carpenter, and Mathias Fleming of White Horse Yard, Drury Lane, a Taylor, were appointed Assignees of Plenius' estate. London Gazette (9610), 17 August 1756.

36 See Table 1, Documents 8:1, 8:2 and 9. In his lengthy answers to the Assignees' questions, Cope asserts that Plenius had been occupied as a wine cooper in Amsterdam and had had no particular expertise in making musical instruments before his arrival in London. He had offered Plenius ‘hints and advice’ on the construction of musical instruments, without which Plenius' innovations could not have succeeded. He claims he had never gone into partnership with Plenius, merely lent him money, which he expected to be repaid to him; that Plenius spoke English sufficiently well to understand the agreements they had signed; and that he had never misled him about their contents. He had paid the costs of two patents taken out in 1741 and 1745 in Plenius' sole name as a loan on condition that Plenius would repay him from his personal share of the profits. When it became obvious in 1747 that there was no market for the Lyrichord he had refused to advance Plenius further funds. However, after Plenius had absconded, he had advanced sufficient to pay his rent arrears on condition that the Lyrichord would then pass into his hands. His takings from showing it had, he claimed, never covered his costs and had ‘recently sold it’ in 1758 for £210.

37 See Table 1, Document 4:2.

38 See also n. 46. The issues described in the evidence of the court-case documents concerning Plenius' bankruptcy are extremely complex and difficult to unravel from the records. His debts appear to have included money owed to one Mrs Aldworth for a loan taken out in 1751 and it was she who had initiated the bankruptcy proceedings. Seemingly at Cope's instigation, Plenius had borrowed money from this lady in order to repay money that he owed to Cope, who by this time had also found himself in severe financial difficulties.

39 Public Advertiser (6682), 23 March 1756. It is noteworthy that Cope's address in 1755/7 is given in the Plenius bankruptcy papers as St Paul's churchyard.

40 Public Advertiser (6684), 31 March 1756.

41 London Gazette (9557), 21–24 February 1756.

42 London Gazette (9603), 24 July 1756.

43 Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser (4754), 10 December 1756.

44 Public Advertiser (6946), 12 January 1757.

45 Public Advertiser (7284), 28 February 1758. In April 1758 Charles Cope stated to the court that he had recently sold his Lyrichord (see n. 34).

46 London Gazette (10099), 25 April 1761. Also in this year, unaware that Plenius had been declared bankrupt five years earlier, on 12 October 1761 George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon, to John Didsbury, his London agent, asking for ‘a very good Spinit, to be made by Mr Plinius, Harpsichord Maker in South Audley Street, Grosvenor Square’. Clearly Plenius' fame as a maker had reached far and wide, despite his personal financial difficulties.

47 Public Advertiser (7643), 7 May 1759. An extract from this lengthy advertisement is given here:

THIS is to give notice, That here is lately

arrived from Berlin Mr. Zucker, with two wonderful and

unparallel'd Pieces of Art. 1. Two wooden Figures, viz. A Shep–

herd and Sheperdess as big as Life, in an Opera Dress; they move

not only their Limbs, but play very naturally and in a masterly

Manner on two German Flutes, first and second, various excellent

Musical Pieces, viz. Two different Preludes, A March for Minuets,

and a most charming Air, with Variations, &c. so that no Performer

on the German Flute will be able to follow them without Notes.

2. A most magnificent and most curious Cabinet, which strikes its

Beholders with Admiration; its Form is an half oval Bureau of

Walnut–tree, inlaid with different Metals, Mother of Pearl, and

Wood of various Colours, in a manner which surpasses the Imagi–

nation; representing Hunting-Matches, Beasts, Flowers, Perspectives

and Prospects, so lively as Nature itself; …

… In short, to give an

ample Description of the whole, would require a Volume.

To be seen at Hickford's Room in Panton–street, near the Hay–

Market, from Ten o'Clock in the Morning till Eight in the Even–

ing, at Half a Crown each Person.

48 Public Advertiser (8384), 17 September 1761.

49 Public Advertiser (8420), 29 October 1761.

50 To be discussed further in the section on Frederick Neubauer.

51 Public Advertiser (8981), 23 August 1763.

52 The address given in this advertisement is the same as that given in the death notice of Roger Plenius, which confirms he died at the home of his son. We may therefore deduce that Roger had by this time been released from prison.

53 Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (12233), 18 May 1768. Baileys's British Directory, 1785 and Wakefield's Merchants and Tradesman's General Directory, 1790 also list Joseph Plenius, harpsichord maker, at 89, High Holborn, London. This may have been either a son, or perhaps grandson, of Roger.

54 General Evening Post (6281), 6 January 1774.

55 Privilegirte Hamburgische Anzeigen (98), 2 September 1754. We thank Professor Christian Ahrens for kindly providing us with a transcription of the original German text, which is reproduced below.

[Verkauf] In dem neuerbaueten brandmauernen Hause, gegen der große St. Michaelis Norder Kirchthüre über, auf den zwey Treppen hoch belegenen Saal, sind verschiedene musicalische Instrumenten zu verkauffen: Unter andern ist vorhanden ein neu inventirtes Clavicimbel de Amour, es hat die Figur einer stehenden Pyramide, mit 4 Vorder= und 2 Hinterthüren, hat im Baß zwey 16 füßige F. nebst einen 4 gestrichen F; 2 Register spielen den sogenannten Pantelong, so wohl Force als auch Piano, und 3 Register spielen ein durchdringendes Clavicimbel, und wird abermahl in ein Clavicimbel de Amour verändert; wie es ein jeder selbst wird sehen und hören können, wie weit es unpartheyische Kenner und Tonkünstler approbiren, indem aller eigene Ruhm sonst nichts, denn ein ehrbegieriges Herz verräth. Auch ist ein feines Clavicimbel vorhanden, von contra F bis 3 und 4 gestr. F. mit 3 Register und den Lautenzug; nebst ein sauberes Clarinetten Clavier von 5 Octaven; es hat auch dieses viel Fleiß, Speculation und Mühe erfordert, solche Töne und Bewegungen unters Clavier zu bringen; und endlich ein Clavichordium von 5 Octaven. Wer nun dieses alles zu spielen oder zu hören verlanget, bezahlt, für die dabey vorfallende Mühwaltung, 1 Marck Lübisch, und kann einem jeden alle Tage, Vor= und Nachmittags, so lange die Sachen noch gegenwärtig, darunter gedienet werden: wer aber etwas von denselben kauft, kann alles andere umsonst probiren. Auswärtige belieben sich an den Instrumentenmacher Frieder. Neubauer, in obangezeigter Wohnung, zu addreßiren.

56 For a fuller discussion of the problems in designing combination harpsichord-Pianoforte instruments see: Michael Cole, The Pianoforte in the Classical Era (Oxford, 1998), 237–53.

57 International Genealogical Index (I G I) record [Accessed 30 April 2011]. Catherina Rebecca, wife of Philip Burkinyoung, was later generally known as Catherine, the English version of her name. More daughters of this marriage include a second Charlotte (1765–1800), baptized 27 January 1765 (which implies that the first Charlotte had died in infancy), who later married Matthew Stodart, pianoforte maker on 4 January 1783 at St James, Westminster, and was buried at St James, Piccadilly, on 13 August 1800; and Catherine Elizabeth, baptized 10 Jan 1768, both at St James, Piccadilly.

58 Michael Cole, ‘The Twelve Apostles’, 20–5. The parish marriage register of St James, Piccadilly, for 13 August 1758 records ‘the marriage of Abraham Kirckman and Charlotte Neubauer (a minor) both of this parish, by licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the consent of Fredrick Neubauer, natural and lawful father of the minor in the presence of Fredrick Neubauer and Christopher Donner [signatures].’

59 Sales ledgers exist for the rival firm of Shudi, see Michael Cole, Broadwood Square Pianos (2005), 17–30.

60 Public Advertiser (8267), 6 May 1761. This pre-dates his previously known earliest London advertisement by two years. His name is wrongly spelt as ‘Newbawer’, probably a typesetter's error.

61 Universal Director (London, 1763).

62 Cole, Piano forte in the Classical Era, 46.

63 There is one surviving made by Heironymus Albrecht Hass, Hamburg, 1740, illustrated in Raymond Russell, The Harpsichord and Clavichord (London, 1959), n. 16.

64 Gazeteer and London Daily Advertiser (10862), 7 January 1764.

65 An extract from this advertisement reads:

… Like–

wise common, double, single and upright Harpsi–

chords, Piano, Fortes, Pantelony, &c. and a second–

hand Bureau Organ, to be purchased at a very mo-

derate Price, for the quick Disposal of them, by-

FREDERICK NEUBAUER, in Compton-Street,

the third Door from Princes-street, St. Ann's, Soho,

every Day from Twelve till Three …

Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser (10872), 21 January 1764.

In a repeat advertisement on 29 April 1765 he adds that he is seeking an apprentice; this is a further indication that he was anxious to pass on the knowledge of his skills before retiring, as a conscientious and expert craftsman would wish to do. By 1765 would have been around 60 years old.

66 Public Advertiser, 21 January 1765.

67 Public Advertiser (11023), 13 March 1770.


A Grand collection of Harpsichords to be

sold by Auction: sometime this month; the time and

place will be published. Consisting of double keyed and

double basset six stops, with many varieties; also double

keyed four stops, ditto short ones for small rooms, five stops

and several curious peddals; likewise a fine stock of octave,

and two unison harpsichords, &c. &c.

N.B. If ladies or gentlemen are pleased to try or buy any

of the same before the auction comes on, - the maker F.

NEUBAUER in Bridges-stree [sic], Covent Garden, facing the

Play-house, is ready to show the same at his apartments every

morning from ten to two o'clock Sundays excepted. Re-

pairing and tuning on the shortest notice.

Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (13396), 5 February 1772.

69 Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (13421), 5 March 1772.

70 Daily Advertiser (12857), 9 March 1772.

71 For Laurence Libin's extensive discussion of the Adam drawings see ‘Robert Adam's instruments for Catherine the Great’, Early Music, 39, no. 3 (2001), 355–67.

72 Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (366), 1 January 1774.

73 A. A. Tait, ‘The Sale of Robert Adam's Drawings’, The Burlington Magazine, 120 (904), (1978), 453 (n. 14). Tait cites Arthur Bolton as his source:

‘however, though in several cases the handwriting on the drawings and that in the manuscript catalogue of twenty-four of the volumes of 1816–18 is in William Adam's hand, in many cases the figuration was Miss Clerk's. … the method of dismemberment, trimming and numbering is common to almost all the surviving Adam drawings in Sir John Soane's Museum, at Penicuik House, and Blair Adam.’ Bolton, The Architecture of Robert and James Adam (1922), ii. 357.

Stephen Astley, Curator of Drawings at Sir John Soane's Museum (private communication, July 2011) has confirmed this view: ‘All the drawings that are dated are inscribed 1774. I think though that this date was put on them between c.1810 and 1822 when Susannah Clerk and William Adam jnr. were assembling the 58 albums of drawings, and not when the drawings were executed. I suspect they got the date from the plate in The Works which is signed and dated in the plate R Adam 1774.’

74 We thank Stephen Astley for kindly providing this additional information (private communication).

75 The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires (London, 1822; Mineloa, NY, 1980), 11. Note that the plate number has changed from no. 8 given in the first edition of Vol. 1 (1778) to no. 40 in the later complete edition.

76 Ibid., 12.

77 London Chronicle (3332), 11–14 April 1778.


ROBERT and JAMES ADAM, Esqrs. of the

Adelphi. Containing Designs for the King and Queen, and

her Royal Highness the late Princess Dowager of Wales,

&c. &c. with Explanations of the Plates in English and

French. The two Plates, coloured, are

1. A Ceiling, executed in the Queen's–house.

2. An Harpsichord of Inlaid Woods, done for the Em-

press of Russia.

Sold by Peter Elmsly, opposite Southampton–street, in

the Strand. Where may be had any of the former Numbers

of this elegant Work, or the whole in one volume, price

5l. 10s. plain, or 6l. 6s coloured. Morning Post and Daily Advertiser (1756), 4 June 1778.

79 For example, on 24 July 1760, Robert Adam wrote to his brother James:

I am thinking to have the Admiralty gateway engraved otherways they will do it by some person to put into the Magazines &c. which will give a very bad Idea of it to the Publick. Townshends Monum should also be engraved. I intend to send a Drawing of it & of Wolfes to you that you may get them done at Venice if you approve of the projects. But I think it is particularly essential to have Townshends well done, to prevent bad impression being conceived of it from bad Engravings going about. Eileen Harris, ‘Adam, Robert [1728–1792] and James [1732–1794)’, British Architectural Books and Writers 1556–1785 (Cambridge, 1990), 82.

80 Ibid., 71.

81 Ibid., 82

82 M. Jourdain, ‘The Works of Robert Adam’, Art Journal (1912), 66.

83 Morning Herald (1950), 24 January 1787.

84 Parish Register St Marylebone, London, burials. Frederick Neubauer 6 Nov. 1774. Unfortunately no age is given and therefore we cannot determine his birth year, as is often possible from this type of source.

85 Daily Advertiser (13705), 23 November 1774; (13707), 25 November 1774.

86 In his will, proved in 1794, Abraham Kirkman (TNA Prob 11/1124) made a small bequest to Philip Burkinyoung, whom he specifically identifies as his brother in law. See also n. 57 for details of several children of Philip Burkinyoung and his wife Rebecca Catherine. In 1782 Philip Burkinyoung married for a second time to a lady named Ann Proctor and we may therefore deduce that Catherine had died by this date.

87 The Creditors (if any) of Frederick Neubauer, late of

Compton-street, St. Ann Soho, Harpsichord-maker, de–

ceased, are immediately desired to bring in their Accounts to

Mr. P. Burkinyoung, Smith, in St. Ann's, or to Mr. A.

Kirkman, in Broad-streeet, Soho; and whoever is indebted to

the Estate of the said F. Neubauer, deceased, are forthwith de–

sired to pay it to the said P. Burkinyoung, or to Abraham

Kirkman. London Gazette (11523) 31 December 1774, 2.

89 Edward F. Rimbault, The Pianoforte; its Origin, Progress and Construction (London, 1860), 131.

88 Also known as Vietor and (in America) Victor, as we shall describe.

90 A passing reference to Viator appeared 20 years earlier in The Penny Cyclopaedia, 1840: ‘The first notion of the square piano-forte was taken from the clavichord by a German mechanic of the name Viator, about ninety or a hundred years ago; but for want of friends or funds he never became known as a maker.’ Anonymous, ‘Pianoforte’, The Penny Cyclopaedia of The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 18 (1840), 139.

91 Rosamond Harding, The Pianoforte – its History traced to the Great Industrial Exhibition, 1851 (Cambridge, 1933), 54; (based on her doctoral thesis completed 1931).

92 In the light of Harding's statement, it is noteworthy that the following notice appeared in the London press in October 1759: ‘A New invented Instrument called a FORTE PIANO, to be play'd on like a Harpsichord, lately Brought over by Gentleman from Abroad’ at a price of fifty Guineas, to be seen at ‘Mr. Horlock's, Surgeon, opposite the South Door of St. Paul's Church from the Hours of Two to Five, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.’ Public Advertiser (7795), 30 October 1759.

This timing fits perfectly with Harding's chronology; however, this gentleman is not identified by name. See also above and n. 112 for the statement by ‘Mr. Victor’ in an advertisement placed in a Philadelphia newspaper in 1775 that he had first arrived in London in 1759.

93 As we shall see, certain sources give his name as Viator, whilst in advertisements and on the nameboard of the extant piano it appears as Vietor.

94 Sold by Piano Auctions, London, 2007. Further information is given by Graham Walker on his website ‘The Early Piano’: [Accessed 21 May 2011].

95 Public Advertiser (9826), 2 May 1766.

96 Public Advertiser (100029), 23 December 1766.

97 Original text: ‘Mann nennt sie bisweilen Coelestin, vielleicht vom schoenen and fast himmlichen Klange’. Jacob Adlung, Anleitung zu der musikalischen Gelartheit (Erfurt, 1758), 559 ff, par. 254.

98 Public Advertiser (10376), 1 February 1768.

99 Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (12231), 16 May 1768.

100 Public Advertiser, London (10508), 5 July 1768.

101 [Accessed 1 June 2011].

102 Tower Hamlets Local history Archive, Document reference: TH/8662/3. Description: St George's Lutheran Church, sundry documents Includes accounts for years 1763–88; MS title: Protocollum/ at the Evangelical Lutheran / St George's Church begun the 8 of November 1763.

103 Protocollum/ at the Evangelical Lutheran / St George's Church, begun 8 November 1763. Bancroft Library, Tower Hamlets, London. TH/8662/3.

104 Since this payment was substantially greater than subsequent quarterly payments made to him, one may infer that Viator was appointed to this post about November 1763.

105 Baumgarten, Karl Friedrich (ca.1740–1824):

German organist, violinist and composer active in England. Baumgarten was born in Lubeck where he received his earliest training. He moved to England when he was about 18 and thereafter served as the organist of the Lutheran Church of the Savoy. He was also the ‘leader’ of the orchestra at Covent Garden.

106 Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (12466), 14 February 1769; Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (12810), 22 March 1770.

107 Old Bailey Proceedings: Accounts of Criminal Trials 15 May 1771. LL. ref: t17710515-6. London Lives: [Accessed 2 September 2011].

109 Augusta, Princess of Wales (1719–72), mother of George III.

110 Pennsylvania. Packet, 17 Oct. 1774, transcription quoted in Robert Rutherford Drummond, Early German Music in Philadelphia (2008), 39.

108 ‘The Early Piano’ website of Graham Walker: // [Accessed 1 May 2011].

113 Pennsylvania Gazette, 8 February 1775. Cited by Mary Jane Corry, Kate Van Winkle Keller and Robert M. Keller, The Performing Arts in Colonial American Newspapers, 1690–1783, Text Database and Index [Accessed 24 October 2012]. We wish to thank Thomas Strange for kindly drawing our attention to the four advertisements he has identified for ‘Mr Victor’ in Pennsylvania.

111 James A. Keene, A History of Music Education in the United States (2009), 78, also reports that H. B. Victor was active in music publishing in Philadelphia ‘supplying the four volume The Compleat Instructor for violin, flute, harpsichord and guitar. A dictionary of musical terms was advertised in the Pennsylvania Ledge, January 31, 1778.’

112 As discussed in n. 92, the year 1759 concurs with Harding's chronology for Viator's arrival in London.

114 Pennsylvania Ledger, 17 December 1777. Cited by Corry, Van Winkle Keller and Keller, The Performing Arts.

115 Pennsylvania Ledger, 25 February 1778. Cited by Corry, Van Winkle Keller and Keller, The Performing Arts.

116 Pennsylvania Packet, 14 November 1780. Cited by Corry, Van Winkle Keller and Keller, The Performing Arts.

117 Buried 7 June 1775, Parish register, St. Mary-le-bone Church. John outlived his father by only 18 months.

118 Marriage Allegation Bond, 7 May 1764, clearly signed by Johann Christian Plenius; this granted permission for the couple to marry at St Giles in the Fields, London (London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597–1921;, accessed 28 April 2012)

119 See Table 1, Documents 10:1, 10:2.

120 Listed in Universal Director, 1763.

121 See n. 54.

122 Parish register of St Mary-le-bone, 1763, 131.

123 See also n. 51.

124 See n. 20.

125 See n. 122.

126 See also n. 51.

127 See n. 54.

128 International Genealogical Index; retrieved 11 May 2011. In this index the maiden name of her mother has been incorrectly transcribed as ‘HAM’.

129 St Clement Danes Parish: Pauper Settlement, Vagrancy and Bastardy Exams, 24 April 1771. London Lives,> ref: WCCDEP35822058; [Accessed 12 May 2011].

130 Joseph is listed at this address in both Baileys's British Directory for 1785 and Wakefield's Merchants and Tradesman's General Directory for 1790.


Pioneer Piano Makers in London, 1737–74: Newly Discovered Documentary Sources

  • Margaret Debenham (a1) and Michael Cole (a2)


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