[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]


This harpsichord, the most expensive of Kirckman’s models, was far beyond ordinary means. Nevertheless, it placed at the command of one who could afford it, an impressive array of sounds. With its two keyboards, three sets of strings and two pedal-operated devices, it had the most up-to-date specification. The left pedal facilitates quick changes in tone colour and volume. The right pedal operates a Nag’s head swell which creates gradations in volume by lifting and lowering the front portion of the lid. Its buff stop applies a set of leather pads to the strings giving a muffled, less percussive sound, and the lute stop plucks the strings very close to one of its end points yielding a very nasal sound.

English harpsichords of this era represent both the instrument's apogee and the heralding of its eventual eclipse by the piano. During this extended period of transition, music began to demand expressive effects, such as the creation of gradual crescendo and diminuendo within a single phrase, which were more easily accomplished on an instrument with touch sensitive dynamics, like the piano.

See full details Description

Harpsichord with two keyboards. Five octaves, F1, G1 - F6 (FF-f3, no FF sharp), 60 notes. Two eight foot registers, one four foot register, lute register, buff stop to front eight foot, machine stop and nag's head lid swell. The left pedal operates the machine stop (pedal up: lower manual 2x8 + 4, upper manual 1x8. pedal down: lower manual 1x8, upper manual 1x 8 (lute)). One rose. The instrument is now in playing condition. The swell mechanism was partially removed during a restoration in 1959 and reinstated during the restoration of 2013.


Musical Instruments

1 item (description level: top)

314.122-6-8 True board zithers with resonator box (box zithers) sounded by plectrum, with keyboard
Broad category
Musical Instruments, Chordophone
Additional names, titles, or classifications
catalogue name:  harpsichord
object name:  harpsichord
catalogue title:  314.122-6-8 True board zithers with resonator box (box zithers) sounded by plectrum, with keyboard

Additional maker information
maker:  Kirckman, Jacob
maker:  Kirchkman, Jacob
London, England, UK, British Isles, Western Europe, Europe
Additional place information
made:  London 
Date made
Additional date information
date made:  1772 
West European
Additional culture information
maker:  German 
maker or user:  West European 

Materials & techniques
wood; brass; ivory; ebony; iron; wool
Additional material & technique information
material: ebony (accidental keys)
material: wool (dampers)
material: brass (hinges and hooks)
material: iron (machine stop parts)
material: ivory (natural key coverings)
material: wood (overall)
overall: 2366 x 930 x 317 mm
Additional measurement information
overall: 2366 x 930 x 317 mm

auctioneer:  Sotheby & Co.  Undefined - 1972-06-29

Inaugural performance by Jane Chapman on 29 January 2014, at launch of At Home With Music exhibition.

Further reading
Khurana, Suanshu, 2015. Of clefs and chords.The Indian Express, [online] 21 May. Available at: [Accessed on 21 May 2015], 440, 5-5a (catalogues)
12-13 (catalogues)
50-53 (describes similar)

Related objects
contains harpsichord (1972.211.1)
Related people
used by: Cave, Penelope
Related subjects
maker: German
maker or user: West European
object name: harpsichords
title: 314.122-6-8 True board zithers with resonator box (box zithers) sounded by plectrum, with keyboard

Record created 1999-12-26
Record last updated 2019-08-03

Collections information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. More information on the objects listed on our website.

This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be some errors. The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us.