Kirkman Single Manual Harpsichord

Description (Brief)
This harpsichord was made by Jacob and Abraham Kirkman in London, England in 1776. It is a single manual harpsichord with a compass of FF - f3 (no FF#), and a disposition of 2 x 8’, 1 x 4’. This instrument has a spruce soundboard, and ivory naturals and ebony accidentals. There are three hand stops: one on bass side (octave 4’) and two on treble side of nameboard (first unison 8’, second unison 8’). The nameboard is inscribed: “Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1776.” The soundboard contains a 3” diameter rose of gilt metal with musical instruments and the initials “IK.”
The inseparable case is made of mahogany veneered wood with crotch mahogany panels with holly stringing and plain mahogany cross banding. The keyboard well has burl walnut veneer with holly stringing and light walnut cross banding.
This harpsichord was previously in the Morris Steinert Collection of Keyed and Stringed Instruments in New Haven, Connecticut. A Steinert catalog from the 1890’s describes this harpsichord as “formerly owned by Napoleon Bonaparte; was given, after his banishment to St. Helena, to a French sergeant, who bought it with him to this country, where he settled at Scituate, Mass. In 1833 he sold the instrument to Simon Bates, of Scituate Harbor Light, and by inheritance it passed into the hands of his son, James G. Bates, who is still alive, and from him into the possession of his daughter, Mrs. M. Wharff, now living at Gloucester, Mass., of whom M. Steinert purchased it.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Kirkman, Jacob
Kirkman, Abraham
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 36 3/4 in x 36 3/4 in x 87 1/4 in; 93.345 cm x 93.345 cm x 221.615 cm
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Music & Musical Instruments
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Hugo Worch
Additional Media

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