Chickering & Sons Double Manual Harpsichord

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Description (Brief)
This harpsichord was made by Chickering and Sons in Boston, Massachusetts in 1908, under the direction of Arnold Dolmetsch. It is a double manual harpsichord with a compass of F - f3, and a disposition of 2 x 8’, 1 x4’. The instrument has a spruce soundboard and ebony covered naturals with gold-leaf arcades and ivory-capped accidentals. There are six pedals, left to right: front 8’ on, back 8’ off, back 8’ on, 4’ on, back 8’ buff on, and front buff on. The two buff stops are made of felt with leather nuts and there are capstan adjustment screws to regulate slide travel. The nameboard is inscribed: “CHICKERING.&.SONS.BOSTON.V.S.A. MCMVII. No.58.”
The inseparable outer case is painted black with gold bands. The lid flap is inscribed: “ACTA VIRUM PROBANT” (a proven record) and the lid is decorated with gold bands and inscribed: “SCIENTIA [/] NON HABET INIMI [/] CVM NISI IGORANTEM” (science has no enemies with only to the ignorant). There are three hinges of graduated lengths along the spine and three small hinges for the lid flap. The stand is painted black with four turned legs with stretchers and three turned spindles in the center of the long stretcher.
Arnold Dolmetsch, born into a Swiss family of musicians and craftsmen, learned piano and organ building from his father and grandfather where they lived in France. After traveling briefly to England, the United States, and Belgium, Dolmetsch settled in England to study music. There, he assembled an important collection of early instruments which formed a partial basis for those made by him. From 1905 to 1911, he had his own department at Chickering and Sons piano manufacturers in Boston, where he supervised the making of clavichords, harpsichords, lutes, and viols.
Dolmetsch will be remembered as a pioneer in the field of early music, not only in reproducing instruments appropriate to music of the renaissance and baroque, but also for his scholarly research into the performance of that music and for his own performances and those of his family and pupils.
This harpsichord was refurbished in 1984 by Thomas and Barbara Wolf in Washington, DC. It is currently used in concerts on featured on recordings by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society.
Recordings currently available can be found at the following link:
Currently not on view
date made
Chickering & Sons
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
paint (overall material)
overall: 12 1/2 in x 38 1/4 in x 95 in; 31.75 cm x 97.155 cm x 241.3 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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