21st February 2020

As we introduce you to some of the instruments in the collection, we wanted to start with the lovely litte spinet.

Spinet attrib. Cawton Aston, London, circa 1700

The attribution of this spinet to the English builder, Cawton Aston, is derived from the letters CA which are written in ink upon the lowest key lever. The instrument is made of walnut, with a spine of spruce – a type of composite construction that appears characteristic of some northern European instruments of the seventeenth century and later.

Other examples built in this style include English virginals and some early French harpsichords. The spine is the part of the instrument that was normally placed next to a wall, so the use of a different (and cheaper) wood would not be noticed. The interior of the instrument, veneered in cypress, with a panelled front board and profiled key cheeks, gives an Italian appearance and provide a pleasing contrast to the dark walnut of the exterior and lid.

The natural keys are ebony and the accidentals solid ivory. These former have gothic trefoil decoration (known as “arcardes”) in stamped paper, painted black, on the ends of the levers.

As is usual with English instruments from this period onwards, the soundboard is varnished. This contrasts with contemporary European instruments which are left untreated.

Compass: GG/BB(broken octave) – d3