Custom Instruments

Italian 17th Century
Single-Manual Harpsichords

After Anon., ca. 1600

original or extended range

After Boni, 1619

original or extended range


Italian single-manual harpsichord in outer caseDuring the 16th century, northern Italy became the world center of harpsichord making. Prior to the last decade of the century Italian makers enjoyed an almost complete monopoly of their trade. It is not surprising, therefore, that Italian harpsichords were the commonest of all harpsichords on the continent even into the baroque era. They were typically used as continuo instruments accompanying vocal and instrumental music. They are short-scaled and as a result their sound characteristically has a sharper attack and quicker decay than that of Flemish or French harpsichords. It is this clarity of voice that distinguishes Italian harpsichords from later instruments. Rimmed with delicate mouldings and carved cheeks, this fragile, slender instrument was often inserted into a more sturdy box decorated on the exterior.

The Italian harpsichords we offer both have an 18th century range of C - d''', 51 notes, chromatic, transposing. One is largely based on the anonymous instrument of about 1600 in the Raymond Russell Collection, Edinburgh. This instrument began its life with 2 sets of strings but 57 notes and had many split sharps.  The other, by Boni, 1619, originally had a short-octave, 45-note range (C/E-c''') and several split sharps but only one set of strings. Either is also available in its prototype's original form and disposition.  Both are lightly constructed of natural Mediterranean cypress, Port Orford or Alaska yellow cedar, depending on availability. The keyboards have bone, degamé, or boxwood (if available) naturals with ebony-capped dark hardwood sharps. The instruments are provided with turned and carved legs. They may also be fitted with a traditional outer case, either painted or veneered in walnut.

Italian single-manual harpsichords – Offering Sheet


Listen To It...
You can hear an excerpt from a demonstration CD we have prepared for this instrument (after anon.):

  • Long Sample  - 1,100K 192 kpbs mp3 file (51 seconds)

~ A Note About The Files ~
Not all mp3 files are equal!  The sound of a harpsichord is particularly difficult to compress satisfactorily. The bit rate we have chosen for these samples is the lowest that reproduces the original recording with negligible loss.  Download times will vary widely depending on your setup and the quality of your connection.   On a 28K Internet connection, the shorter sound sample may take from about 5 to over 10 minutes to download. If you have a fast connection (T1, cable modem, DSL) please try the long sample - you may expect download times substantially under a minute.

~ Problems Playing the File ~
If you cannot play the file through your web browser, PC users with the Microsoft browser can right click on the link, then choose the "Save target" option to download the file, then use an MP3 player (or a the Windows media player) to listen to it.

We now have available a demonstration CD of the Italian single-manual harpsichord ($10.00 ppd. in U.S.). Please - inquire via our contact form.


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updated: 11/13/03