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Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman 1783


Date: 1783

Origin: London

Serialnumber: ---

This instrument by the company of Kirckman from 1783 represents an early example of the production of pianos in the changing time from harpsichord to piano. Kirckman which was renowned in the 18th century for making harpsichords expanded in the mid-1770s to offer also the newly coming up pianos.

The case of the small and elegant instrument is made of solid mahogany and richly decorated with inlaid ribbons of different woods. All around is a decorative profile strip made of bronze as can be also found on instruments from the “Regency Period“. The original stand on which the instrument rests is decorated on the sides with bronze applications.

The keyboard is made from ivory and ebony.

There are three stops for divided dampers and lute stop. The hammers are covered with leather and the instrument is double strung. The action is an English single action after Zumpe. The compass is 5 octaves FF, GG – f3 (without f-sharp in the bass).

The nameboard bears the signature in Latin:

“Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1783”

This instrument is an example of the work of company founder Jacob Kirckman and his nephew Abraham Kirckman. The entire instrument is characterized by its exact and high quality craftsmanship. It was in absolute original condition and showed no previous restoration.


Kirckman (Kirkman) was one of the most famous companies in harpsichord building in the late 18th century. The company was founded by Jacob Kirchmann (later anglicised in Kirckman / Kirkman) who was born on March 4th 1710 in Bischweiler in Alsace. The family originally came from Aargau in Switzerland. Jacob Kirchmann become a carpenter and went to England in the early 1730s. There he learned and worked for the famous harpsichord maker Hermann Tabel whose widow he married in 1738. In 1755 he became a British citizen. He died June 9th 1792 in Greenwich and was buried in the St. Alfege Church.

Abraham Kirckman, who was also born in Bischweiler on June 2nd 1737, was the nephew of Jacob Kirckman. He followed his uncle to London and in 1772 became his business partner. He died in April 1794 in Hammersmith.

Joseph Kirkman I. (1763 – 1830) was the son of Abraham Kirckman and followed his father in the family business, became a partner in 1789 and took over the company after the death of his father. (see: M. Clinkscale, “Makers of the Piano 1700 – 1820“)

The company’s oldest surviving harpsichord was made in 1744. Later, as the harpsichord slowly went out of fashion, the company specialized in pianos. (see: Grand Piano by Abraham et Josephus Kirckman 1789)

The last harpsichord by Kirkman was built in 1809.

All instruments were very well made and of extraordinary quality and craftsmanship. The writer Frances “Fanny” Burney (1752 – 1840), daughter of the well-known music historian and composer Charles Burney (1726 – 1814), described Jacob Kirkman as the best harpsichord maker of all time. For example in 1779 John Joseph Merlin expands a harpsichord by Jacob Kirckman with a down striking hammer action (now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, USA).

Here you will find a more detailed description of the company’s history Kirkman.


Other preserved instruments by Jacob & Abraham Kirckman:

  • 1778 Square Piano – Oberlin Conservatory of Music: Frederick R. Selch Center for American Music, Oberlin USA
  • 1779 Square Piano – Collection Susanne Shapiro, Los Angeles USA





Length: 151 cm

Width: 50 cm

Height: 21 cm

Circumference: 5 octaves – FF, GG – f3 (without f-sharp)

Mechanics: single action

Pedals: 3 stops for divided dampers and lute

Signature: "Jacobus et Abraham Kirckman Londini Fecerunt 1783"