The restoration and conservation of historical keyboard instruments

(harpsichords, spinets, virginals, clavichords and early pianos):

Some general guidelines

This paper may be quoted in part or in its entirety with permission from the author  


Preconditions to the restoration of an historical stringed keyboard instrument of the harpsichord, spinet, virginal, clavichord or fortepiano type.


          Virtually all surviving instruments from the historical period are unique examples of their kind.  But many instruments are currently being restored without regard to their historical features and the important information that the instrument - and its features contain.  An un-restored example of such unique pieces needs always to be considered as an important document bursting with important information about the instrument's original state, about its state during the historical period, and about its modern history.  If an instrument has never been restored since it was first built, then it should be considered primarily as a document of historical practice rather than as the potential object of restoration to playing condition.  All of the elements of the instrument discussed below may have to be removed or altered in a restoration.  There can be no doubt that the information lost in this way can not replace the small amount of information gained by actually hearing the instrument.  The generally-accepted solution to this problem is to make a copy of the instrument in one of its important historical states, and then to leave the original un-restored.  In this respect it is important to document the original as much as possible, but always with non-invasive processes that leave the original instrument and its components un-touched.  Careful measurements of the case dimensions, the string lengths, the keys and keyboard(s), the soundboard thicknesses, etc., a listing of the materials used in the construction of the instrument, an analysis of the unit of measurement used in its construction, an analysis of the string-scaling design, along with the case, keyboard, and soundboard design are all of intense interest and importance to our knowledge of instruments and instrument building.  Analyses can be made of the external finish and decoration, whether it is painted, gilded, oiled, varnished, lacquered, etc. in order to understand this aspect of the instrument.  Original strings do not need to be removed in order to be considered as having come from the historical period (see O'Brien, 2010 in the Select Bibliography below).  As a result of the huge number of misinformed restorations of the past the existence of traces of historical strings on instrument is very rare indeed.  Therefore if there is even the slightest possibility that the strings on a stringed keyboard instrument are from the historical period, they need to be treated with the utmost caution as explained in O'Brien, 2020 at the end of this document.

            The history of the instrument, the instrument’s place in the composition and development of the music of the period contemporary with its construction, and a study of the maker’s biography and professional development are all an important part of the instrument’s documentation.  It is important to remember that the questions we are asking about musical instrument technology today are probably naïve compared to the questions that will be asked in 100 years time.  Therefore many of the features that we consider unimportant today may well be considered of great importance and significance in the future.  If these 'unimportant' features are removed or lost from an instrument through restoration today, investigators in the future will be deprived of essential information when they come to examine those instruments that we have under our fingers today.

            Therefore a balance has to be struck in a restoration between gain and loss.  A careful analysis of what would be gained and lost should always be made before a restoration is begun.  Often this will require a considerable amount of research on the part of the restorer comparing the instrument to be restored with other instruments of the same type and period or, if possible, with instruments by the same maker and of the same date.  Putative clients should ideally be given and prepared to pay for a restoration proposal in which the background information is analysed and in which the gain and loss balance is assessed.

  1. If the possibility of the restoration of an historical stringed keyboard instrument is considered, then it must be clear that the instrument, after it is restored, is physically capable of withstanding the resulting string tension and the sort of wear and tear that a keyboard instrument is subjected to during playing.  Either an instrument is capable of withstanding string tension or it is not.  This is not a case where compromise is meaningful.  If the instrument is too weak to withstand the tension of strings of the correct diameter, then it should not be strung with smaller diameter strings in order to reduce the tension.  Similarly the instrument should be tuned to the correct pitch and not to some un-historical lower pitch which would also give strings at a lower tension.  No scientific purpose is served by such compromises, since the tonal qualities of the instrument will clearly be different from those the instrument would have if it were correctly strung with strings of the correct diameter and tuned to the correct pitch.  In the case of clavichords the playing properties are also distorted by the use of light stringing or a low pitch.  The result is misleading and leads to misinformation both about the sound and about the playing qualities of these instruments.  Hence any possible advantage of the restoration is totally negated. 

  2. The restoration of an instrument always results in the loss of information.  This loss needs to be set against the obvious benefits of hearing its sound when used in private or public performance.  The way an instrument plays and feels under the fingers is also important to our understanding of historical performance practice.  It is often necessary to replace broken, worn or deteriorated parts with new ones.  Such a procedure may affect the resulting sound of the instrument, but equally it may affect the way it plays.  The replacement of worn or broken quills and dampers, the replacement of action cloths, old strings, hammer coverings and clavichord listing cloth may lead to the loss of important information about the way the instrument was originally set up and regulated.  Such information affects not only the instrument itself but also the application of this information to other instruments being restored and to copies of these information.  Such factors are critical both to how an instrument plays and also to how it sounds.  This aspect of an instrument’s restoration can have profound effects on the performer and how the music is interpreted.  How an instrument plays is also something that has not been appreciated in the past when instruments have undergone restoration.  Things like key travel, plucking order, lost key motion before and after plucking, the cutting of jack dampers, etc. are all very important to the player and performance practice, and are often things that are altered in a restoration.  Once lost this information can never again be recovered.

  3. The restoration of an instrument should be preceded by intense study of all aspects of the instrument's physical state, of its history, of the materials used in its construction, of the design principles used by the original maker and any other historical maker who may have intervened.  The treatments of the surfaces should be analysed carefully both in order to try to discover the original treatment and any subsequent historical treatment.  Re-waxing, re-polishing, re-painting, etc of instrument's surfaces may result in a total loss of any indication of what the original treatment was.  The new methods developed by me for the determination of the use of the local unit of measurement should be used in order to ascertain where the instrument was made.  This can provide valuable information about where the instrument was made, about how it was designed, about where to look for other similar instruments which can be used for comparison, etc.

  4. There are many non-destructive analyses, such as X-ray fluorescence analysis for example, that can provide an enormous amount of information about an instrument and its component parts.  Wherever possible this type of analysis should be undertaken as part of the pre-restoration study before the actual restoration is even considered, as such analysis may reveal features and properties of the components not previously suspected, or properties that are characteristic and individual to the maker.


            If it is decided that the physical state of an instrument is sufficiently robust that it can be correctly strung and correctly tuned, and if the gain strongly overbalances the loss resulting from the restoration, then it may be decided that the restoration should go ahead.  But before this decision is reached, I feel that there are, in addition, four further conditions that must be met before an instrument should be restored: 

  1. As indicated above, if the instrument is unique, if it is in a unique state of survival with many original features, if it is the only extant example by a given builder, or if has important historical connections either with an historical event or a historical composer, for example, it should simply NOT be restored. 

  2. There must be some musical benefit resulting from the restoration of the instrument such as regular concerts, occasional use by students, recordings, etc.

Without any musical and scientific benefit, the restoration of a keyboard instrument serves no purpose whatsoever.  If the instrument is not played and heard regularly after the instrument is restored, then important information about the ephemera is lost during the restoration and nothing is gained.

            On the other hand, access to restored keyboard instruments in museums and public collections must also be restricted in some effective and clearly defined way.  The mechanical parts of the instruments are subject to wear during playing in rehearsal and performance, and the amount of wear must be reduced as much as possible, while at the same time giving the public and serious students of the early keyboard repertoire access to the special sound, playing qualities and musical possibilities provided by these instruments.  One method might, for example, be to restrict the use of any instrument to one recording or public concert per year, and the playing time on any instrument by a musician or member of the public to 20 minutes per week.  In this way one can balance the benefit received from the instruments against the inevitable wear to which the instruments are subjected through their use.

            Instruments should not, however, be restored just for a single concert or recording nor for restoring it just to improve its appearance as a piece of furniture.  The musical use of an instrument should be long-term and on a regular, if infrequent, basis.  An instrument that is restored just for a single concert or recording soon deteriorates, and the information lost from the basic structure and integrity of the instrument during the course of the restoration is then lost with very little benefit to science or culture as a result.


3) After the restoration the instrument must be constantly kept under the correct environmental conditions for that instrument.

            A constant relative humidity around 55% will prevent the distortion and un-gluing of wooden parts, the corrosion of metal parts and the formation of mould (Aspergillus or Penicillium) on leather and glued joints.  Unless a dependable humidification system is available to maintain the humidity in the instruments restored condition at a constant level around 50 - 55%, the instrument should not be restored.  Central heating should not be turned on in a room with stringed keyboard instruments in it during the winter unless there is adequate reliable provision for constant humidity.  Normally this means that a back-up system should be provided in case the primary system fails.  Closed glass or wooden display cases often lead to conditions of too high a humidity and the formation of mould and the loosening of glued joints.

            Temperatures of 16-18ºC are within the range suited to human comfort.  In the summertime the temperature may exceed this, in which case the humidity should be monitored lest it rise above 60% when mould growth is both possible and likely.  In the wintertime, keeping the temperature low in conditions where humidification is not provided can help to maintain the humidity around 50%.  It is much more important that the humidity be kept near 50 - 55% than that the temperature be kept at a level that is comfortable to humans.  The temperature at which keyboard instruments are kept is much less important than the humidity.  But hot, centrally-heated rooms generally mean low humidity; low temperatures often mean high humidity.  In general, musical instruments should be maintained under constant conditions of humidity and temperature whatever they may be even if the ideal conditions are not attainable.  But in no case should the humidity vary greatly either diurnally or annually, nor should it arrive at levels outside the 45% to 65% extremes.  In cases where a large number of personnel are involved, and the constant provision of central heating is important throughout the winter, then it is important to have a back-up humidification system in case the primary humidification system should fail.  This ‘fail-safe’ provision of humidity is one that is often forgotten when the acclimatisation plant of a museum or of a private collection is planned.

            If an instrument has always been in a house, museum or stately home where there is no central heating, then it is much better for the instrument to be kept under the conditions prevalent in the past than to install humidification which then breaks down or is not maintained after, say, a year’s use.


4) There must be an available person with sufficient expertise to carry out occasional minor repairs, and most importantly, able to recognise major problems if they arise.

            A keyboard instrument will soon degenerate back into a condition as bad or worse than its un-restored state if it does not receive regular tuning and maintenance.


The Decision about Whether or Not to Restore an Instrument

            No ethical restorer should agree to carry out the restoration of an instrument under the care of a public or private owner unless it is completely clear that the conditions listed above can be met.

            The restoration of a musical instrument inevitably results in a loss of information because it is necessary to change various aspects of the instrument from that which it had in its original condition.  Strings are removed, hammer leathers are replaced, quills are replaced, and the regulation and adjustment of the action is altered.  All of these procedures remove information forever about the original or historical state of the instrument.  To many people the restoration of an instrument means its conservation, that is, it means preservation of all of its features,  acoustical, playing and musical properties and original materials.  But restoration usually involves destruction of a large amount of information about an instrument of the type which is generally felt to be important to preserve.  Therefore it should be entirely clear that the musical advantages of the restoration of an instrument clearly outweigh the disadvantages in terms of the information that will be lost or destroyed during the restoration.  In many cases an instrument will already have been restored, and much evidence of its original state has already been lost.  But even in such circumstances important information about the instrument will often have to be further altered in a subsequent restoration.

            It should also be understood that the instrument, once restored, should be maintained in a useful playable state in perpetuity.  Once an instrument is restored there is no going back.  If the information about the original state of the instrument is destroyed it cannot be recovered later.  The restoration of an instrument is an irreversible and major event in its history.

The decision to restore a keyboard instrument is not one to be taken lightly, and should therefore be given careful thought before work is initiated.


The Conservation of un-restored Keyboard Instruments

            Just because an instrument has not been restored does not mean that it should be allowed to deteriorate further.  It should be preserved in its current state, retaining all of its features whether they are ephemeral or not and whether they are original to the time of the instruments construction or not.  The usual enemies of all old objects:  high light levels, polluted and unstable climate, dust and dirt, moths and woodworm, misuse, and overuse are all to be avoided.  Acceptable levels of visible and ultraviolet light are known, and measuring instruments are available to measure these levels.  Filters are commercially available for the reduction of both infra-red and ultraviolet light.            The most common pest found in keyboard instruments is furniture beetle (commonly known as woodworm) (Oligomerus ptilinoides).  Wooden instruments, where there is evidence of woodworm activity in the past, should be treated to eliminate any possible insect larval infestation.  There are no known deleterious effects caused to musical instruments through fumigation with methyl bromide, although the safest treatment involves immersing the instrument in an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon for an extended period so that, lacking oxygen over an extended period, any insect pests are literally suffocated.  This does, however mean that the instrument needs to be kept at a relative humidity of 50% when the nitrogen or argon are introduced.  Most fumigation facilities do not make provision for maintaining (or even introducing) humidity during oxygen starvation procedures. 

            Clearly no instruments which have not been treated to eliminate insect infestation should be introduced into an exhibition or storage area unless they have been treated against infestation so that infection of the insect-free instruments does not occur.  There should be a regular inspection of the instrument and especially of its interior to check for possible woodworm infection from other sources.

            Liquid treatments against woodworm are not satisfactory since it is impossible for the liquid treatment to reach the flight holes left by the woodworm infestation inside the inaccessible interior part of the instruments.  Liquid treatments also affect the colour and appearance of the wood and they cause a change in the colour of painted surfaces.  In the case of instruments not made entirely of organic material, they cause corrosion of metal parts, especially those of copper and brass.

            In addition it is clear that un-restored stringed keyboard instruments should not be kept under normal string tension indefinitely as this normally leads to distortion of the structure of the instrument.  Keyboard instruments kept in storage should be covered with a cotton sheet or cloth to keep out dust and to help to moderate any temperature and humidity fluctuations around the instrument.  Like any museum object, no instrument should be kept wrapped and sealed in plastic sheeting or bubble wrap since this often leads to the production of a microclimate within the sealed environment and this, in turn, often leads to too high a humidity and both the production of mould and to the weakening or opening of glued joints.  It is therefore important that any covering should be microscopically porous and able to breathe and to allow air and humidity transfer.  If preserved separately, metal parts need to stored carefully in acid-free envelopes, inert plastic containers, etc.  Strings, hinges, pins, hooks, etc. should never be stored in ordinary paper envelopes and only acid-free paper should be used in labelling them.  Gummed paper or tape should never be used to mark or label parts, whether of wood, metal, ivory, cloth, etc. 

            Keyboard instruments are made from wood, metal, leather, parchment, gut, bone, ivory, horn, paper, felt and cloth, and their outer surfaces are varnished, lacquered, French polished or oiled.  Often the instrument is further decorated with oil paint, gouache, egg tempera, gold leaf or bronze powder.  Because of the complexity of the restoration and conservation of musical instruments, the procedures used in the conservation and restoration of these different materials and surfaces they are best left to specialists in each of the corresponding fields.  But such specialist experts must be under the control and supervision of the chief restorer who must be the individual who takes overal charge of the restoration.  In this case the specialist restorers must be made aware of the special need in keyboard instruments of retaining the original acoustical and mechanical properties.  The need to fulfil mechanical operations and the need to fulfil acoustical requirements is unique in the field of restoration and conservation, and one that places many severe constraints on the restorer that he would normally not otherwise encounter.  Normally a restorer is only interested in the visual aspect of the object being restored, but in a musical instrument the additional factors of retaining the original acoustical and mechanical properties of the instrument impose very serious limitations on how the restorer is able to carry out his work.  Instrument makers are usually not qualified to carry out this sort of work since they are not experts in the conservation treatments of the many different materials used in the manufacture and decoration of keyboard instruments.

            Treat the conservation of un-restored musical instruments with care and caution and leave the work to experts.  The restoration to playing condition of keyboard instruments should be undertaken only after the advantages and disadvantages of the restoration have been considered and balanced very carefully.



Some further thoughts from my book on the Ruckers family - published in 1990 but still current and just as valid now as it was then:


            In my book Ruckers.  A Harpsichord and Virginal Building Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990; digital reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 2008) Chapter 12, page 233, I conclude:

"Ruckers instruments in modern times

            The research carried out for this book has been based primarily on the surviving Ruckers instruments, and not on archival or literary sources.  A fairly complete picture of the Ruckers tradition of instrument building has been made possible mostly because there is a large number of surviving instruments from which information has been gathered.  Having assembled the material for this book one thing now stands out very clearly to me.  It has been the un-restored instruments, the neglected instruments and the unaltered instruments that have been the most important sources of information and discovery.  Here and there features original to the instruments from Ruckers' time, or from the time of their ravalement in the eighteenth century have survived, but this has been more by chance than by the serious intent of the owners or restorers of the instruments.  Restoring instruments to playing condition obviously means that they can then again fulfil the original purpose for which they were conceived, and I am the first to admit that the restoration of instruments is beneficial to our understanding of the contemporary music written for them.  But the restoration of a musical instrument results in it having to carry out functions that are required of no other object normally subjected to conservation;  namely it must function mechanically and acoustically.  Imposing these two conditions on top of the conservation of the wood, paintwork, metal, leather, cloth, paper, and bone has very serious consequences.

            For one thing it means that the ephemera are normally lost, or their original relationship to the instrument is destroyed even if they are conserved alongside the instrument.  Original strings, quills, dampers, keyboard action cloths, leather registers and the like have a limited lifetime and cannot go on being used in a playing instrument forever.  The discovery of an original (or even eighteenth-century quill) in an instrument is a rarity, but is of great importance to our understanding of the way clavecimbels were regulated.  The quill is of interest when removed from its jack, but its real value organologically is in its original position in the jack and in the instrument.  The properties of a piece of original wire on a tuning pin are changed by the very process of removing it from a tuning pin.  Yet that piece of wire is capable of telling us something about the original pitch of the instrument if it is handled in the right way and the correct measurements are made using it.  Left on the tuning pin it at least retains all of its original properties; what are its chances of survival at the end of the next hundred years if removed?  It should be obvious to the reader of this book that it has been the study of these very ephemera which has been one of the things that has yielded up a large amount of information about the action and regulation of the Ruckers instruments in their original states.  But there is doubtless a lot more information still to be recovered from Ruckers instruments, and certainly a great deal from other instruments of all periods.  Providing, that is, that enough instruments remain un-restored, unaltered and undamaged.

            Also because of the scarcity of Ruckers instruments in their original state, there has often been the temptation to remove alterations made to instruments after they were originally built.  These alterations were often carried out by competent eighteenth-century harpsichord builders such as Taskin, Goujon, Hemsch, Kirckman, Shudi, Bull, or Fleischer.  These later builders were each working in their own tradition in an effort to improve or modernize the instruments according to contemporary standards.  The alterations they carried out are therefore just as important to our knowledge of the history of music, instrument making and performance practice as are the surviving Ruckers instrument in their original state.  Even if an alteration or ravalement is anonymous, who is to say that future research will not discover who carried it out?

            To undo the work of these late seventeenth- or eighteenth-century builders has two important effects.  First, in general it destroys evidence of an historical practice which tells us a great deal about musical style and needs during the period after that in which the Ruckers worked.  The compass, disposition and scalings of the altered instruments are all as important to our knowledge of musical history as the contemporary eighteenth-century instruments built in the native style.  In particular, evidence of the individual practice of specific builders, and the way they approached the problem of carrying out an alignment or ravalement is destroyed when an instrument is returned to its original state.  Second, returning an instrument to its original state usually involves a great deal of alteration to the fabric of the instrument, and this destroys evidence not only of the altered state but also of the original state as well.  It also means that usually new material in the form of wood, cloth or leather, must be added to the instrument which has no relevance to its past history.

            There may also be the temptation to take an instrument only part way back to its original state.  For example, a single converted to a ravalé double may be taken back to its 'original' state with one manual and its original compass.  But leaving it with a 2 x 8', 1 x 4' disposition gives it a new non-historical state which represents no previous state nor historical practice.  The course which causes the least damage and alteration to the instrument, and which preserves the greatest possible amount of organological and musicological information is to restore the instrument to the form which it had during its last period of genuine musical use.  This means that a Ruckers harpsichord with any sort of a ravalement, alignment or alteration should not, in general, be restored to its original or any previous state, but rather to the most recent state of legitimate historical use.

            Recently, particularly over the past 20 years, there has been an enormous resurgence in interest in early music and early keyboard instruments.  Coming in parallel with an interest in traditional methods of construction of clavecimbels inspired mostly by Russell and Hubbard, has been an interest in authentic performance practice.  This, in turn, has resulted in a tremendous pressure and demand for restored early keyboard instruments.  But unfortunately our understanding of the instruments and their technology has not kept pace with this demand.  As new instruments are discovered and pulled out of dusty attics, they are often instantly whipped into playing order with very little understanding of or respect for the features they exhibit in their un-restored state.  Few restorers today have the time - because of commercial pressures - or the inclination to do a thorough documentation of the instruments which come to them for restoration.  And many museums and public collections are just as guilty.

            As a result, a great deal of information about these instruments is being lost and, because of the fact that new instruments are turning up more infrequently, the possibility of recovering this information from the few remaining un-restored instruments is becoming less and less likely.  Fragments or complete strings which are old and possibly original are removed and often destroyed without recording even the note on the instrument from which they came.  Keyboard cloths are replaced without first measuring the depth of touch of the keyboards.  The length of jacks are altered without noting the original lengths or plucking order.  The original keyboard cloths in conjunction with the original jacks and quills can give the lost motion before the first jack has plucked and after the last.  Bird quill is replaced by plastic plectra, and the original plectrum holes in the tongues, shaped to suit the natural quills, are distorted to accept the modern material.  When the baseboard of an instrument is removed, a wealth of information is available.  The framing, soundboard barring, case materials, etc. are all readily accessible.  Also it is when the baseboard of the instrument is removed that it is easiest to measure the soundboard thickness either mechanically or with an electromagnetic thickness gauge.  Not to record details such as these is, in my opinion, an organological sin.

            There is now a distinct need for a reduction in the rate at which instruments are being restored.  Ruckers instruments, and other instruments of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, are especially in need of being considered in a category of their own.  There are few authentic instruments by the Ruckers left and even fewer which are in a sufficiently robust state that restoration to a playing state can even be considered.  Of special importance are those few instruments which are basically in their original state, and which might be capable of restoration.  Because such instruments are extremely rare indeed, they must be restored with the utmost caution.

            In the past the prestige of a museum, and of private collectors of instruments, has been based upon the number of restored and playing instruments they have in their care.  If careful organological studies such as the present one are to be made in the future, then there will have to be a total change in the attitude of museums, musicians, conservators, and restorers to the restoration to playing condition of musical instruments.  Museums and collectors will have to be seen to be prestigious because they are not restoring unique, unaltered, or delicate instruments.  A great deal of information about the musical and technological background of an instrument can be obtained without restoring it.  Instruments can be measured, X-rayed, drawn, and the individual components can be analysed in a non-interactive way (such as using X- ray fluorescence and photogrammetry).

            Unless there is a drastic re-thinking of the way we approach the restoration of musical instruments, the prospects for the future of Ruckers instruments, and for all musical instruments, is very bleak indeed."



Select bibliography dealing with the ethics of conservation and restoration of musical instruments:


1986       ‘Restauro, conservazione e recuperio di antichi strumenti musicali:  atti del convengno internazionale, Modena, 2-4 aprile 1982’, Biblioteca (Historiae Musicae Cultores), Nº 40 (L.S. Olschki, Florence, 1986).


1986     ‘Report of the conservation and security working group’, CIMCIM Newsletter, Special issue (1986) 69-87.

BARCLAY, Robert L.

1989  1989    ‘Ethics in the conservation and restoration of early brass instruments’, Historic Brass Society Journal, 1 (1989) 79.

1997    Editor:  The Care of Historic [sic] Musical Instruments, (Museums and Galleries Commission, Canadian Conservation Society, CIMCIM, Edinburgh, 1997).


1969     ‘Some restoration problems in the Russell Collection’, Studia Musico-Museologica.  Bericht über das Symposium:  Die Bedeutung, die optische und akustische Darbeitung und die Aufgabe einer Musikinstrumentensammlung, (1969) 117-25.

1979     Review: ‘Making musical instruments, ed. Charles Ford’, FoMRHI Quarterly, no15 (April 1979) 24-8.

1980a   ‘Does restoration destroy evidence?’, Early Music, 8, Nº 2 (1980) 213-18.

           ‘Instruments, restoration of’, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie editor, 9 (London, 1980) 254-55.

1982     ‘Keyboard restoration’, FoMRHI Quarterly, no.26 (January 1982) 24-5.

1988     ‘UK conservation standards and accreditation’, FoMRHI Quarterly, no.52 (July 1988) 28.

BERNER, Alfred; van der MEER, J.H.; and THIBAULT-de CHAMBURE, G.

1967      Preservation and Restoration of Musical Instruments, Provisional Recommendations, (The International Council of Museums, Evelyn, Adams & Mackay, London, 1967).


1995    'Art as Power in the Decoration of the Study of an Italian Renaissance Prince: The Case of Federico Da Montefeltro', Artibus et Historaie, 16, 31 (1995) pp. 19-50.


CORTEA, Ioana Maria, GHERVASE, Luminia, RATOIU, Lucian, DINU, Monica and Rădvan, Roxana

2020     'Uncovering hidden jewels: an investigation of the pictorial layers of an 18th-century Taskin harpsichord', Heritage Science,
 8, 55 (2020).


FORD, Charles (General Editor)

1979     Making Musical Instruments, Strings and Keyboards, (Faber & Faber, London & Boston; Pantheon, N.Y., 1979).


1989     ‘Inert atmosphere fumigation of museum objects’, Studies in Conservation, 34, Nº2, (May, 1989) 80-4.

1991     ‘The effects of low oxygen atmospheres on museum pests’, Studies in Conservation, 36, Nº2 (May, 1991) 93-8.

HELLWIG, Friedemann

1969     ‘Aufgabenstellung und Methode bei der Restaurierung von Musikinstrumenten’, Studia Musico-Museologica.  Bericht über das Symposium die Bedeutung, die optische und akustische Darbeitung und die Aufgaben einer    Musikinstrumentensammlung, (Nuremberg/Stockholm, 1969) 103-12.

1973-7  ‘The care of musical instruments.  A technical bibliography for conservators, restorers and curators’, CIMCIM Newsletter, 1 (1973), 3/4 (1975-76), 5 (1977).

1976c   ‘Die besonderen Probleme der Restaurierung alter Musikinstrumente in der nicht spezialisierten Werkstatt’, Arbeitsblätter für Restauratoren, (Münster, 1976-78) 88-97.

1978     ‘Die röntgenographische Untersuchungen von Musikinstrumenten’, Maltechnik - Restauro, 2, Nº 2 (Munich, 1978) 103-15.

1979a   ‘Restoration and conservation of historical musical instruments’, Making Musical Instruments, Charles Ford editor, (Faber & Faber, London & Boston, 1979) 155-75.

1979b   ‘Basic aspects of musical instrument conservation’, Proceedings of the International Institute for Conservation Conference, Oxford, 17-23 Sept., 1978, (London, 1979) 49-50.

1987     General Editor, Studia Organologica.  Festschrift für John Henry van der Meer zu seinem fünfundsechzigsten Geburtstag, (Hans Schneider, Tutzing, 1987) 203-16.

GRAHN, Göran

1994     ‘Should we stop restoring and playing original instruments’, The Harpsichord and Fortepiano Magazine, 5, Nº 1 (October, 1994) 27-28.

KARP, Cary

1979            ‘Restoration, conservation, repair and maintenance’, Early Music, 7, Nº1 (1979) 79-84.

1982            ‘Storage climates for musical instruments’, Early Music, 10, Nº4 (1982) 469-76.

1987            ‘Technological research and the conservation of musical instruments’, Per una carta europea del restauro.  Conservazione, restauro e riuso degli strumenti musicali anitichi, (Olschki, Florence, 1987) 283-90.


1969     ‘How to look at a collection of musical instruments with historical ears [sic]’, Studia Musico-Museologica.  Bericht über das Symposium die Bedeutung, die optische und akustische Darbeitung und die Aufgaben einer Musikinstrumentensammlung, (Nuremberg/Stockholm, 1969) 48-54.

1971     ‘The Ruckers-Couchet instruments in the museum Vleeshuis;  restoration or copy?’, Colloquium.  Restauratieproblemen van Antwerpse klavecimbels, (Museum Vleeshuis, Antwerp, 1971) 44-8.

1977     General editor, Colloquium.  Ruckers klavicimbels en copieën, (Antwerp, 1977).

MACTAGGART, Ann and Peter

1977     ‘Some problems encountered in cleaning two harpsichord soundboards, Studies in Conservation, 22 (1977) 73-84.

1979     ‘Tempera and decorated keyboard instruments’, The Galpin Society Journal, 32 (1979) 59-65.

1983a   ‘A Royal Ruckers:  decorative and documentary history’, The Organ Yearbook, 14 (1983) 78-96.

1985     ‘The colour of Ruckers lid papers’, The Galpin Society Journal, 38 (1985) 106-11.


1987     ‘The restoration of paint on musical instruments’, Proceedings.  Restoration of Early Musical instruments, UKIC occasional papers, Nº 6 (1987) 6-8.

O’BRIEN, Grant

1976     ‘Attitudes to musical instrument conservation and restoration’, Bulletin of the Fellowship of Makers and Restorers of Historical Instruments, 3 (1976) 15-21.

1982     ‘Attitudes to musical instrument conservation and restoration’, British Institute of Organ Studies Journal, 6 (1982) 78-87.

1987     ‘The conservation of historical keyboard instruments;  to play or to preserve?’, Per una carta europea del restauro.  Conservazione, restauro e riuso degli strumenti musicali anitichi, (Olschki, Florence, 1987) 291-8.

1990    Ruckers.  A Harpsichord and Virginal Building Tradition, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990; digital reprint, Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 2008).

1991    ‘Conservazione degli strumenti a tastiera’, La collezione di strumenti musicali del Museo Teatrale alla Scala, Guido Bizzi and Lorenzo Girodo, general editors, (Il laboratorio, Milan, 1991) 37-9.

1992    ‘The restoration of Ruckers instruments:  a personal view’, The Harpsichord and its Repertoire.  Proceedings of the International Harpsichord Symposium.  Utrecht 1990, General editor Pieter Dirksen, (STIMU Foundation for Historical Performance Practice, Utrecht, 1992) 3-8.

1998b  ‘Ruckers double-manual harpsichords and details of them relevant to the 1599 Ioannes Ruckers double-manual harpsichord in the Händel-Haus Halle’ and ‘The determination of the original state of the double-manual harpsichord by Ioannes Ruckers in the Händel-Haus Halle, Händel-Hausmitteilungen, 3/98 (Halle, 1998).

2001a   ‘Problemi tipici di un piccolo museo di strumenti musicali a tastiera’, Musica e Museo, (Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo, Università degli Studi di Bologna).

2002a   ‘Il percorso di un’idea: dal progetto allo strumento/The development of an idea: from the design to the instrument’, Bartolomeo Cristofori.  La spinetta del 1690/The 1690 oval spinet{sic], edited by Gabriele Rossi-Rognoni, (Sillabe for the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 2002) 62-81.

2002b   'The conservation of the 1690 ‘spinetta[sic] ovale’ by Bartolomeo Cristofori - an approach based on an archaeological analogy', paper given at the Accademia in Florence on the conservation and preservation of the 1690 oval virginal by Bartolomeo Cristofori.

2005a    Co-author with Francesco Nocerino, ‘The ‘Tiorbino: an unrecognised instrument type built by harpsichord makers, with possible evidence for a surviving instrument’, Galpin Society Journal, LVII (2005) pp. 184 – 208 with colour plates pp 232-5.

2005b   'An Analysis of the Origins of a Large Franco-Flemish Double-manual Harpsichord.  Would a Ruckers by any Other Name Sound as sweet?', Early Keyboard Journal, XX (2005) 49-80.

2006a   'The 1791 Lindholm clavichord in Stockholm',  De Clavicordio, Proceedings of the VII International Clavichord Symposium/Atti del VII congresso internazionale sul clavicordo.  Magnano, 7-10 September 2005, edited by Bernard Brauchli, Alberto Galazzo and Judith Wardman, (Musica antica a Magnano, Magnano, 2006) 29-44.

2008     'Relazione organologica.  Un fortepiano di Johann Schanz, Vienna, ca. 1816.  Collezione Fernanda Giulini, Brioso, Italia./Organological Report.  Viennese fortepiano Johann Schanz, Vienna, c. 1816.  Collection of Fernanda Giulini, Briosco, Italy, Schanz.  Lo strumento dei Principi/Schanz the instrument of Princes.  Arte e musical nella Milano dell'Ottocento al tempo di Cristina Archinto Trivulzio/Art and music in the nineteenth Milan at the time of Cristina Archinto Trivulzio, (Villa Medici Giulini, Briosco, 2008) pp 88-141.

2009    'The single-manual Italian harpsichord in the Royal College of Music, London, Cat. No. 175:  an organological analysis', Galpin Society Journal, LXII (2009) pp. 55 – 99 with colour plates pp 194-5.

2010    'Criteria for the determination of original stringing in historical keyboard instruments: The cautionary tale of a 1785 Longman and Broderip harpsichord', The Historical Harpsichord,  A Monograph Series in Honor of Frank Hubbard, Vol. 5:  Aspects of Harpsichord Making in The British Isles, John Koster editor (Pendragon Press, Stuyvesant, N.Y., 2010) pp. 154-226.

2012    'The local unit of measurement used in the study and restoration of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord',  35. Tage Alter Musik in Herne, Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord – Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus, (Herne, 2012).  'The local unit of measurement used in the study and restoration of a Franco-Flemish harpsichord',  35. Tage Alter Musik in Herne.  Cembalo, Clavecin, Harpsichord – Regionale Traditionen des Cembalobaus, (Herne, 2012).


ODELL, Jay Scott

1986    ‘Clocks and musical instruments:  Must functional objects be made to function?’  Paper given at the conference ‘Horological Conservation and Restoration’, U.K. Institute for Conservation, (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 28 July 1986).

POLLENS, Stewart

1983    ‘The restoration of musical instruments:  To play or preserve?’, Art and Antiques, (March/April, 1983) 40.

1984     ‘The pianos of Bartolomeo Cristofori’, Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 10 (1984) 32-68.

1985a    Gottfried Silberman’s Pianos, (New York, 1985).

1985b    ‘The early Portuguese piano’, Early Music, 12, Nº 1 (February, 1985) 18-27.

1986     ‘Gottfried Silberman’s pianos’, The Organ Yearbook, 17 (1986) 103-21.

1987     ‘The Bonafinis spinet: An early harpsichord converted into a tangent piano’, The Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 13 (1987) 5-22.

1989     ‘Curt Sachs and musical instrument restoration’, The Musical Times, 130, Nº 1760 (October, 1989) 589-94.

1990     ‘Early nineteenth-century German-language works on piano maintenance, Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 16 (1990) 91-109.

1991     ‘Three keyboard instruments signed by Cristofori’s assistant, Giovianni Ferrini’, The Galpin Society Journal, 44 (1991) 77-93.

1992     ‘An upright pianoforte by Domenico del Mela’, The Galpin Society Journal, 45 (1992) 22-8.

1995     The Early Pianoforte, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995).

1997     ‘Flemish Harpsichords and Virginals in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Analysis of Early Alterations and Restorations’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 32 (1997) 85-110.

2002     ‘The Gatti-Kraus piano action ascribed to Bartolomeo Cristofori’, Galpin Society Journal, 55 (April 2002), pp.269-278.

2009     The Early Pianoforte (Cambridge:  Cambridge Musical Texts and Monographs, 2009).

2013     ‘Bartolome Cristofor in Florence’, Galpin Society Journal, 66 (March 2013), pp.7-42.

2015     The Manual of Musical Instrument Conservation, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2015).

2017     Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2017).



SCHULZE, Hans-Joachim

1980     ‘Bericht über die Diskussion der Arbeitsgruppe Tasteninstrumente/Streichinstrumente’, Proceedings.  Bericht über das 1. Symposium zu Fragen der Anforderungen an das Instrumentenbau.  Beiheft zu den Studien zur Aufführungspraxis und Interpretation von Instrumentalmusik des 18. Jahrhunderts, Nº 1 (1980) 20-1.


1982-3  ‘Three examples of keyboard restoration in the southeast’, Early Keyboard Journal, 1 (1982-3) 16-24.

1990     ‘Balancing physical integrity with aesthetic integrity:  Ethical problems in the conservation of musical instruments’, Abstracts, (A.I.C., 1990) 18.

1991     ‘Historical musical instruments:  A claim to use, an obligation to preserve’, Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, 17 (1991) 69-82.


1987     ‘The conservation of keyboard instruments’, Per una carta europea del restauro.  Conservazione, restauro e riuso degli strumenti musicali anitichi, (Olschki, Florence, 1987) 299-304.


1994     ‘... Or should good restoration still be carried out?’, The Harpsichord and Fortepiano Magazine, 5, Nº 1 (October, 1994) 29.


See also:

The section on this website of the situation arising from the restoration of any musical instrument:  To restore or not to resore?

The CIMCIM webiste



You may be interested in some aspects of the discussions prior to the restoration of the painted decorations of the Franco-Flemish harpsichord.



- Written by Grant O'Brien


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Some problems of restoration ethics in the restoration of a Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord


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This page was last revised on 31 January 2023.