Dr Mike Baldwin : Organologist : Historian : Researcher : Writer : Harp maker : Restorer
The English Harp: A Design History
Concerned with the form, innovation, development, and manufacture of the late Georgian, English harp, this book scopes a significant but forgotten sub-sector of the London musical instrument trade. Twelve makers are identified and located in close proximity to one and other, their harps examined, scale of production revealed, and the instrument’s place in society assessed. The harp’s form and decoration are considered in relation to trends in architecture, furniture, and costume, showing it to be the most fashionable instrument of its time. Innovation, illustrating competition between makers, is traced through twenty-three patents registered by seventeen maker/inventors, between 1794 and 1845, and the success of each patentee is discussed. Sébastien Erard, director of the leading company, has hitherto dominated discourse on the instrument; the reasons for this are discussed. Erard’s largest competitor, Jacob Erat, is studied in depth, his manufactories reconstructed; workforce, suppliers, and customers identified; and manufacturing techniques and products described. Robert Willis, the illegitimate son of George III’s physician, developed a new harp with the support of Erat and his workers. His workshop diary (1819-21) reveals daily life and organisation in Erat’s workshops, placing the harp, a product of industrialisation, at the intersection of innovative design, prototyping and manufacture.