NON-PROFIT SERVICE, NO FUNDING, JUST YOUR DONATIONS

 (Page updated August 2018)

Feedback is welcome, click the email button below, or type the email address shown.

Photos need to show the WHOLE piano, unobscured by dogs, stools, vases, etc..

Details of our collection are further down this page.  Priory Farm House, LN11 8PW (UK)

 

Google is now branding our home-made website as “unsecure”, but this is meaningless because we are not a business, we don’t handle your money or have financial dealings, and donations are dealt with directly by Paypal, who have their own proper secure https site.

 

    

                               

      

 

ARCHIVES - BLOG - DEMOS - DATEMARKS - DIAGRAMSDONATIONS - EDWARDIAN - EXHIBITION - FALSENESS - GENEALOGYGEORGIAN - GRAND - HEALTH - HEAT DAMAGE - MEMORIES - MISCELLANEOUS - NAMES - NUMBERS - REPERTOIRE - SQUARES - TUNING - VICTORIAN

 

PIANO HISTORY MUSEUM

At last, we have moved our home to a lovely setting in the Lincolnshire Wolds, where by the kindness and generosity of Wharton Agriculture Ltd., we have a large barn space in which we will finally be able to display a time-line of piano history alongside the collection of pianos, and perhaps convince more people that it isn’t just “a bunch of old pianos”!  This is the ONLY form of sponsorship we have so far.  The world has gone through a long period where history was destroyed without any thought, and where value was all about money.  As a result, we don’t know of any other museum anywhere in the world that has actual pianos for most decades ranging from the 1790s to the 1970s – Georgian to modern.  That is the first layer in building our time-line, and the next major task is wading through fifty thousand images to cut them down to three thousand of the best for our wonder wall of piano history.  If a picture paints a thousand words, we will have three million words around the walls.  It is in areas like display costs that your donations are so vital.  Imagine a piano standing up against a wall:  printing pictures above it to a professional standard costs more than the piano is worth!  Small monthly donations can also be set up through the Donate button. 

 

To display three thousand pictures would cost over three thousand pounds.

 

 

Here are some views of our “museum” and as you can see, there is a little bit of work to be done yet over the next few months, like a wall for example!  More details on our blog…

http://www.pianohistory.info/ourblog.html

 

Here, you can see just a small selection of the images for the 1700s, and there are 6 times as many in the 1800s, before we even get to the 1900s.  In a way, the pianos are only window dressing, the main collection is history.  It is important to understand that although piano history is a minority interest, taking that minority over the whole world means that a great many people are searching for piano history, thousands of hits every day, quite apart from the many people who have a more casual interest, and although this website goes some way to satisfying that need, a museum will be able to do so much more. 

 

HISTORY, NOT VALUATION!

Nobody anywhere can guess the value or condition of a piano without inspecting it on the spot, and checking how well it holds in tune, so your local tuner is the best person to ask about that.  Here in Britain, where antique pianos are plentiful, unrestored ones have very little value, and we are offered several each year for nothing.  The most important factor deciding the value of a piano is not its name, but its condition, and the most important aspect of that is whether it holds in tune, because if it doesn't, repairs can cost over a thousand pounds, and this is usually more than an old piano is worth.  Piano dealers don’t normally deal with antiques, and antiques dealers don’t usually know much about pianos. 

 

The following links give a little more detail…

 

PIANO TUNING in East Anglia, including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex etc.

 

PIANO HISTORY LINKS

 

GRAND pianos from Cristofori’s invention through to modern.

 

SQUARE pianos (Querpianos) were the main domestic instruments before upright pianos were perfected.

 

GEORGIAN vertical pianos and earlier attempts at upright pianos.

 

VICTORIAN cottage pianos.

 

EDWARDIAN upright pianos and later ones.

 

DATE-MARKS and other clues inside your piano.

 

EXHIBITION medals and awards shown on a piano provide clues to its age.

 

GENEALOGY of the piano makers, and some impression of what your ancestors might have done in the piano trade.

 

NAMES and aliases used on pianos.

 

NUMBERS are not always a reliable guide to the date of a piano.

 

ARCHIVES of the piano makers are rarely available, so our own archives try to fill some of the gaps.

 

DIAGRAMS of piano actions – the working parts of the notes.

 

FALSENESS in piano strings can make tuning very difficult.

 

CENTRAL HEATING can damage your piano.

 

MISCELLANEOUS piano subjects that don’t fit conveniently into other headings.

 

MUSIC LINKS

 

DEMOS of Bill Kibby’s performances on various instruments.

 

REPERTOIRE – over two thousand titles that Bill Kibby can play for you.

 

OTHER LINKS

 

HEALTH matters and possible help with them.

 

BILL’s BLOG has little or nothing to do with pianos or music.

 

MEMORIES of my childhood in Walthamstow.

 

OUR COLLECTION

In all the world, how many collections have a 300-year time-line of piano history, with thousands of images, thousands of pages of piano information, thousands of index cards, the world’s largest directory of past UK piano firms, and actual pianos for most decades from Georgian to modern?  JUST US!  Imagine a museum of piano history, with the world’s largest specialist archive of related information, a unique pictorial time-line of piano history, thousands of images, thousands of index cards, thousands of printed pages, a collection of Victorian books containing piano ads, irreplaceable reference material, as well as actual pianos from the eighteenth century right through to modern.  Although the books were purchased for their piano content, they also provide a wide range of general history.  Now imagine taking the world’s largest collection of piano history, and packing it away into a large brick shed.  We had all the ingredients, but sadly, our humble building at Yarmouth was barely big enough to store our unique and growing collection, let alone display it, so for years, the pianos have been crammed in together, and the archives were functional but not on display.  At one time, the only way into the room was to climb on a stool, then up onto a piano, crawl along it, then along another one, and down onto a stool!  I have spent my life achieving lots of things that people said were impossible, some of them are listed on this website, but for ten years, the big challenge was to find a way into a permanent home for this unique and irreplaceable collection, before I get too old to do it justice. 

 

CHERISH YOUR ASPIRATIONS!

 

General (non-piano) History items are further down the page.  We are a world centre for piano history, we deal with enquiries from around the world every day, and I find myself in the position of being the keeper and protector of a unique history collection, not just because it is my passion, or because of anything it can do for me.  It deserves to survive long after I am forgotten, because people need it.  Visiting pianos at many museums, it is interesting that there is usually little or no historical information attached to them, whereas we have more than we can possibly display.  Recently, we supplied a dozen items to a World War I display, and a friend was immensely impressed with what was, after all, a tiny fraction of our display material.  We also offer occasional lectures on piano history to Women’s Institutes, colleges, museums, schools, etc., and I am always impressed by the enthusiasm of so many people who want to learn more about pianos, and ask very searching questions.

 

At the end of 2014, the Eastern Daily Press very kindly did a whole-page feature on our collection, and our plight in trying to find funding or sponsorship for a proper museum building.  I watched a television programme about a man who collected worthless junk for years.  Everyone agreed it was junk, nobody understood, but one day, he bought a building, and all of that “junk” suddenly came together to form a wonderfully-integrated display.  What we have here is perhaps the piano equivalent, there is no cash value in the individual items, the historical value is in what they make together.  At least it seems a little more reasonable to me than the man who collected live crocodiles!  In the past twenty years, a total of seven other projects have very kindly offered to house our collection within theirs…

 

“This time, I had the answer right here in my hand, then I touched it, and it had turned to sand.”

 

One by one, they all fell by the wayside and ceased to exist, but we are still here!

 

In 2007, we moved to Great Yarmouth when we were offered a large museum space in a wonderful Georgian setting, but sadly, after months of intensive preparatory work, the premises proved to be unsuitable because of problems with parking, disabled access and egress, fire regulations, legal wranglings, and differences of opinion between the residents and the local council about many things, including the previously-stipulated ground floor space, which was a matter of public record.  Not only that, we were asked to put my most treasured possessions (and my life’s work) into a building where anyone could walk in when we weren’t there!  What seemed like a gift from heaven to house our collection for a peppercorn rent ended up with the council wanting us to invest thousands of pounds for an upstairs venue that had not been designed to fit in with modern regulations.  Ironically, it was only in the process of designing displays for that museum that I really began to appreciate the scope of what we have here.  People often say that we will need a lot of space to display forty pianos and organs, but what they don’t realise is that in order to display the more important history items at a reasonable size, we need even more display width. 

 

To add to our problems, Yarmouth is a flood risk area, and although we said “it hasn’t flooded since 1953”, within a few months of moving in, we had a near miss when we were evacuated because of flooding just along the road.  I had this image in my mind of all the pianos floating down the river!  We were not troubled by flood waters, but greatly troubled by the flood warnings, which had us in a panic to get irreplaceable books and paperwork into the house, and upstairs.  In the process, electronics got broken, the books were thrown into chaos, I strained my back, and we were exhausted.  We couldn’t keep doing that. 

 

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Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

 

I began collecting musical instrument information around 1958, and focussed on pianos from 1963.  When I left college in 1965, I realised that there were many unanswered questions about piano history, and as I began seeking them, people were already asking me for help.  My Piano Archives  service was dealing with historical enquires by 1972, when home computers didn’t exist, and everything was done with a pen, a typewriter and a photocopier. 

 

By 1989, I had a shop at Lowestoft, and was writing computer software that could search through the files overnight, and print out the results while I slept.  Things are a teeny bit quicker with modern computers, but less convenient for writing one’s own software.  In 1990, I began 14 years of major illness, and was given no help at all by the NHS.  I was incapable of going out to work, and while my current life was showing no progress, I tried to invest in my future by working on piano history whenever I had a burst of energy.  That intermittent work laid the foundation for the service we now provide every day, read by thousands of people all around the world.

 

PIANO WHAT?

The original PianoGen web pages were set up in 2001 in conjunction with UK Piano - Britain’s largest piano website.  Sadly, although we have always known that “gen” meant information, many people still do not understand what “Piano Gen” means, so now, we have a more logical name…

 

Since 2001, I have dealt with thousands of postings on the piano history forum, in addition to our own extensive clientele.  A recent Google search revealed 38,800 internet entries connecting “Kibby” with “piano”, while “piano history centre” showed 785,000 entries.  The hits for my forum postings about Spencer pianos alone are in excess of twenty thousand.

 

We supply information to many museums, archives and specialists around the world who only deal with specific aspects of pianos, and we also receive information from them, we don’t just quote from books, we add to the existing knowledge.  Because we have so far been unable to locate major funding or sponsorship, our active research is aimed at antique British pianos, so anything else that arrives is a matter of luck, but with growing worldwide demand, we never discard any kind of piano information, and the Piano History Centre works together with the specialists in researching, filing and storing all kinds of piano information.  It is fair to add that although we try to help with any pianos…

 

Our active research is aimed at antique British pianos.

The majority of those were manufactured in London.

The majority of their factories were in the Camden Town and St.Pancras areas.

 

Many piano books are written by professional writers who have no experience of pianos, or only have a very narrow view of the subject.  On the internet, text is often misleading, and you will find a lot more reliable material from Google Images, but unfortunately, huge amounts of space on the net are wasted on images that are not labelled properly:  if you are looking for Broadwood square pianos, you won’t be able to find them if they are labelled “xyz123” or “our piano”, they are useless to most people because a search will not find them, so a lot of our work is in cataloguing and cross-referencing these.  My own website suffers from this because it is a home-made site and we can’t afford to pay internets geeks inflated prices.

 

Just for fun, try searching for paino or panio.

 

THE AGE OF MISINFORMATION

 

A lot of the misinformation about piano history has arisen from people writing books and phrasing things badly, or misquoting information, or quoting other authors without realising that they had got it wrong.  I have written to authors, challenging statements they made, and the usual answer is that they read it somewhere else, and took it to be correct.  Sometimes, there is a whole chain of people quoting previous authors, and this applies especially to serial number dates.  Nobody is immune to misinformation, and the tangled web often makes matters worse by spreading misinformation more rapidly so, as they often say in CSI or NCIS, “follow the evidence”.  I spend a lot of my time searching for original unadulterated information from paperwork, or the pianos themselves, but even that will have human errors.  It might seem that by looking at books written a century ago, we would get nearer to the original truth, but this is not always the case, they didn’t have the benefit of later research, and people like Michel, Dolge and Brinsmead published all kinds of misinformation, commenting on aspects they knew very little about, or carefully quoting misinformation from each other.

 

 

Our collection includes…

·       over 5,000 index cards; 

·       thousands of printed pages;

·       over 40,000 computer images; 

·       general reference books on the pianoforte;

·       uniquely-detailed visual time-line of piano history;

 

·       34 pianos ranging in date from the 1790s to the 1970s;

 

·       miniature pianos, music boxes and piano-shaped ornaments;

 

·       a growing archive comprising hundreds of old sheet music copies; 

·       thousands of computer text pages, listing over thirty thousand names;

·       a range of Victorian books from 1844 onwards, purchased for their piano content. 

·       The world’s largest directory of UK piano firms.  If you wanted to look up a local piano firm you might look in Yellow Pages.  Our lists cover not only most of the towns, but most periods going right back to the 1700s.

 

DIRECTORIES & OLD BOOKS

 

Here is a brief summary of some of the directory lists and other sources we have available for reference, in addition to our more modern reference books:  some are complete originals, others are just piano lists:  there are many more to be added, containing over a million entries, and far too many for us to make them available online without major funding, quite apart from the enormity of the copyright problems.  There are London lists for every decade.  Early directories are written in name order, some musical instrument makers did not specify which instruments they made, and it is easy to miss piano entries unless one knows what to look for.  If you are searching for London names in any trade, it is worth remembering that we have a selection of complete London Directories from 1786 to 1892.  We also have incomplete lists of piano items found in London alphabetical directories for 1765 1768 1769 1771 1772 1774 1775 1778 1782 1794 1797.  In some cases, Longman’s is the only music firm listed.

 

          1786 Lownde’s London Directory.

          1790 Edinburgh Directory.

          1792 Lownde’s London Directory.

          1794 London directory

          1805 Various London directories

          1809 Glasgow

          1814 Pigot's Directory of Chester. (Trades)

          1814 Pigot's Directory of Leeds. (Trades)

          1814 Pigot's Directory of Liverpool. (Trades)

          1816 Birmingham Directory

          1817 Leeds

          1817 Johnstone's Directory of London

          1817 Leeds Directory

 

          1819 Post Office London Directory

          1820 Glasgow

          1820 Post Office London Directory

          1820 Glasgow Directory

          1822 Huddersfield

          1822 Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London; Musical Instrument makers

          1824 Canterbury

          1824 Post Office London Directory

          1824 Kent Directory

          1825 Nottingham

 

          1825 Pigot & Co., London

          1825 Nottingham Directory

          1827 Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary

          1828 Leamington Directory

1828 Pigot's National Commercial Directory covers an odd selection of major towns and cities in some (but not all) counties, and strangely avoids London.  From this, I copied every list that had piano, organ or music firms, including Chester, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Scarborough, etc..

 

          1828 Worcester Directory

          1829 Birmingham Directory

          1830 Devon

          1830 Ipswich

          1830 Norwich

          1830 Post Office London Directory

          1830 Yarmouth

          1830 Devon Directory

          1830 Great Yarmouth Directory

          1830 Ipswich Directory

          1830 Norwich Directory

          1830 Suffolk Directory

          1832 Manchester Directory (Trades)

          1833 Edinburgh

          1834 Leeds

          1834 Edinburgh Directory

          1834 Leeds Directory

 

          1835 Dublin’s earliest classified trades Directory

          1836 Isle Of Man

          1836 Norfolk

          1837 White’s Directory of Sheffield, Wakefield, Halifax, Bradford, Leeds

          1838 White’s Directory of Hull

          1838 Manchester Directory (Trades)

          1839 Ipswich

          1839 Norwich

          1839 London Pianoforte tuners

          1840 Dublin

          1840 Glasgow

          1840 Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London

          1840 Post Office London Directory

          1840 Dublin Directory

          1841 Manchester Directory 

          1842 Norwich

          1842 Pigot & Co.'s Directory of London

          1842 Norwich Directory

          1842 Penny Magazine – piano article

 

A single reel of microfiche in the Manchester Archives includes Pigot's Manchester directories for 1841, 1843, and 1845, but it is very difficult to tell which part is which, and it seems to end illogically with the 1843 list, so the most accurate description is "circa 1843".

 

          1844 East Anglia

          1844 Glasgow

          1844 Ipswich

          1844 Glasgow Directory

 

The Illustrated London News was first published in 1842, and suddenly, people could not only read the news, they could see engraved illustrations of major events, exotic animals, foreign peoples, landscapes, and all sorts of things about the world around them.  We have a selection of volumes of the Illustrated London News for every decade from 1844, and these include many items of general history.

 

          1844 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1845 Slater’s Directory of Sheffield, York, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds

          1845 Williams’ Directory of Huddersfield

          1845 Birmingham

          1845 Norfolk

          1845 Birmingham Directory

          1845 Norwich Directory

          1845 Post Office London Directory

          1848 Aberdeen's first directory classified in trades

          1848 Slater’s Directory of Bradford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Halifax

          1848 Manchester Directory

          1848 Post Office London Directory

          1850 Birmingham

          1850 Exeter

          1850 Birmingham Directory

          1850 Devon Directory

          1850 Post Office London Directory

 

          1851 Great Exhibition; Official Catalogue has many items of general history

          1851 Great Exhibition; Art Journal Catalogue has many items of general history

 

          1853 Tomlinson’s Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts & Manufacture has many items of general history.

          1853 White’s Directory of Leeds & Halifax

          1854 London

          1854 Imperial Dictionary has many items of general history

          1854 London Gazetteer has many items of general history

          1855 Post Office London Directory

          1856 Post Office London Directory

          1858 Nottingham

          1858 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1858 Nottingham Directory

          1859 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1860 Post Office London Directory

          1860 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1863 Exhibition Catalogue - South London Working Men. No illustrations.

          1865 Exhibition Catalogue - South Kensington Museum. No illustrations.

          1866 Devon

          1866 London

          1866 Devon Directory

          1867 Paris Exposition:  Extracts from two catalogues

          1870 Bristol

          1870 Family Friend magazine has many items of general history

          1870 Post Office London Directory

 

          1871 Rudall & Co. stock records

          1871 Manchester Directory

 

          1871 Franco-Prussian War, broken book

 

          1872 Family Friend magazine

          1873 Bristol Directory

          1874 Bristol Directory

          1874 Exeter Directory

          1875 Bristol Directory

          1876 Bristol Directory

          1877 Bristol Directory

          1878 Bristol Directory

          1878 Pigot & Co.'s National Commercial Directory

          1878 Sherborne's partial stocklist

 

          1878 Illustrated London News has many items of general history,

such as the Norwich floods, and Paris Exposition.

          1880 Melbourne Exhibition

          1880 Post Office London Directory

          1881 Yorkshire Directory

          1882 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1882 Post Office London Directory

          1884 Glasgow Directory

          1884 London Directory

          1884 Glasgow Directory

          1886 Birmingham Directory

 

          1886 Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades is our earliest list of

piano firms covering the whole of England, Scotland & Wales.

 

          1886 Scientific American – inventions, patents, general history

          1888 Concertina Makers & Dealers

          1890 Birmingham Directory

          1890 Dublin Directory

 

          1892 Musical Opinion & Music Trades Review

 

          1892 Post Office London Directory – 8 inches thick, with references to names, trades, streets etc..

          1894 Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1894 Exposition Universelle, Antwerp

          1894 Birmingham Directory

          1895 Essex Directory

          1897 Book on 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

          1899 Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1900 Birmingham Directory

          1900 Dublin Directory

 

          1901-1904 “The Connoisseur” magazine includes ads, art and furniture, just at the time when there was an explosion of advertising for Automatic Piano Players, which suddenly took over most of the piano ad space.

          1901-2        Books on the life of Queen Victoria.

          1903 Illustrated London News has many items of general history

          1905 Musical Herald has items of general history

          1908 Middlesex Directory

          1910 The Times – a huge bound volume, last quarter of the year, has many items of general history including a report on Dr Crippen's trial, cars, fashion, and various player piano ads.

          1911 Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1911 Coronation books

          1911 Alfred Dolge "Pianos and their makers"

 

          1913 Cabinet Maker magazines include many piano ads and listings

          1914 Chas. Begg & Co., New Zealand, stock records

          1914 Music Trades Directory

 

          1928 Musique Adresses Universel - worldwide lists of music firms

          1929 Kelly's Directory of Norfolk & Suffolk

          1936 Kelly's Directory of the Cabinet & Furnishing Trades

          1938 Music Trades Directory

          1938 List of Collard & Collard dealers

          1939 Berlin Directory

          1949 Who's Who in Music: Pianoforte Manufacturers

          1951 Directory of the British Music Industry

          1960 Post Office London Directory

          1962 Who's Who in Music; Pianoforte Manufacturers

          1968 Music Trades Directory

          1969 London Pianoforte Manufacturers

 

…and various more modern trade directories, Yellow Pages entries, piano books, etc..  Without donations, I will be fine, but PianoHistory.Info may not survive.  If every visitor to this site made a donation, we would be able to add more displays to our museum building, and improve facilities for research within our own archives.

 

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