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Pepys Link To Historic Musical Instrument – Seminal English Spinet to Sell at Bonhams

Bonhams is to sell the earliest surviving English spinet in its Fine Musical Instruments sale on 10 March 2008, New Bond Street, London.

englishspinet.jpgThe magnificent instrument, which dates from 1668, corresponds exactly to a spinet which Pepys describes having bought in his renowned diary. Made by Charles Haward, a well-known harpsichord maker, it is estimated to fetch £8,000-12,000.

Slightly smaller than a harpsichord, spinets became fashionable in the 1660s. The first spinet is thought to have been made by anItalian artisan but Charles Haward, a leading London harpsichord maker quickly followed suit. The instrument is one of only six surviving spinets by Charles Haward and is apparently the earliest known English spinet.

A similar instrument by Charles Haward dated 1689 can be found in the National Music Museum at the University of South Dakota. The spinet to be sold by Bonhams is inscribed with the words “CAROLUS HAWARD fecit” and has a walnut case, with an oak stand.

Philip Scott, Head of Bonhams Musical Instruments Department says: “This is a breathtaking example of early English craftsmanship. Made during the Restoration during a time of celebration, it will appeal to both collectors and institutions”.


On 4 April 1668, Samuel Pepys, who was passionately interested in music, describes having visited Haward at his workshop:

“To White Hall. Took Aldgate Street in my way, and there called upon one Haward that makes virginals, and there did like of a little espinette, and will have him finish it for me… for I had a mind to a small harpsichon, but this takes up less room, and will do my business as to finding out chords, and I am well pleased that I have found it.”

Entries made later that year confirm that Pepys called on Haward again and that he paid five pounds for the spinet, which was delivered to his house on 15 July 1668.

A naval administrator and prominent Member of Parliament, Samuel Pepys is most famous for his detailed private diary, which he kept between 1660-1669. The diary is one of the most important accounts of London in the 1660s and includes eyewitness accounts of the restoration of the Monarchy, the Great Plague of London in 1665, the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the arrival of the Dutch fleet in the Second Anglo-Dutch War.