1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Érard, Sébastien

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ÉRARD, SÉBASTIEN (1752-1831), French manufacturer of musical instruments, distinguished especially for the improvements he made upon the harp and the pianoforte, was born at Strassburg on the 5th of April 1752. While a boy he showed great aptitude for practical geometry and architectural drawing, and in the workshop of his father, who was an upholsterer, he found opportunity for the early exercise of his mechanical ingenuity. When he was sixteen his father died, and he removed to Paris where he obtained employment with a harpsichord maker. Here his remarkable constructive skill, though it speedily excited the jealousy of his master and procured his dismissal, almost equally soon attracted the notice of musicians and musical instrument makers of eminence. Before he was twenty-five he set up in business for himself, his first workshop being a room in the hotel of the duchesse de Villeroi, who gave him warm encouragement. Here he constructed in 1780 his first pianoforte, which was also one of the first manufactured in France. It quickly secured for its maker such a reputation that he was soon overwhelmed with commissions, and finding assistance necessary, he sent for his brother, Jean Baptiste, in conjunction with whom he established in the rue de Bourbon, in the Faubourg St Germain, a piano manufactory, which in a few years became one of the most celebrated in Europe. On the outbreak of the Revolution he went to London where he established a factory. Returning to Paris in 1796, he soon afterwards introduced grand pianofortes, made in the English fashion, with improvements of his own. In 1808 he again visited London, where, two years later, he produced his first double-movement harp. He had previously made various improvements in the manufacture of harps, but the new instrument was an immense advance upon anything he had before produced, and obtained such a reputation that for some time he devoted himself exclusively to its manufacture. It has been said that in the year following his invention he made harps to the value of £25,000. In 1812 he returned to Paris, and continued to devote himself to the further perfecting of the two instruments with which his name is associated. In 1823 he crowned his work by producing his model grand pianoforte with the double escapement. Érard died at Passy, on the 5th of August 1831. (See also Harp and Pianoforte.)