A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Cabinet Piano

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CABINET PIANO. An upright pianoforte about six feet high, much in vogue from soon after the date of its introduction early in this century to about 1840. A few years later the lower upright instruments, oblique, cottage, piccolo, etc., had quite superseded it. The name Cabinet Pianoforte appears for the first time in a patent secured by William Southwell in 1807 (patent No. 3029), but upright pianofortes with the strings descending nearly to the floor instead of only to the stand or legs as in the older Upright Grand, had been previously suggested by Isaac Hawkins in 1800 (patent No. 2446) and Thomas Loud in 1803 (patent No. 2591). The bold step of inverting the wrestplank or tuning-pin block, which in the Upright Grand was at the bottom near the keys, but in the Cabinet was at the top, appears to have been taken by Thomas Loud [App. p.574 amends to Isaac Hawkins], as in his specification we find his wrestplank fixed diagonically in the sides of the case, the bass end near the top, 6 feet 3 inches high, to preserve length for the bass strings, the treble end lower 4 feet 3 inches from the bottom, leaving an angular space above which might be utilised for bookshelves. In Southwell's patent, which refers specially to the action and damper movement, the wrestplank is certainly elevated horizontally. James Shudi Broadwood, in some MS. notes dated 1838, since printed for private circulation, claims a part in the invention through having given a sketch for a vertical or cabinet pianoforte to William Southwell about 1804. He adds no particulars, but remarks that the new instrument when introduced was for a time unsuccessful, which is also stated from another source by Mr. A. N. Wornum (Address to Jurors, Paris Exhibition, 1867). The further history of this important invention, which includes the almost contemporaneous oblique and cottage pianofortes is referred to in Pianoforte, but it has a special interest from the upright piano of any height, oblique or vertically strung, having been invented and first produced in this country, independent of foreign suggestion or help. See also Cottage Piano, Oblique, and Piccolo.

[ A. J. H. ]