Request for information about multiple numbering of Sebastian Erard harps

dav
Inner face, stamped with the number 1955 and the letters S and H, of the pocket-piece of Sebastian Erard, pedal harp serial no. 2116, made in London in 1815. The wooden parts are consistently numbered 1955 while the public serial number, engraved on the neck plate, is 2116.

This extends to MIRN a request for information recently posted to TheEarlyPedalHarp.net: a forum for harp and harp music research.

I’d like to propose that members of this community might contribute to a pool of multiple numbers on Sebastian Erard harps, made in London c.1796-1840, wherever at least one number other than the ‘official’ serial number (boldly engraved on the brass neck plate) is visible, with a view to collating as much information as can be gleaned in – initially, I suggest – a month, and sharing it.

Initial aims

The main aims would be:

  • To advance understanding of initial manufacturing practices;
  • To advance understanding of modification, reworking, and repair of harps by Erard during the period of continuing manufacture, whether documented in the ledgers or not;
  • To advance understanding of the subsequent repair and modification practices of others, including recombination of elements from more than one harp, especially but not necessarily where practitioners are identifiable, or the repair/modification/restoration history is documented or can be ascertained. (Some such information is anecdotal and difficult to verify.)

Underlying this proposal is an array of research questions to which answers are only beginning to emerge; and I feel certain that others, who have examined more such harps than I have or have thought about them more deeply, will have other questions with which information gathered might help.

The task

The minimum information to report would be: (1) the neck plate number PLUS (2) one other number, noting its location on the instrument. Additional numbers (3 et seq), if known, with their locations, would be particularly welcome. It would be helpful to know the location of the instrument but that might be withheld if confidential.

The most accessible site on the harp while it is strung, without use of special equipment or taking the instrument apart, is the underside of the neck, at the treble end where the wood is exposed:

Neck treble number 1955 H
Detail of the underside of the neck, stamped with the number 1955 and the letter H, of Sebastian Erard, pedal harp serial no. 2116, made in London in 1815. The wooden parts are consistently numbered 1955 while the public serial number, engraved on the neck plate of the harp, is 2116.

followed by the normally hidden surface(s) of the removable pocket-piece (AKA the ‘forgotten piece’), which is lodged at the junction of neck and pillar (see the title photo).

Other typical sites of stamped numbers, accessible only with endoscopy or after partial disassembly, include:

  • the inner face of a shutter
  • the lower end of the pillar
  • the edge of the pedal box walls.

Where there is no trace of a stamped number on the underside of the neck, a report confirming that (e.g. ‘Plate number 2xyz; wood of neck has no number’) is equally valuable.

If anyone who has access to an instrument would like to check, or has notes made while repairing/restoring/researching which they would be happy to share in this way, I would be pleased to collate, summarise, and post it. I would welcome questions and suggestions about this, but at this stage I have in mind a quick exercise, to see what can be gleaned, rather than a long-term research project.

Reports can either be submitted to the forum part of the website https://www.theearlypedalharp.net/forum or emailed to alvisezuani@gmail.com

Thank you for considering this. Lewis Jones