David Boyce Piano Services


 Piano Tuner in Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, the west of Scotland and beyond.

Tel: 07714959806 

10 Chopin Waltz in E maj (2).mp3

This page is about books covering history and development of the piano and other general piano information, as distinct from works on tuning and repair, reviewed on the Technical Books page.

 

The Musicians Piano Atlas (with Supplements 1 & 2) S.K. Taylor, Ed. Omicron Publishing

There seems to be a mystique about piano serial numbers -  some people have the idea that manufacturers must record their serial numbers in a book.  Not so at all.  

By labours of love, individuals in the UK, the USA and Europe have collected and collated information from manufacturers' records to compile lists of serial numbers along with years of manufacture in a book.  By a gentleman's agreement, The Musicians Piano Atlas pictured above, omits USA makers except Steinway. Reciprocally in the US, Pierce's Piano Atlas focuses on American makers and doesn't cover English pianos.  

These are specialist niche market publications and in any case much information can nowadays be found online.  Such a book covers by no means every maker that ever existed. In Britain many small makers have long since disappeared leaving no records. 

 

Piano Evolution Design and Performance  David Crombie,  Balafon 1995

This is a gorgeous book. Beautifully illustrated. It is a pictorial history of the piano, and the author has sourced (or taken) photographs of every conceivable unusual instrument that occurred along the way.  There are excellent exploded diagrams showing how things work, and a section giving brief history of and comments on all the main makers.  For anyone with a general interest in the piano this is a super thing to have. The page size is large - 32cm x 25cm so there is room to reproduce photos at a good size. There are also some fold-out pages which do justice to large-size reproductions. I am showing some pages below for the purpose of this review (as permitted by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ).  Sadly it seems to be out of print now, so you'll have to source a secondhand copy.

Pianos and their Makers  Alfred Dolge 1911 republished in facsimile by Dover Books 1972

An important historical text written by a leading figure in the American piano industry at its peak - the same era in which piano making in the UK and Europe reached its zenith.  It's loaded with information about the development of well-known makes and the people behind them.  I think only the paperback edition is available now, and an online PDF version.

The Piano A History  Cyril Ehrich Clarendon Press

A thoroughly scholarly but accessible work.  It has been suggested that the piano industry is a sort of microcosm representation of the rest of industry in Western Europe and the USA, so that the tale of its rise and fall illuminates the story of western industry in general. For further detail on this book I can't do better than quote the Amazon blurb:

For more than a century the piano occupied a dominant place in music and society. Professor Ehrlich follows its fascinating history from the fortepiano of Mozart's time, through the Victorians' `household orchestra and god', to the most sophisticated modern products of the Japanese manufacturers. His protagonists include barnstorming virtuosi, fashionable ladies and aspiring clerks, the great makers and the back-street `garrett-masters', distinguished musicians, and hire-purchase touts. Originally published in 1976 by Dent, this book has now been updated and revised by the author in the light of developments of recent years.

NOTE: The Moiré pattern on the cover photograph is an artefact of scanning the book cover. This can been seen also on some other photos in the Books pages. It's an interference pattern between the original printing process and my scanner.

The Piano, Its Story from Zither to Grand   David Grover, Hale, date?

An informative and interesting work by David Grover, whose family owned the Bentley piano company. There are several sections of black and white photo plates on high quality coated paper.  This is out of print, but you may find secondhand copies online.

The Piano-Forte Its History Traced to the Great Exhibition of 1851  Rosamund Harding 1933/1978 Heckschers

OK, well, as you might expect from the title, this solid tome is not a light entertaining read!  This is a scholarly work, originally published in 1933 and revised in 1978.  It has lots of good diagrams of early piano actions.  By 1851 the piano was essentially what we have today, and this work traces the development of the instrument to that point. 

 

The Modern Piano  Laurence Nalder 1927, republished by Heckschers 1989 

Not that modern - first published in 1927.  However, by then piano design had stabilised into what we have today (although today's pianos may employ new materials).  There are good drawings showing the development of the modern piano actions through older types. 

 

The History of the Emanuel Moór Double Keyboard Piano  Herbert Shead  Unwin 1978

Well folks, if you want a book about the extraordinary double-keyboard Moór pianos, this has to be it!  It's the only book about these pianos, as far as I know. And it's out of print.  Several piano makers had a go at making Moór double-keyboard pianos. Steinway only ever made one, which has been restored and you can see a Youtube clip of it on my Pianoddities page.  Pleyel and Bechstein made 22 and 19 Moór pianos respectively and Bosendorfer made 10.  The book contains a fold-out technical drawing of a Bechstein Moór action, and it's a bit mind-boggling.