G R A N T   O B R I E N


Harpsichords, Virginals, Spinets and Clavichords

Restorations and Consultations


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The stunningly-beautiful Franco-Flemish antique harpsichord harpsichord pictured above is for sale.


          This harpsichord was originally built in Antwerp in 1617 but, although the date is known, the original maker is unknown.  It was originally a normal double-manual Flemish harpsichord with two keyboards at pitches a fourth apart, and with the usual disposition of 1x8', 1x4' and 4 registers - two for each keyboard.  Although it has a genuine early Ioannes Ruckers 'HR' soundboard rosette, analysis of the structure and design of the instrument shows that it was not made by any of the members of the Ruckers family.   

          The instrument was mis a ravalement in Paris at some time between 1742/43 and 1750 when the bass compass was extended by Francois Etienne Blanchet down to F1 in the bass, but left without extending it beyond c3  in the treble.  It was also given its lavish figure-painting decoration by François Boucher (1703 - 1770), and the ornaments surrounding these (and the ornaments on the spine) by Christophe II Huet (1700 - 1759).  In 1750 (the date on three of the rows of jacks) it was given a further ravalement by François Étienne Blanchet who extended the compass up to d3  It was then later given a further treble ravalement by extending the treble compass further up to f3 in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffman. 

          It is now a classic French double-manual harpsichord with a full 5-octave compass and a disposition with 2 x 8', 1 x 4' plus a peau de buffle set of jacks.  The whole of the stunningly-beautiful decoration has now been restored.  The sound is pure, full, rich and evenly-balanced across the entire compass of the instrument.  It creates an impression of immense power and opulence, matching that of the Court of Louis XV for whom it was commissioned.  The sound has made a lasting impression on everyone who has heard or played the instrument.  It is, without a doubt, one of the finest and most beautiful examples of 18th-century French harpsichord decoration and building in existence.


For full details about the instrument contact Grant O'Brien.



RUCKERS.  A harpsichord and virginal building tradition

(click here)

by Grant O'Brien.

Re-published as a digital reprint  by Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Buy a signed copy with a personal dedication (click here).

Flemish papers for sale (click here)

Full-scale harpsichord, virginal and stand drawings for harpsichords and virginals are available for sale (click here)

Harpsichord-making woods for sale


A small amount of the important woods normally used by harpsichord makers is available for sale.  This is all very well-seasoned and of the highest quality available.

The types of wood include accurately-quartered Italian spruce soundboard wood.  This soundboard wood is sold only in flitches of about 6 to 15 planks.  Each flitch is a succession of slices from the same tree, and these can be used (as most Flemish and French makers did) to make a soundboard that is perfectly uniform in colour and texture because it is all of exactly the same wood for the whole of the soundboard.

Also available is knot-free Italian cypress from Tuscany (cipresso netto) and genuine African ebony (Diospyros crassiflora). 

All of this wood was bought as air-dried, and is now more than 40 years old.

For further details of quantities and prices please see the woods section of this site.



For my current contact details, please follow the 'Contact link' in the column on the left.    


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Web design by Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2020.                 Web pages last up-dated:  Wednesday November 25, 2020

©Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2020