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Maker(s):Preston, John
Date Made:ca. 1765
Type:Musical Instrument
Materials:wood: maple, spruce (probably), ebony; ivory, paint, base metal: brass, steel; textile: wool felt
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; London
Measurements:overall: 28 1/2 in x 11 1/2 in x 5 7/8 in; 72.39 cm x 29.21 cm x 14.9225 cm
Accession Number:  HD 58.287
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Keyed English guitar decorated with a 12-pointed star pattern rosette inlay and with 6 keys and a metal watch-key tuning device a the head of the cittern impressed with "CEG CEG" over "PRESTON INVENTOR" on brass for John Preston (w.1743-1770) of London, and marked "Preston Maker London" and a scripted "R" on the back of the neck. The guitar is fitted with a circa 1790 keybox stamped "Smith Patent Box London," a device fitted over the strings of an English guitar so that they are struck by hammers rather than pluck with the fingers of the hand. The guitar probably has a maple and spruce body; the sound hole rosette ivory and ebony; tuning mechanism brass, steel strings; and keyboard hammers and dampers wool felt. Women in England and America popularized English guitars as parlor instruments between the mid 18th and early 19th centuries. Guitar makers such as the London luthier James N. Preston designed their instruments for ease of use, allowing players the entertainment and enjoyment of music-making without the need to master difficult fingerings or playing techniques. For example, this guitar is tuned to the key of C-Maj. with strings arranged c-e-g-c-e-g enabling players to easily pick out arpeggios. Holes in the neck indicate the placement of a capotasto (now missing), a damper clamped across the strings that raised the instrument’s pitch, allowing players to change the tuning without having to learn difficult fingerings. The patented keybox, attached to the guitar perhaps 30 years after the guitar was made, contains felted mallets similar to piano mallets that struck the strings, enabling players to sound notes without having to master plucking and strumming techniques. A wonderful survival, this instrument provides insight into middle and upper-class young women’s enactment of refinement as amateur musicians in the home.

musical instruments

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