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BROADWOOD
in London

1845

MAHOGANY & ROSEWOOD

"Mahogany.—This is the wood of a tree growing in the West Indies and Central America. There are two other species of Swietena found in the East Indies, but they are not much known in this country.

The mahogany is one of the most majestic and beautiful of trees; its trunk is often forty feet in length and six feet in diameter; and it divides into so many massy arnu, and throws the shade of its shining green leaves over so vast an extent of surface, that few more magnificent objects are to be met with in the vegetable world.

It is abundant in Cuba and Hayti, and it used to be plentiful in Jamaica; but in the latter island, most of the larger trees, at least in accessible situations, have been cut down.

The principal importations into Great Britain are made from Honduras and Campeachy. That which is imported from the islands is called Spanish mahogany; it is not so large as that from Honduras, being generally in logs from twenty to twenty-six inches square, and ten feet long; while the latter is usually from two to four feet square, and twelve or fourteen feet long, but some logs are much larger.

Mahogany is a very beautiful and valuable species of wood; its color is red brown, of different shades and various degrees of brightness, sometimes yellowish brown; often very much veined and mottled, with darker shades of the same color.

The texture is uniform, and the annual rings not very distinct. It has no large septa, but the smaller sepia are often very visible, with pores between them, which in the Honduras wood are generally empty, but in the Spanish wood, are mostly filled with a whitish substance.

It has neither taste nor smell, shrinks very little., and warps or twists less than any other species of timber. It is very durable when kept dry, but does not last long when exposed to the weather.

It is not attacked by worms. Like the pine tribe, the timber is best on rocky soils, or in exposed situations.

That which is most accessible at Honduras, grows upon moist, lov land, and is, generally speaking, decidedly inferior tc that brought from Cuba ind Hayti, being soft, coarse and spongy; while the other is coarse-grained ind nard, of a darker color, and sometimes strongly figured.

Honduras mahogany, has, however, the advantage of holding glue admirably well; and is, for this reason, frequently used as a ground on which to lay veneers of the finer sorts.

The best qualities of mahogany bring a very high price. Not long since, Messrs. Broadwood, the distinguished piano-forte manufacturers of London, gave the enormous sum of £3000, for three logs of mahogany.

These were the produce of a single tree, each about fifteen feet long, and thirty-eight inches square; they were cut into veneers of eight to an inch. The wood was particularly beautiful, capable of receiving the highest polish; and when polished, reflecting the light in the most varied manner, like the surface of a crystal; and from the wavy form of the pores offering a different figure in whatever direction it was viewed.

Dealers in mahogany generally introduce an auger before buying a log; but notwithstanding, they are seldom able to decide with much precision as to the quality of the wood, so that there is a good deal of lottery in the trade. Mahogany was used in repairing some of Sir Walter Raleigh's ships at Trinidad, in 1597; but it was not introduced into use in England, till 1734.

Rosewood is one of the most beautiful and costly of the fancy woods; it is produced in Brazil, the Canary Isles, Siam, &c. The logs often are twenty-two inches in thickness. Considerable quantities are imported into this country, and 300 tons are annually sent to Great Britain." Enterprise, Industry and Art of Man, 1845, p. 304

1854

MAHOGANY from the BAY ISLANDS

"The annual exportation for many years has ranged from five to simillion feet. The tree is of immense size, and has a magnificent appearance, from the spread of the branches ; it is said to require 200 years to arrive at full growth, and be fit for catting.

The trunk is most valuable on account of its dimensions, but the branches or limbs are preferred for ornamental purposes, the grain being closer, and the veins more variegated.

The trunk is sawn into logs, which are subsequently roughly squared, for the convenience of ship stowage. The largest log known to have been cut in Honduras was 17 feet long, 5 feet 4 inches deep, and measured 5,168 cubic feet = 15 tons weight.

The wholesale prices vary, at Liverpool, from bd. to 9d. per foot. Messrs. Broadwood, the pianoforte-makers, are stated to have given jl^3,0U0 for three logs of mahogany, the produce of a single tree : they were each about 1 5 feet long by 38 inches square ; and were cut into veneers of eight to an inch. The grain of this tree was particularly beautiful. When highly polished, it reflected the liglit like the surface of a crystal ; and, from the wavy form of the pores, presented a different figure, in whatever direction it was viewed." The British colonies : their history, extent, condition and resources, 1854, p. 169 (archive.org)

1863

BROADWOOD AND SONS' PIANOFORTES

 "The Grand Pianoforte may be said to have been born in England; for although its inventor, Americus Backers, was a Dutchman, it was in Jennyn-street, about the year 1767, that the instrument was originally planned. Backers was a manufacturer of harpsichords.

Instead of clothing the strings (when first "applying hammers"), he merely caused them to be struck by soft wood or cork, with a view to obtain the harpsicord tone so much admired at that period. Subsequently, however, he adopted a thin covering, of leather.

His mechanism, which possessed, the double merit of effectiveness and simplicity, competed successfully with that of the most noted and ingenious of his contemporaries, and was gradually adopted by the principal makers, not only in this country, but on the continent, where it was specially recognised as the "Mecanique Anglaise," or "Die Englische. Mecanik."

Upon his decease (somewhere near 1781), Backers, proud of his discovery, confided it to the future keeping of his friend, John Broadwood, who, while in the employ of Burkhard Shudi, used to go every evening, accompanied by his own apprentice, Robert Stoaart,t to assist in bringing it to perfection. Broadwood, nevertheless—subsequently engaged in other projects—bestowed little thought on the new instrument, until several years later.

He had, in 1778, succeeded to Tschudi's business (Great Pulteney-street); and his increased responsibilities absorbed the whole of his time and attention, Meanwhile Robert Stodart, who, at the expiration of the term of his apprenticeship with Broadwood, commenced "making" on his own account (in Golden-square), had applied himself with eminent success to the manufacture of Grand Pianofortes, on the model of Backers, his opportunities of acquiring familiarity with which have been described.

Besides materially improving the mechanism in several essential particulars, he increased the power and enriched the quality of tone. The vogue and extensive publicity which the new instrument deservedly obtained, under Stodart's name, at length awakened John Broadwood to a sense of its importance.

For some years Broadwood emulated his contemporary with but indifferent success, till Muzio Clementi (as influential a friend to him as Handel had previously been to Tschudi), through continually pointing out the detects of his instrument, and urging him to profit by the experience and counsel of eminent musicians and men of scientific acquirement, not only roused the pride of one to whom the art was already in some degree indebted, and who had succeeded to an inventor and manulacturer of the highest eminence, but particularly excited his interest in the progress and improvement of the Grand Pianoforte.

Among the rest he solicited and obtained the advice of Cavallo, the author of A Treatise on Acoustics, and other works, which at that period were in high repute. Cavallo, having deduced from the Monochord a theory concerning the length and proper tension of the strings of the pianoforte, drew up a paper on that very interesting and important subject, which he subsequently read, with great success, at one of the meetings of the Royal Society.

Dr. Gray, too, formerly of the British Museum — who, after certain valuable experiments, had fixed the absolute proportions of gravity and vibration, respectively belonging to strings of brass and strings of steel (which first led to a division of the bridges on the sounding board of the Grand Pianoforte) — was also one of Broadwood's advisers.

With the aid of these dist inguished men, he advanced so rapidly, that his reputation as a manufacturer of Grand Pianofortes was in a brief space established; and as a proof of the worth of those modifications and improvements which the suggestions of Cavallo and Dr. Gray had emboldened him to carry out, they were speedily adopted by every maker of note, both in England and abroad." The Musical World, march 1863, p. 163

1865

"L'INDUSTRIE DES PIANOS. — La plus grande manufacture de pianos est celle de Broadwood et fils, de Londres. Elle existe depuis 1780, et a été fondée par le grand père des propriétaires actuels. Il résulte des registres que 132 000 pianos sont sortis de ses ateliers." La Science pittoresque : journal hebdomadaire, 1865, p. 132 (Galica)

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