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Patent of 1852 : "1337. Hesketh Hughes and William Thomas Denham, both of Cottage-place, City-road, in the county of Middlesex, Engineers, have given notice at the Office of the Commissioners of their intention to proceed with their application for letters patent for the invention of improvements in piano-fortes." The London Gazette, 28/03/1853, p. 2900 (thegazette.co.uk)

Mechanic of a cottage, patent of 1852, The Mechanics' Magazine, 1853, p. 288



A short notice of these improved instruments was given among the abstracts of specilications in our last Number.

We now supply a further account of the invention, which appears to possess singular merit. The key-board arrangement is especially valuable in the case of pianofortes, as by it instruments of great compass may be produced, which at the same time will not occupy above half the space of the ordinary "cottage" instruments.

The engraving is a section of so much of a pianoforte of the ordinary construction as is necessary to explain the patentees' improved arrangement of the key-board and balance levers.

A A' are ihe notes of the diatonic scale, which arc arranged in such a manner that the keys A' are slightly raised above the notes A, and are also placed at the back thereof; the balance levers, B B', are covered in front, as represented, and weighted, in order to equalize their action upon the hammers of the pianoforte, the valves of the organ, or the levers for admitting the wind to notes of the seraphine, harmonium, and other similarly constructed instruments.

C C are the notes which form the chromatic scale and C' their balance levers. It will be seen that this method the notes of the diatonic scale are arranged in a series of thirds instead of seconds, as in instruments of the ordinary construction; but the inventors do not confine themselves to this particular arrangement.

In some easy cases they mingle the chromatic with the diatonic notes in their proper position, and by this arrangement the pedal pipes of the organ may be introduced into the key-board, so as to bring them more immediately under control of the performer.

Another part of the invention consists in cirving the back and sounding-board of pianofortes, and in arranging the wires and action in a similar curve, whereby the width of the instrument is materially reduced, while the balance-levers may be arranged parallel to one another, the notes of both the diatonic and chromatic scales being placed in the manner before described and represented in the engraving." The Mechanics' Magazine, 1853, p. 287

Patent of 1852 : "HESKETH HUGHES and WILLIAM THOMAS DENHAM, both of Cottage Place, in the County of Middlesex, for an invention for Improvements in pianofortes." The London Gazette, 29/07/1856, p. 2617 (thegazette.co.uk)



ON Saturday evening last, a specimen of these novel instruments was exhibited at the Royal Polytechnic Institution, on which occasion a descriptive paper was read by Mr. Hughes, the inventor, and several pieces were performed by Mr. Reynolds, the organist of St. Bride's, Fleet-street.

The great feature of the invention consists in a new arrangement of the keys, the objects being to render the execution of difficult passages much more easy, and to enable the performer to effects altogether surpassing in fulness and power everything attainable on the ordinary pianoforte.

The natural scale, arranged on the common pianoforte in one row of white keys, is here arranged in two rows: the first row being in thirds -c, e, g, b, &c., while the row be: hind it contains the intermediate notes likewise in thirds — d, f, a, c, &c.; and there is a third row of black keys as on the ordinary instrument. Consequently the key — should be provided.

For this purpose the inventor has reduced the breadth of the black keys in such manner that the space between the alternate ones is just that which is required. The performance, by Mr. Reynolds, of Mendelssohn's Wedding March, a Fantasia, “The Standard Bearer,” and the Overture to Zampa, was amply sufficient to show that the new instrument puts into the hands of the musician the means of producing effects of a very extraordinary and striking character, even when executing existing pieces.

But these are not the only advantages it possesses; for it is evident that, with the largely-increased number of notes under the control of the performer, the composer will be at liberty to develop ideas and feelings the expression of which has hitherto lain altogether beyond the scope of the ordinary pianoforte. In expressing our admiration of the qualities of this instrument, we have not confided exclusively in our own judgment, because persons of mechanical avocations are apt to be distrusted (and probably apt to be deceived also) in matters relating to the arts.

But we are able to add to our own testimony the fact that, after the conclusion of Mr. Reynolds' performance, very high opinions were expressed of the new instrument by Mr. Hullah, Mr. Aguilar, and other persons of eminence in the department of music; and a distinguished musical critic says : —

“It is evident that this arrangement must have many advantages, particularly in the execution of arpeggio passages, and in the production of much fuller and more extended harmony than is practicable on the common pianoforte.”

The ease and facility with which Mr. Reynolds ran through the various scales, and produced the tenth, octave fifth, sixth, and fifteenth, at the request of the gentlemen present, called forth the admiration of the company, and both demonstrated the perfect control possessed by the performer over the instrument, and indicated what effects may be expected to be obtained from it by means of only ordinary assiduity in practising it.

There is one objection to the new instrument, and this arises from the difference of the methods of fingering required in these and in the ordinary instruments. We cannot, however, believe that this objection will be considered of sufficient importance to outweigh the numerous advantages associated with the change.

It must be remembered that the absolute difficulty experienced in learning the improved instrument will, in many instances (as in the case of young ladies with small hands), be much less than that now experienced with the common pianoforte, while the effects produced may in all cases be very greatly improved.

Other advantages are associated with the improvement in the keyboard, including the attainment of increased portability, the new instrument occupying but little more than half the space required for others of equal power.

Finally, pianofortes of the new method of construction are manufactured at a cost twenty per cent. less than that of ordinary ones. It should be added, that the improved key-board may be applied, at a small expense, to existing instruments of all descriptions." The Mechanics' Magazine, 1855, p. 587-588

 - or - "May 30, 1853. - H. HUGHES and W. DENHAM. Continuous sounds, produced by two sets of hammers being successively brought into action." The history of the pianoforte, 1870, p. 78

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