home Pianoforte-makers in England


in London
(ca. 1782 - 1843)




"Few names are better known in the annals of education than that of William Pinnock, attached to so many elementary school-books, Catechisms, Histories, and, in short, to every class of useful and valuable study for the young.

He died on the 21st ult, in his sixty-second year, and in very poor circumstances, only alleviated by the affectionate attentions of a wife and relatives who had unhappily been estranged from his latterly wayward and expedient-seeking course of life. But poor Pinnock was not always so : he made fortunes, and he lost them; for his mind was speculative beyond satiety or cure.

From the humblest condition he raised himself to property and consideration. His energy was invincible; and had he been as steady in pursuit as he was ingenious in scheming, he might have been one of the richest publishers and booksellers in Britain.

Pinnock was lowly born at Alton in Hampshire, where he made his first start as a teacher, and devised the admirable plan of catechetical composition for the purposes of early tuition.

Thence he removed to Newbury; where the stoppage of the bank involved him in considerable difficulties. We became acquainted with him about that time; and an act on his part of a very honorable nature gave us a most favorable opinion of his character.

For a year or two, settling in London, he was, with his then partner, Mr. Samuel Maunder (Of Mr. Maunder, the author of the Treasury of Knowledge Biographical Treasury, and other works of the kind, for industry, care, and merit, we cannot omit the opportunity to speak in terms of the warmest eulogy both as a private individual and a public writer of the most useful description.

Though Pinnock was the original contriver of the majority of the publications which justly obtained such extensive popularity, all the best parts of the execution were by Mr. Maunder, whose sister is Pinnock's widow; and whilst the one unfortunately forsook the direct road, where he had accomplished so much, to follow illusory projects, the other persevered honorably in the path of literary labor and exertion, earning for himself an unsullied reŁ for great ability and straightforward enterprise. By Mr. aunder and his sister, the latter clouded days of their misguided connexion were soothed and brightened; for his errors and neglect were all forgotten in his forlorn condition. - Ed. L. G.) publisher (with a share) of the then young Literary Gazette.

His unwearied activity and perseverance at this period established the elementary school-books, which bore his name, to an immense extent; and, if he could have been contented with success, we think we may speak from personal knowledge that four or five thousand pounds a year was nearly his certain reward.

But, as we have hinted, his Soul was a Projectile, without rest or end. Success only generated desire; and in the midst of publishing most prosperously, he devised new roads to fortune, and steamed away upon them all, as they inflamed his imagination.

Among others, we remember one of pianoforte-making; to secure a monopoly in which he went to the London Docks, &c., and bought up all the veneer wood that could be got, so that all the old houses must come to him for veneer, or he alone could manufacture elegant instruments! And so he sank some thousands of pounds in a lot of material which could not have been wrought up in half a century.

Embarrassment was sure to follow such freaks as these; and that partnership which had done so much for him was broken up. Then came a course of numberless erratic modes to live on the past, and obtain notoriety and means enough to carry other of his large and tempting projections into effect. His later years were obscured by these attempts, and his representations (as far as they went) reflected some suspicions and discredit upon those who had made and sustained him in his earlier and better days.

Whatever were his errors, — the errors of misfortune and reduced circumstances, rendered more exciting by the fervent structure of his disposition, — it ought not to be forgotten, that the works produced in his name, and through his exertions, have contributed perhaps more than any other class of literary production to the now prevalent means and clamors for universal education.

He has done much in his day towards this popular effect; and in his early services and late sufferings, his early merits and his late decline, we must — a just and generous public must-lament his frailties, but do honor to his foresight and resolute exertions in the cause of “instruction for the million.”

Like too many pioneers, he lost his own way; but now his path has ended in the grave, we (who have suffered somewhat by him) would put his Epitaph among those who have benefited their fellow-creatures; and, as was said of a jester, migh inscribe with much more of feeling, truth, and justice, the tomb of a teacher — Alas, Poor Pinnock !" The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art, Volume 1, 1843, p. 285 - and - The Literary Gazette: A Weekly Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, 18/11/1843, p. 751


"[...] The future history of my house-owning was not much out of keeping. I sold it for what I gave, to Mr. Pinnock, taking bills for the purchase money, of and on the Newbury Bank.

Before they were due, the bank was robbed and failed, and a considerable time elapsed before Mr. Pinnock, with great integrity, could repay my loss. This he honourably did, and I conveyed the “ Literary Gazette," for their publications, to the famed catechism-bookselling-shop of Pinnock and Maunder.

Pinnock, at that period, was a sound, good man, with certain indications of that restless and speculative mania, which ultimately made a wreck of him.

Maunder was always steady, able, and most estimable; and kept his brother-in-law somewhat in check; but the spirit was too powerful to be quite put down, and at last it got the upper hand and destroyed an individual who had conferred not only useful but incalculable benefits upon the rising generation, and all who have to follow them.

Pinnock's catechisms and abridged histories were immense improvements upon preceding educational elements of a similar kind, and their success might have satisfied any ordinary or even very sanguine mind. But Pinnock’s mind was not formed to be satisfied. The more his publications profited him (and they realised several thousand pounds a year), the more he yearned to try something else.

And so, for example, in one fit for making a fortune by a single stroke, he went into the docks and markets, and purchased all the veneer wood which he could obtain, and set out in the piano-forte manufacturing, seeing as how no other musical instrument maker in London could produce the article without paying the price to the person who had nearly all the veneering under his thumb.

This is not an embellishment; it is a sad literal truth, and went far to the ruin of the ingenious contriver of so ludicrous a monopoly. The passion grew upon him, till he was lost. There was no end of schemes ; no end of failures ; and not even the honest and worthy and excellent Maunder could avert the catastrophe.

But at the time of which I am speaking, matters were all in order ; and Pinnock's and Maunder’s connection with Education, and travelling throughout the country, rendered them very eligible allies for the new paper.

Either at first, or immediately after, they were admitted as co-partners with Mr. Colburn and myself, and the circulation reaped a benefit from their provincial agencies and general co-operation.

One evil infected the arrangement ; the accounts were irregular, partly from the nature of the pushing steps which were taken, and partly from the character of Pinnock, who had no idea of details. This led to a dissolution in about three years. But I will not anticipate." Autobiography: With His Literary, Political, and Social ..., Volume 2, William Jerdan, 1852, p. 180-182

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