This bentside spinet is a priceless treasure, being the only extant instrument made by the English maker Furley Hawkins in the world.
A spinet is a small, wing-shaped type of harpsichord that is believed to have originated in Italy during the sixteenth century.
By the eighteenth century, the spinet had become extremely popular in England as a substitute for the larger, more expensive harpsichord. Its compact size, affordability and sweet, ‘plummy’ tone made it ideal for all sorts of domestic music-making and musical instruction.
However this was no ‘poor man’s harpsichord’, as the instrument’s prevalence among the British gentry and musical elite proves. With its fiveoctave compass, it could play almost anything that could be performed on a harpsichord.
Apart from size, what primarily distinguishes the spinet from the harpsichord is the angle of its strings: whereas in a full-size harpsichord, the strings are at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard, in a spinet the strings are at an angle of about 30 degrees to the keyboard.
The bentside spinet takes its name from the shape of its case, being approximately triangular with two straight sides, one of which holds the keyboard, while the right side is usually bent concavely.
Spinets are occasionally made today and serve the same purpose they always have, of saving money and space.