Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Giambatista Beccaria, 13 July 1762

To Giambatista Beccaria4

MS not found; reprinted from Benjamin Franklin, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, 1769 edition, pp. 427–33.5

That glass or porcelain vessels, or even some earthenware bowls, would give off musical tones when gently struck had been known in various parts of the world for centuries before Franklin’s time, and men in both Asia and Europe had learned to entertain themselves and each other by playing tunes on a series of such containers appropriately graded in size.6 Perhaps it was a group of convivial gentlemen sitting about a table with their wine who made the later discovery that glasses could be made to sing by rubbing a moistened finger around their rims. Experimentation showed that not only the size and thickness of the glass, but also the amount of liquid it contained would determine the pitch of its musical tone.

By the 1730s, at least, this scientific toy had begun to be taken seriously, and references occasionally appeared to sets of tuned glasses which were used to provide music in churches or were played in combination with violins and basses. At this time the Verrillon, as it was called, seems always to have been used as a percussion instrument.

A decade later an Irishman, Richard Pockrich, or Puckridge, entered the scene—a strange and visionary person, who operated a brewery which failed, proposed vineyards in the Irish bogs, offered to build unsinkable boats for the navy, and undertook to raise geese on a large scale on unsuitable land. Well ahead of his time with the germ of one idea, at least, he suggested blood transfusions as a means of rejuvenating the aged. Twice he failed of election to Parliament. A man of real musical abilities, in about 1741 he turned his attention to the musical glasses and began to give concerts professionally in England and Ireland. At first he seems to have played the glasses by striking them with sticks, but towards the end of his career he developed great skill in the method of rubbing their rims with moistened fingers, giving their notes a sustained quality not possible by percussion.7

Pockrich’s success inspired others. In 1746 the young German composer Christoph Willibald Gluck played a concerto at a benefit for himself in London.8 Others learned the art, both men and women, professionals and amateurs. By 1761 the musical glasses had become very much the vogue in London and in November of that year one of the most skillful performers, Miss Anne Ford, published a set of instructions.9 One of the amateur players was Edward Hussey Delaval, classicist and scientist, whom Franklin had helped elect to the Royal Society in 1759.1 As Franklin told Beccaria in the letter below, it was Delaval who in turn introduced Franklin to the musical glasses.

Franklin was obviously delighted, but he found inadequacies in the glasses as then employed. Filling each of a series of glasses with just the right amount of water to make it give off truly its assigned tone was a delicate and time-consuming job and one which had to be repeated before each performance. Enough glasses to provide a reasonable range, including all the semitones, occupied a considerable space on a table and could be awkward to play. Furthermore, it was difficult if not impossible to play more than two at once, one with each hand. Characteristically, then, Franklin set about to improve the musical glasses; the result was his invention, sometimes at first called the “glassychord,” but which he himself named the “armonica,” as he told Beccaria at the end of this letter.2 Some of his contemporaries began to put an unnecessary “h” in front of the word and “harmonica” became the name by which his instrument was usually called, thereby misleading many people of later generations into the belief that Franklin invented the mouth organ.3

It is not entirely certain just when Franklin devised the armonica, had his first instrument made, and began to play it. The evidence is strong, however, that these events took place at least as early as 1761, and by January of the following year a protégée, Miss Marianne Davies, was giving public performances.4 He himself took great pleasure from playing his armonica; he carried one home with him when he sailed a few weeks after writing this letter to Beccaria, and always thereafter seems to have had one in his living quarters wherever he might be.5 Later volumes of this edition will contain many references to his continued interest and delight in his musical invention.

Just when and how Marianne Davies was introduced to the armonica is not known. The daughter of a musician, she was already familiar in English concert halls as a singer and a performer on the flute and harpsichord.6 The statement has occasionally been made—quite incorrectly —that she was somehow related to Franklin; it has also been said—with greater probability of truth—that he provided her with her first armonica. But no evidence has been found to suggest the circumstances under which they first became acquainted, and no letters between them survive earlier than one from her of April 26, 1783. In that she referred repeatedly to her “strong feelings of Gratitude” to her “Benefactor,” and proudly mentioned that she had “the Prerogative (thro’ your goodness) of being the first public Performer on that Instrument.”7

In any case, she began her public performances on the armonica early in 1762, playing at various places of entertainment in London and the provinces; later she visited Ireland and the Continent. Sometimes she varied her programs with vocal numbers or others on the flute or harpsichord, but she became identified as the leading performer on the armonica. Her parents and younger sister Cecilia seem to have accompanied her on her Continental tours.8 By 1767 Cecilia’s voice had matured and she began to share importantly in the programs as a singer, learning to assimilate her tones admirably to those of the armonica. The performance of the Davies sisters attained great popularity, and Marianne Davies, more than anyone else, was responsible for the vogue the armonica came to enjoy, especially in the German states and in Vienna.

Perhaps the high point in the sisters’ joint career came in Vienna on June 27, 1769. The occasion was the marriage of the Archduchess Amalia to Duke Ferdinand of Parma. In honor of the bridal couple the Italian librettist Pietro Metastasio,9 then court poet, composed an ode in Italian which the popular composer Johann Adolf Hasse set to music for soprano with armonica accompaniment. The Davies sisters rendered this composition apparently to the great satisfaction and approval of the assembled guests. Marianne seems to have remembered her benefactor, for a copy of the words—though unfortunately not of the score—survives among the Franklin Papers.1

For a good many years the armonica not only enjoyed great popularity with the public at large but also received the serious attention of distinguished musicians. Leopold Mozart, father of the great composer, wrote warmly of it to his wife in 1773, reporting that Friedrich Anton Mesmer, the proponent of “animal magnetism,” had an instrument that he played unusually well and adding that “Wolfgang too has played upon it. How I should like to have one!”2

Wolfgang Mozart, indeed, not only played the armonica experimentally as a youth but wrote for it later on, as did several other eighteenth-century composers. In 1791 Mozart heard a blind girl, Marianna Kirchgessner, perform in Vienna and was inspired to compose an Adagio for armonica solo (K. 356) and what E. Power Biggs has called “one of his most perfect and delightful works,” a quintet, the Adagio and Rondo for armonica, flute, oboe, viola, and cello (K. 617).3 In 1814 Beethoven wrote an armonica accompaniment to spoken words as part of the incidental music he composed for Friedrich Duncker’s tragedy Leonora Prohaska (op. 202).4

The armonica apparently gave forth a sustained, ringing tone, rather different in quality from the effect produced by tapping a glass with a stick or metal rod. Since Franklin’s instrument included no device for damping the vibration and hence the tone, the playing of rapid passages acceptably must have been difficult. Various individuals in Europe or America attempted to improve the armonica. A trough filled with water was sometimes placed beneath the row of glasses so that as they turned their rims would remain constantly wet, simplifying the performer’s task. Several people tried to convert the armonica into a keyboard instrument; one of these was Francis Hopkinson, Franklin’s Philadelphia friend, who wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1786 that he was working on the scheme and had “little Doubt of Success.” Jefferson replied that if Hopkinson’s project worked out “It will be the greatest present which has been made to the musical world this century, not excepting the Piano forte.”5 Later Hopkinson reported substantial progress, but for all his optimism and Jefferson’s enthusiasm, neither this nor any other attempt to turn the armonica into a satisfactory keyboard instrument proved really effective. No armonica of this sort seems to have survived, even in a museum.

Contemporary references generally describe the tones of Franklin’s instrument by such adjectives as “ethereal,” “sweet,” “pathetic,” or “melancholy,” qualities which undoubtedly account for a good deal of its popularity during the first flush of romanticism in music.6 Yet, as musical tastes began to change, the armonica lost much of its appeal. It was a difficult instrument to play really well, and was expensive—far more so than a simple set of glasses—and probably out of reach of many whose objective was mere diversion or the entertainment of patrons of pleasure gardens or music halls.7 An inherent problem was the fragility of the glass: not only might one or more hemispheres break when the instrument was moved about, but all too often a “note” could shatter through its own vibration when played.8

Most important, however, was the belief, which attained wide acceptance in the course of time, that the armonica was dangerous to the health of the performer. The cause, it seems, was partly physiological, partly psychological. The vibrations of the glasses, transferred through the fingers, were thought to have injured in time the entire nervous system of the player. This belief was a major reason for the many attempts to devise a satisfactory keyboard which would substitute mechanical “fingers” for those of the performer. Furthermore, the “pathetic” and “melancholy” tones of the instrument, if heard often and long enough, induced an unhappy state of mind which might result in what many people today would call a nervous breakdown. Leopold Mozart wrote, five years after his first enthusiastic letter about the armonica, that he had been listening to a famous oboist but that “this mezza di voce was too frequent for my taste and has the same melancholy effect on me as the tones of the armonica, for it produces almost the same kind of sound.”9 Whatever may have been the true medical reasons, the fact remains that Marianne Davies became ill and was confined to her room for more than a year; and Marianna Kirchgessner and at least one other professional performer had to give up playing because of nervous disorders. It may be remarked, on the other hand, that neither Franklin nor Mesmer, among other players, ever experienced nervous breakdowns; nor, oddly enough, did any of those who continued to perform publicly on the old-fashioned row of musical glasses on a table seem to have complained of the same harmful effects.

Nevertheless, for all these reasons, and perhaps for others not now recognized, the armonica gradually fell into neglect and in time passed completely out of use. Its final disappearance from the concert platform cannot be precisely dated, but it seems safe to say that public performances on Franklin’s instrument, as distinct from the musical glasses, were rare after about 1825 or 1830. A few instruments survive today in museums or collections of antique musical instruments or in private homes, but it is believed that none of them is fully playable. The armonica as Franklin gave it to the musical world of his time is now a curiosity of the past.1

London, July 13, 1762.

Rev. Sir,

I once promised myself the pleasure of seeing you at Turin, but as that is not now likely to happen, being just about returning to my native country, America, I sit down to take leave of you (among others of my European friends that I cannot see) by writing.

I thank you for the honourable mention you have so frequently made of me in your letters to Mr. Collinson and others, for the generous defence you undertook and executed with so much success, of my electrical opinions; and for the valuable present you have made me of your new work, from which I have received great information and pleasure.2 I wish I could in return entertain you with any thing new of mine on that subject; but I have not lately pursued it. Nor do I know of any one here that is at present much engaged in it.

Perhaps, however, it may be agreeable to you, as you live in a musical country, to have an account of the new instrument lately added here to the great number that charming science was before possessed of: As it is an instrument that seems peculiarly adapted to Italian music, especially that of the soft and plaintive kind, I will endeavour to give you such a description of it, and of the manner of constructing it, that you, or any of your friends may be enabled to imitate it, if you incline so to do, without being at the expence and trouble of the many experiments I have made in endeavouring to bring it to its present perfection.

You have doubtless heard the sweet tone that is drawn from a drinking glass, by passing a wet finger round its brim. One Mr. Puckeridge, a gentleman from Ireland, was the first who thought of playing tunes, formed of these tones. He collected a number of glasses of different sizes, fixed them near each other on a table, and tuned them by putting into them water, more or less, as each note required. The tones were brought out by passing his fingers round their brims. He was unfortunately burnt here, with his instrument, in a fire which consumed the house he lived in. Mr. E. Delaval, a most ingenious member of our Royal Society, made one in imitation of it, with a better choice and form of glasses, which was the first I saw or heard. Being charmed with the sweetness of its tones, and the music he produced from it, I wished only to see the glasses disposed in a more convenient form, and brought together in a narrower compass, so as to admit of a greater number of tones, and all within reach of hand to a person sitting before the instrument, which I accomplished, after various intermediate trials, and less commodious forms, both of glasses and construction, in the following manner.

The glasses are blown as near as possible in the form of hemispheres, having each an open neck or socket in the middle.3 The thickness of the glass near the brim about a tenth of an inch, or hardly quite so much, but thicker as it comes nearer the neck, which in the largest glasses is about an inch deep, and an inch and half wide within, these dimensions lessening as the glasses themselves diminish in size, except that the neck of the smallest ought not to be shorter than half an inch. The largest glass is nine inches diameter, and the smallest three inches. Between these there are twenty-three different sizes, differing from each other a quarter of an inch in diameter. To make a single instrument there should be at least six glasses blown of each size; and out of this number one may probably pick 37 glasses, (which are sufficient for 3 octaves with all the semitones) that will be each either the note one wants or a little sharper than that note, and all fitting so well into each other as to taper pretty regularly from the largest to the smallest. It is true there are not 37 sizes, but it often happens that two of the same size differ a note or half note in tone, by reason of a difference in thickness, and these may be placed one in the other without sensibly hurting the regularity of the taper form.

The glasses being chosen and every one marked with a diamond the note you intend it for, they are to be tuned by diminishing the thickness of those that are too sharp. This is done by grinding them round from the neck towards the brim, the breadth of one or two inches as may be required; often trying the glass by a well tuned harpsichord, comparing the tone drawn from the glass by your finger, with the note you want, as sounded by that string of the harpsichord. When you come near the matter, be careful to wipe the glass clean and dry before each trial, because the tone is something flatter when the glass is wet, than it will be when dry; and grinding a very little between each trial, you will thereby tune to great exactness. The more care is necessary in this, because if you go below your required tone, there is no sharpening it again but by grinding somewhat off the brim, which will afterwards require polishing, and thus encrease the trouble.

The glasses being thus tuned, you are to be provided with a case for them, and a spindle on which they are to be fixed. My case is about three feet long, eleven inches every way wide within at the biggest end, and five inches at the smallest end; for it tapers all the way, to adapt it better to the conical figure of the set of glasses. This case opens in the middle of its height, and the upper part turns up by hinges fixed behind. The spindle which is of hard iron, lies horizontally from end to end of the box within, exactly in the middle, and is made to turn on brass gudgeons at each end. It is round, an inch diameter at the thickest end, and tapering to a quarter of an inch at the smallest. A square shank comes from its thickest end through the box, on which shank a wheel is fixed by a screw. This wheel serves as a fly to make the motion equable, when the spindle, with the glasses, is turned by the foot like a spinning wheel. My wheel is of mahogany, 18 inches diameter, and pretty thick, so as to conceal near its circumference about 25 lb. of lead. An ivory pin is fixed in the face of this wheel and about 4 inches from the axis. Over the neck of this pin is put the loop of the string that comes up from the moveable step to give it motion. The case stands on a neat frame with four legs.

To fix the glasses on the spindle, a cork is first to be fitted in each neck pretty tight, and projecting a little without the neck, that the neck of one may not touch the inside of another when put together, for that would make a jarring. These corks are to be perforated with holes of different diameters, so as to suit that part of the spindle on which they are to be fixed. Then a glass is put on, by holding it stiffly between both hands, while another turns the spindle, it may be gradually brought to its place. But care must be taken that the hole be not too small, lest in forcing it up the neck should split; nor too large, lest the glass not being firmly fixed, should turn or move on the spindle, so as to touch and jar against its neighbouring glass. The glasses thus are placed one in another, the largest on the biggest end of the spindle which is to the left hand; the neck of this glass is towards the wheel, and the next goes into it in the same position, only about an inch of its brim appearing beyond the brim of the first; thus proceeding, every glass when fixed shows about an inch of its brim, (or three quarters of an inch, or half an inch, as they grow smaller) beyond the brim of the glass that contains it; and it is from these exposed parts of each glass that the tone is drawn, by laying a finger upon one of them as the spindle and glasses turn round.

My largest glass is G a little below the reach of a common voice, and my highest G, including three compleat octaves. To distinguish the glasses the more readily to the eye, I have painted the apparent parts of the glasses within side,4 every semitone white, and the other notes of the octave with the seven prismatic colours, viz. C, red; D, orange; E, yellow; F, green; G, blue; A, Indigo; B, purple; and C, red again; so that glasses of the same colour (the white excepted) are always octaves to each other.

This instrument is played upon, by sitting before the middle of the set of glasses as before the keys of a harpsichord, turning them with the foot, and wetting them now and then with a spunge and clean water. The fingers should first be a little soaked in water and quite free from all greasiness; a little fine chalk upon them is sometimes useful, to make them catch the glass and bring out the tone more readily. Both hands are used, by which means different parts are played together. Observe, that the tones are best drawn out when the glasses turn from the ends of the fingers, not when they turn to them.

The advantages of this instrument are, that its tones are incomparably sweet beyond those of any other; that they may be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures of the finger, and continued to any length; and that the instrument, being once well tuned, never again wants tuning.

In honour of your musical language, I have borrowed from it the name of this instrument, calling it the Armonica.

With great esteem and respect, I am, &c.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4On Giambatista Beccaria (1716–1781) of the teaching order of Piarists, professor of experimental physics at Turin, see above, V, 395 n.

5Printed as Letter XLII in both the 1769 edition and that of 1774, where it appears on pp. 437–43. This letter was translated into Italian by Baron Giuseppe Vernazza di Alba and published as a small pamphlet with the title L’Armonica Lettera del signor Beniamino Franklin al padre Giambatista Beccaria regio professore di fisica nell’ università di Torino dall’ Inglese recata nell’ Italiano (Turino, 1769) (Yale Univ. Lib.). This copy and the ones at Liceo Musicale of Bologna and Lib. Co. Phila. do not have the name of the translator on the title page; that at APS and some others do. For a discussion of the bibliographical problems concerning the Italian printings, see Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (Phila., 1958), pp. 414–15.

6The most thorough treatment of the subject of this headnote is A. Hyatt King, “The Musical Glasses and Glass Harmonica,” Royal Musical Assn. Proc., 72d Session, 1945–46, pp. 97–122, which has provided much of the information summarized here. Other helpful writings include Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy, pp. 268–83; E. Power Biggs, “Benjamin Franklin and the Armonica,” Daedalus Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, LXXXVI (1955–57), 231–41; O.G. Sonneck, Suum Cuique Essays in Music (N.Y., London, Boston, [1916]), pp. 59–73; Horace Ervin, “Notes on Franklin’s Armonica and the Music Mozart Wrote for It,” Journal, Franklin Institute, CCLXII (1956), 329–48.

7Pockrich died in 1759 in a fire in his room at a coffeehouse near the Royal Exchange, London. DNB; Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (5th edit., London, 1954), VI, 832. A young man who knew him at the start of his musical career is authority for a distressing incident before a concert scheduled in Dublin: “About three hours before the concert was to begin, the Captain [Pockrich] went to range and tune his glasses, when unfortunately stepping out for some water, a large unmannerly sow entered, and, oh! guess the rest!—threw down the whole machine, and covered the ground with glittering fragments; destroying not only the hopes of the publick, but ours of a present and future subsistence. When the Captain returned, and found his lofty castles in the air reduced to an heap of rubbish, he looked just like Mark Anthony, when he beholds the body of Julius Caesar on the earth, and says: Oh! Mighty Caesar, dost thou lie so low?” The Real Story of John Carteret Pilkington. Written by Himself (London, 1760), pp. 66–7.

8Grove’s Dictionary, III, 676.

9Public Advertiser, Nov. 2, 1761; Gent. Mag., XXXI (1761), 606. There is a copy in Harvard Coll. Lib. of By Miss Ford. Instructions For Playing on the Musical Glasses: so that Any Person, who has the least Knowledge of Music, or a good Ear, may be able to perform in a few Days, if not in a few Hours.

1See above, VIII, 359–60.

2The earliest known appearance of the name “armonica” is in an advertisement in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, May 29, 1762, in which Charles James “of Purpool, near Gray’s Inn, London,” announced that he could supply the instrument and that he had been “employed in the management of the Glass Machines from the beginning, by the ingenious and well-known inventor.” Quoted in A. Hyatt King, Royal Musical Assn. Proc., 1945–46, p. 107. London Chron., June 17–19, 1762, carried a similar advertisement by James in which he explained that the armonica “may be so constructed, as to be either a Portable Instrument, or Genteel Piece of Furniture.”

3The mouth organ, or “mouth harmonica,” was invented in 1829 by the London firm of Wheatstone and was called by them the “Aeolina.” Grove’s Dictionary, V, 919.

4On April 13, 1761, Thomas Penn wrote Governor Hamilton that BF was spending his time “in philosophical, and especially in electrical matters, … and musical performances on glasses,” but these words could refer to his preliminary efforts on water-tuned drinking glasses before he had fully worked out the idea of the armonica. Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. Clearer evidence is found in a diary entry of Dr. William Stukeley, May 22, 1761: “Visited Dr. Franklyn, the electric genius. He has made a dulcimer of wooden sticks, very sweet; another of glass bells, that warble like the sound of an organ.” The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley, M.D. (Publications of the Surtees Society, LXXX), III, 480. The term “glass bells” makes certain that BF was here using something quite different from drinking glasses, and “warble like the sound of an organ” shows that he was not striking them with sticks or small hammers. The instrument had certainly passed the experimental stage well before the end of the year. Mrs. Martha J. Lamb, ed., Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries, XIX (1888), 83, printed without indication of source the following: “London, Jan. 12, 1762. In the Bristol Journal we find advertised ‘The celebrated Glassy-Chord invented by Mr. Franklin, of Philadelphia; who has greatly improved the Musical Glasses, and formed them into a compleat Instrument to accompany the Voice; capable of a thorough Bass, and never out of Tune. Miss Davies, from London, was to perform in the Month of January, several favourite Airs, English, Scotch and Italian, on the Glassychord (being the only one of the Kind that has yet been produced) accompanied occasionally with the Voice and German Flute.’” The identical note, without the London date line, appeared in N.-Y. Mercury, April 19, 1762, in a series of London news items, the one immediately above it being dated “London, January 28.” The editors have been unable to find any copy of the Bristol Journal for the appropriate period or to determine from which London newspaper the item might have been taken. In the first of his advertisements mentioned in a previous note, Charles James declared that his instruments were “on the same principles and guided by the same hand as that played on by Miss Davies at Spring Gardens, London, at Bath and Bristol.”

5The earliest mention of BF’s performance on the armonica after his return to Philadelphia is in a letter dated Dec. 3, 1762, from Mrs. Ann Graeme to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl WF had jilted (see above, VII, 177 n). Mrs. Graeme had called on the Franklins the day before (about a month after BF had arrived); although the situation necessarily involved considerable strain, “we appear’d to have a very easy afternoon,” and at the caller’s request BF gave her “a tune on the Harmonica.” PMHB, XXXIX (1915), 270–1.

6Sketches of both Marianne Davies (1744–1816?) and her sister Cecilia (c. 1750–1836) appear in DNB and Grove’s Dictionary, II, 608–9. In her letters to BF the elder sister signed her name “Mary Ann.” Cecilia made her career chiefly as a singer of Italian opera and was often called “L’Inglesina.”


8In the letter of April 26, 1783, cited above, she recalled some of the problems of traveling with an armonica: “Well I remember the difficulties and expence attending it and the perpetual fear of its being damaged at each Custom House &c. &c. Yet at that time I was happy in my poor Dear Father’s continual care and attention. The Protection likewise of our Dear Parents made Travelling then appear to me quite in another light” from what it would be after they were both dead.

9His real name was Pietro Antonio Domenico Bonaventura Trapassi.

1“Poesia per l’occasione delle Nozze del Real Infante Duca di Parma con l’Arciduchessa d’Austria cantata in Vienna dalla Cecilia Davies detta L’Inglesina Sorella dell’ eccelente Sonatrice del nuovo Istrumento di Musica Elettrica, chiamato L’Armonica Inventato dal Celebre Dottore Franklin.” At the end of the poem appears: “Questa Cantata fù Scritta dal Abate Pietro Metastasio. e Messa in Musica da Giovanni Adolpho Hasse detto il Sassone.” An endorsement reads: “Miss Davies Ode.” APS. The words of the song are printed, with a shortened title and a few alterations, at the front of the 1769 Turin edition of BF’s letter mentioned in the second footnote to this document. The reference in the title to the “Nuovo Istrumento di Musica Elettrica” is an interesting allusion to the inventor’s fame as an electrical scientist.

2Quoted by A. Hyatt King, Royal Musical Assn. Proc., 1945–46, p. 109. In treating his patients Mesmer used the armonica as background music, and in 1779 BF and Mme. Brillon went to his house in Paris to hear him play.

3E. Power Biggs, Daedalus, LXXXVI, 238, 257. The quintet has been recorded at least twice in recent years, with the armonica part played on the celesta or the harpsichord. The solo has also been recorded by Mr. Biggs, using the flute stops of the organ. For particulars on these records see Horace Ervin, Journal, Franklin Institute, CCLXLL, 348. The solo is now often listed as K. 617a.

4Alexander W. Thayer, Ludwig van Beethovens Leben, III (Leipzig, 1911), 459.

5The correspondence of these men on the subject is printed in Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton, 1950– ), X, 78, 625–6; XI, 289. Jefferson reported on Hopkinson’s experiments to Charles Burney, the English musician and writer on musical subjects, commenting that “However imperfect this instrument is for the general mass of musical compositions, yet for those of a certain character it is delicious.” Ibid., XI, 141.

6Mr. E. Power Biggs, the distinguished organist, who has experimented with the instrument, commented to the editor in a letter of April 23, 1965: “The sound of a delicate flute stop, incidentally, rather resembles that of a glass armonica. Though it lacks, of course, the effect of coming from nowhere and the slow dying away into silence, which is a quite magical effect with the glasses.”

7In 1787 Jefferson, then in Paris, asked a friend in London to price an armonica of six octaves “if they ever comprehend as much.” His friend replied that he found they never exceeded three octaves and for one of that size he had been quoted a price of thirty guineas. Ibid., XII, 235, 297.

8In BF’s later correspondence there are several references to broken glasses and to the difficulty of procuring good replacements. He seems to have taken a supply of “extras” of various sizes with him when he returned to America.

9Quoted by A. Hyatt King, Royal Musical Assn. Proc., 1945–46, p. 110. He also quotes (p. 113) a medico-musical writer in 1803, who declared that “Le timbre mélancholique de l’harmonica nous plonge dans un profond abattement, et relache tous les nerfs du corps, au point que l’homme le plus robuste ne sauroit l’entendre pendant une heure sans se trouver mal.”

1In anticipation of the 250th anniversary of BF’s birth and the 200th of Mozart’s, both of which occurred in 1956, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences sponsored the construction of an armonica. It was financed through the generosity of the Franklin Savings Bank of Boston; the Corning Glass Works blew the glass, and Herman Schlichter constructed a cabinet and keyboard mechanism. Numerous problems and difficulties appeared which suggested that some of the technical methods known to the eighteenth century may not have been as completely preserved as we today should like to believe; the experiment was not an unqualified success. At a meeting of the Academy, April 11, 1956, Mr. E. Power Biggs, organist, seven other instrumentalists, and Mr. Roland Hayes, tenor, presented a program of chamber music which included organ and instrumental numbers by Mozart, songs written by BF, the quartet for open strings he is believed to have composed, and the two compositions for armonica Mozart wrote after hearing Marianna Kirchgessner play. Mr. Biggs performed two eighteenth-century compositions for the musical glasses on a set of wine glasses and Mozart’s Adagio for the Armonica (K. 356) on the experimental instrument. Then with other instrumentalists he played Mozart’s Adagio and Rondo (K. 617), using the flute stop of the organ. The program of the concert is printed in Daedalus, LXXXVI (1955–57), 256–7.

2In 1753 Beccaria had published Dell’ elettricismo artificiale, e naturale, in which he had defended BF’s electrical theories against those of Nollet, and in 1758 appeared his Dell’ elettricismo: lettere of which he had sent BF a copy; see above, V, 395 n; VII, 315.

3The accompanying illustration appears at this point in Exper. and Obser., 1769 edit., p. 429. Presumably BF embellished the ALS he sent Beccaria with a similar sketch.

4That is, he painted the inside of that part of each glass which was exposed at the right of its left-hand neighbor.

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