The spinettone (Italian: "big spinet") was a kind of harpsichord invented in the late 17th century by Bartolomeo Cristofori, who was later the inventor of the piano. Other names for this instrument were spinettone da teatro ("of the theater"), spinetta traversa ("transverse spinet").
1 Description 2 History 3 Notes 4 References 5 External links
Description The spinettone was a kind of spinet, which means specifically that its strings were placed in pairs along a diagonal relative to the position of the keyboard (see spinet). The jacks that plucked the strings were placed in opposite-facing pairs within the larger gaps between strings. Most spinets are smaller than regular harpsichords. The spinettone was very long, but narrower than a regular harpsichord. The novelty of Cristofori's spinettone was that unlike any other spinet, it deployed multiple choirs of strings. Its disposition was 1 x 8', 1 x 4', which means one set of strings in the normal octave and one set that sounded an octave higher. As with all multichoired harpsichords, this necessitated two sets of jacks, one for each choir. The player could choose which choir of strings would sound (8', 4', or both together) by sliding the keyboard forward and backward. The internal mechanism that accomplished this was the same as the one that Cristofori had earlier used for his oval spinet, q.v.
Detail of the spinettone illustrated above, showing the separate bridges employed for the iron strings in the top range. The four bridges are as follows: top left, four-foot bridge for lower strings (brass); top right, eight-foot bridge for lower strings (brass); lower left, four-foot bridge for higher strings (iron); lower right, eight-foot bridge for upper strings (iron). Click on image to expand.
As Kottick (2003) points out, the design of the spinettone attested to
the extraordinary ingenuity of its inventor, which has been remarked
on by a number of modern scholars (see Bartolomeo Cristofori). It is
not at all straightforward to fit two sets of paired spinet jacks into
the ordinary string layout of a spinet, which is more crowded owing to
the slant of the strings. Cristofori was able to do this by using iron
in the upper strings instead of his customary brass. These strings
could then be made tenser—therefore longer, to sustain the same
pitch—and thereby create the space needed for the jacks.
The spinnettoni that Cristofori built were intended for the Medici
family of Florence, more specifically for his patron Prince
Ferdinando, the son of Grand Duke Cosimo III and heir to the Tuscan
Prince Ferdinando was a great enthusiast for opera, and he organized
many operatic productions at the
^ Kottick (2003, 211) ^ "The conservation of the 1690 ‘spinetta ovale’ by Bartolomeo Cristofori - an approach based on an archaeological analogy", on line at  ^ Kottick (2003, 213-214)
Holmes, William C. (1999) "Operatic commissions and productions at Pratolino: Ifianassa e Melampo by Moniglia and Legrenzi," Journal of Musicology vol. 17 no. 1, pp. 152–167. Kottick, Edward (2003) A history of the harpsichord. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34166-3, ISBN 978-0-253-34166-2. Montanari, Giuliana (2002) "The oval spinets and Grind Prince Ferdinando de' Medici's collection of quilled instruments," in La spinetta ovale del 1690/The 1690 Oval Spinet, edited by Gabriele Rossi-Rognoni, (Sillabe for the Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence).