Historic makers, instruments & collections

This is an index of some of the many original recorders in a number of American and European collections, both public and private. Three complimentary databases contain details of 1,794 Instruments, 384 Makers and 275 Instrument Collections. They may be accessed via the side panel to the right of this article. Their operation is (or should be) self-explanatory. To submit corrections, additions and observations please email me. Although not fully relational, there are links between Makers and their instruments and between Collections and the instruments they hold.

As time allows, supporting databases of Technical Drawings, Photographs and References will be integrated with the others. Meanwhile, the latter are presented as a bibliography below.

A number of museums now provide online catalogues of their collections. These sites are accessible via the Collections database and contain a wealth of data on their holdings additional to that presented here.

A number of European museums have combined their data to form Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO) which contains details and images of almost 60,000 instruments, including many recorders.

A unique resource is the Renaissance Recorders Database maintained by recorder maker Adrian Brown which contains critical measurements and other details of 196 surviving instruments from that period drawn almost entirely from Adrian’s own research. A critical commentary and a summary of this data is available in Brown (2005a & b).

A remarkable private collection of early 20th-century recorders and related internal duct-flutes is maintained by musician and academic Peter Thalheimer, a selection of which was the subject of an exhibition held in 2013 at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Markneukirchen. A fully descriptive and illustrated catalogue of this exhibition documents the diversity of recorder making in the Vogtland regions during the period 1926 to 1945 and illustrates the astonishing achievements in design and innovation of manufacturers fuelling the progress of the German recorder movement. On an accompanying CD, readers can listen to performances of the repertoire of early and modern music current at that time (Thalheimer 2013).

An enumeration of the work of some 200 woodwind instrument makers may be found in Young (1993). Accounts of recorders in European collections have been given in a seminal article by Bob Marvin (1972). Inês d’Avena Braga (2015) has documented all known Italian baroque recorders. Rob van Acht (2013) has catalogued technical drawings of recorders from collections in Berlin, Edinburgh, London, New York, Nuremberg, Oxford, Paris, The Hague and Vienna. Jan Bouterse (2001) provides extensive data and images of specimens by Dutch makers. Beatrice Darmstädter & Adrian Brown (2006) have catalogued the renaissance recorders at the Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente in Vienna and provided a wealth of measurements and other technical detail. Bruce Haynes (2002) has assigned nominal and performance pitches to many surviving original recorders. Griscom & Lasocki (2003) give further references. These and many other articles and books have been consulted in compiling the present database. Where conflicts occur, data published by the holding institution has generally been preferred over that in the literature, although pitch data from Haynes (loc. cit.) and Brown (2005a&b) has been preferred over other sources.

Haynes (2002) gives details of the nominal and performance pitch of 365 of the recorders detailed in the present database. His practice was to assume in principle that all recorders considered by him were pitched in either F or C except voice flutes in d’ and those recorders that would end up in pitches beyond the range of two semitones above or below these nominal pitches. Performance pitch data assembled by Haynes was gathered from named sources who were aware that the information they provided was for use in a longitudinal comparative study involving instruments from many different families. However, for the renaissance recorders catalogued by Brown (loc. cit.), his practice of giving the nominal pitch relative to A440 has been maintained here. For these essentially consort recorders Brown (2005a) places considerable emaphasis on the difference between nominal and sounding pitches, the reasons for which are explained by Peter van Heyghen (1995a&b) and Adrian Brown & David Lasocki (2006, 2007).

A number of items noted in the sale catalogues of auction houses have been included. Doubtless in some cases these will duplicate entries elsewhere in the database. This cannot be avoided.

The Comité International des Museés et Collections d’Instruments de Musique (CIMCIM) maintains a Register of Technical Drawings of Musical Instruments in Public Collections of the World, in connection with a cooperative project to microfilm technical drawings of musical instruments held by 25 participating museums. This list, prepared by Rob van Acht of the Hague Gemeentemuseum, includes 50 drawings of recorders which are now available on microfiche. Information on price and availability of these microfiche is available from CIMCIM or from MMF Publications.


Some preliminary observations from this survey will be of interest. There are records of 7 piccolo (garklein flutlein), 75 sopranino, 337 soprano, 678 alto, 266 tenor (including 35 tenors in d’), 245 basset, 24 bass, 12 contrabass (4 extended) and 1 subcontrabass recorders. A number are unassigned as to size. There are 5 columnar recorders in existence: 2 altos, 1 tenor, 1 basset and 1 bass.

Amongst the records, there are 449 boxwood recorders, 160 ivory, 176 maple, 81 plumwood, 41 unidentified fruitwood, and 2 marble recorders. Details of materials are not always noted in museum catalogues.

Makers represented include Bressan (77 examples), J.C. Denner (57), Bassano family (53), Kehr (42), Oberlender I (39), Gahn (37), König & Söhne (31), J. Denner (27), Rippert (24), Adler (26), Schell (25), Schrattenbach family (20), Boekhout (21), Haka (21), Hotteterre family (20), Stanesby Jr (21), Mahillon (18), Heitz (18), Otto (18), Rottenburgh family (15), Aardenberg (15), Beukers (15), Jahn (15), Stanesby Sr (14), Anciuti (13), Kynseker (13), Steenbergen (12), Castel (10) and G. Walch (10). There are 293 recorders by Unknown makers.

I note that some 125 examples detailed in this database date from the 19th century, mostly by unknown makers. MacMillan (2007) has published a checklist of over 122 19th-century recorders, ranging from 68 instruments whose makers can be precisely identified through a number of anonymous instruments to a fascinating series of unusual developments in recorder making. Of the 122 instruments listed by Macmillan (2007), 9 were made at the turn of the 19th century, and 113 were made between 1800-1905. A significant number of the latter are copies made for exhibition purposes or of questionable date. Inevitably he has missed a few examples, some of which are cited in his earlier paper (MacMillan 2003).

Finally, there is a striking absence of 20th- and 21st-century recorders in the various public museums. There are very few von Huene (12) or Morgan (3) instruments, for instance! The sorry result of this is that the collections themselves are little more than fossils and the continuing development of the recorder is likely to be imperfectly documented by concrete examples in times to come. This neglect should be addressed by seeking donations of instruments from players and makers, supplemented where possible by strategic purchases.

References cited on this page

  • Acht, Rob van. 2013. “Technical Drawings of Musical Instruments in Public Collections of the World. Suplement (2000).Comité International Des Museés et Collections d’Instruments de Musique (CIMCIM).
  • Avena Braga, Inês de. 2015. “Dolce Napoli : Approaches for Performance – Recorders for the Neapolitan Baroque Repertoire, 1695-1759.” Ph.D dissertation, Leiden: Leiden University. Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.
  • Bouterse, Jan. 2001. “Nederlandse houtblasinstrumenten en hun bouwers, 1660-1760. [Dutch Woodwind Instruments and their Makers, 1660-1760].” Ph.D. dissertation, Utrecht: Universiteit Utrecht.
  • Brown, Adrian. 2005a. “An Overview of the Surviving Renaissance Recorders.” In Musique de Joye: Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Renassiance Flute and Recorder Consort. Utrecht 2003, edited by David R.G. Lasocki, 77–98. Utrecht: STIMU Stichting Muziekhistorische Uitvoeringspraktijk (Foundation for Historical Performance Practice).
  • Brown, Adrian. 2005b. “Renaissance Recorders Database.
  • Brown, Adrian, and David R.G. Lasocki. 2006. “Renaissance Recorders and Their Makers.” American Recorder 46 (1): 19–31.
  • Brown, Adrian, and David R.G. Lasocki. 2007. “Blockflötenbau der Renaissance” [Renaissance Recorder Makers]. Tibia, 1: 322–28; 2: 402–12; 3: 482–88.
  • Darmstädter, Beatrice, and Adrian Brown. 2006. Die Renaissanceblockflöten der Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente des Kunsthistorischen Museums [The Recorders of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna]. Vol. Bd. 3. Sammlungskataloge des Kunsthistorischen Museums. Milan: Kunstihistorisches Museum Wien / Edition Skira.
  • Griscom, Richard W., and David R.G. Lasocki. 2013. The Recorder: A Research and Information Guide. 3rd ed. Routledge Music Bibliographies. New York, London: Routledge.
  • Haynes, Bruce. 2002. A History of Performing Pitch. The Story of “A.” Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press.
  • Heyghen, Peter van.. 1995. “The Recorder in Italian Music, 1600–1670.” In The Recorder in the 17th Century: Proceedings of the International Recorder Symposium Utrecht 1993, edited by David R.G. Lasocki, 3–63. Utrecht: STIMU Foundation for Historical Performance Practice.
  • ———. 2005. “The Recorder Consort in the Sixteenth Century: Dealing with the Embarrassment of Riches.” In Musique de Joye. Proceedings of the International Symposium on the Renaissance Flute and Recorder Consort, Utrecht 2003, edited by David R.G. Lasocki, 227–321. Utrecht: STIMU Foundation for Historical Performance Practice.
  • MacMillan, Douglas. 2003. “The Recorder in the Nineteenth Century.” American Recorder 54 (5): 16–18.
  • MacMillan, Douglas. 2007. “An Organological Overview of the Recorder 1800-1905.” Galpin Society Journal 60: 191–20.
  • Marvin, Bob. 1972. “Recorders and English Flutes in European Collections.” Galpin Society Journal 25: 30–57.
  • Thalheimer, Peter. 2013. Vergessen und wiederentdeckt : die Blockflöte : 200 Instrumente der Jahre 1926 bis 1945 aus vogtländischen Werkstätten = Forgotten and Rediscovered : The Recorder : 200 Instruments Made in the Vogtland Region Between 1926 and 1945. Vol. 3. Meisterleistungen deutscher Instrumentenbaukunst = Masterpieces of German Instrument Making. Markneukirchen: Verein der Freunde und Förderer des Musikinstrumenten-Museums Markneukirchen e. V.

Cite this article as: Lander, Nicholas S. 1996–2022. Recorder Home Page: Instruments: Historic makers, instruments & collections. Last accessed 7 August 2022. https://www.recorderhomepage.net/historic-makers-instruments-collections/