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Recent Publications by Stewart Pollens

A History of Stringed Keyboard Instruments

This book explores the history of keyboard instruments from their fourteenth-century origins to the development of the modern piano. It reveals the principles of their design and describes structural and mechanical developments through the medieval and renaissance periods and eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, as well as the early music revival. Pollens identifies and describes the types of keyboard instruments played by major composers and virtuosi through the ages and provides the reader with detailed instructions on their regulation, stringing, tuning, and voicing drawn from historical sources. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano

This is the first comprehensive study of the life and work of Bartolomeo Cristofori, the Paduan-born harpsichord maker and contemporary of Antonio Stradivari, who is credited with having invented the pianoforte around the year 1700 while working in the Medici court in Florence. Through thorough analysis of documents preserved in the state archive of Florence, Pollens has reconstructed, in unprecedented technical detail, Cristofori's working life between his arrival in Florence in 1688 and his death there in 1732. Published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

What the critics are saying about Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of  the Piano:

"Very much an academic tome, it is written in an engaging style, and in the non-technical sections, manages to bring the period to life. As such it will appeal to anyone who has an interest in the piano and wants to get a true feel for its origins."

"As a biography incorporating a thorough assemblage of contemporary documents relating to Cristofori together with detailed descriptions of his extant work, the book is unsurpassed." John Koster, Eighteenth Century Music

The Manual of Musical Instrument Conservation 

Published by Cambridge University Press in 2015, this is the first book to combine museum-based conservation techniques with practical instructions on the maintenance, repair, adjustment, and tuning of virtually every type of historical musical instrument. One of the world's leading conservators of musical instruments, Stewart Pollens gives practical advice on the handling, storage, display and use of historic musical instruments in museums and other settings, and provides technical information on such wide-ranging subjects as acoustics, cleaning, climate control, corrosion, disinfestation, conservation ethics, historic stringing practice, measurement and historic metrology, retouching, tuning historic temperaments, varnish and writing reports. There are informative essays on the conservation of each of the major musical instrument groups, the treatment of paper, textiles, wood and metal, as well as historic techniques of wood and metalworking as they apply to musical instrument making and repair.

What the critics are saying about The Manual of Musical Instrument Conservation:

"The author's experience and range of skills are extraordinarily wide . . . the scope of the challenges that he faced and the range of solutions that he learned or devised is astonishing . . . a valiant and admirable attempt to deal with the vast subject of musical instrument conservation. . . . It offers a wealth of sensible advice and worthwhile information, and deserves a wide audience among all those seriously interested in historical musical instruments." John Koster, Early Music

"Another mammoth undertaking by Stewart Pollens . . . impeccably researched and thorough . . . enormously impressive. . . . It has the potential to improve and develop all techniques, and help us to understand and handle materials  and methods with greater confidence. I am happy and grateful to be able to add [it] to my reference shelf." John Dilworth, The Strad

One of the world's foremost authorities on musical instruments, Stewart Pollens is the founder and director of Violin Advisor, LLC, a consulting firm that advises musicians, orchestras, conservatories, collectors, and investors on the acquisition of fine violins and other stringed instruments.
Trained as a violin and keyboard-instrument maker, Mr. Pollens served as the conservator of musical instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1976-2006. His work there included the restoration and maintenance of the museum's encyclopedic collection of over 5000 instruments, as well as research, writing, and lecturing on the collection. He is frequently interviewed regarding musical instruments, including by The New Yorker, Newsweek, Forbes,The New York Times, and New Scientist.

Stewart Pollens has written extensively on stringed and early keyboard instruments, including The Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari (London, 1992), The Early Pianoforte (Cambridge, 1995), Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (London, 1998), François-Xavier Tourte: Bow Maker (New York, 2001), The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar (Cambridge, 2003), Stradivari (Cambridge, 2010),The  Manual of Musical Instrument Conservation (Cambridge, 2015), and his most recent book, Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano (Cambridge, 2017). His forthcoming book, a History of Keyboard Instruments, is scheduled for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2020. He is a contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and writes regularly for The Strad and many other publications.


"The standard work on the evolution of Stradivarius's designs" - Giles Whittell, The Times

"It is the author’s unrivalled familiarity with, and ability to ‘read’ such things as forms, patterns, fittings and templates that makes this volume so valuable."

                                                                                                - Andrew Manze, Early  Music

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