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Cocoa-Cocuswood Flute With Case/Rudall-Rose 8 Key Design /Retailer J. Limbird & Co."143" Strand London/ Circa 1830's-40's

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    Posted 6 years ago

    (1145 items)

    I've seen musical instruments at stores before but this has got to be the oldest one (175 yrs.) I've come across while I was at Savers today. I'm not an expert on antique woodwinds but I really wanted this despite it's sorry state. The box is badly damaged but I don't think it would take much to make it presentable again. Lined in green velvet it's missing some veneer and the center medallion as well as the end of the lid. The instrument itself seems complete. It took me a bit to figure out how to put it together. I was even able to coax a couple of notes out of it once I did. It really needs restoration as it's missing two or three of the silver rings (ferrules) and there are also two fine hairline cracks in the wood at the top section and tuning barrel. The keys are made of German silver which was not silver at all, but an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc. The wood is a beautiful warm brown red color known as cocoawood or cocuswood. It was the preferred timber in the heyday of English flute making. It is very rare, and therefore pretty expensive today, but it is not extinct, just commercially unviable. There are stamped marks on two sections. It reads J. Limbird & Co. "143" and then "Strand" underneath it. The lettering is rather worn from handling but readable with a magnifying glass. This is the retailer's name but not the maker's. It appears to be a Rudall, Rose design but it is not marked as such. -Mike-

    Note : 6/24/15
    Many thanks to aghcollect for finding me info as to the retailer John Limbird.
    John Limbird (1796?-1883) was an English stationer, bookseller, instrument retailer and publisher.
    J. (John) Limbird's Stationary and Music Warehouse
    143, Strand (near to Somerset House), London
    Several references going back to between 1829 and 1840
    The maker is still a mystery but maybe it can be traced now that I have a time frame and this bit of information. However, it looks similar to a Rudall, Carte & Co. (c. 1868) instrument shown on site. So maybe they made flutes for Limbird to sell and never marked them. -Mike-

    More research turned up and actual advertisement for Limbird's from 1841 !!

    John Limbird & Co. Advertisement from
    "The Gardeners' Chronicle", Volume 1
    Courtesy of Google Books

    "The Gardner's Chronicle"
    A Stamped Newspaper of Rural Economy and General News Dated Saturday January 9. 1841

    Eight -Keyed Cocoa Flutes with German Silver,double spring-actioned keys made on the principle of the two eminent Professors Nicholson, and Rudal, price 2L 12s 6d. Every flute is tested, and none offered for sale unless found to posses elements of true musical expression-namely, volume of tone, mellow, vocal and brillant, combining equality of power, accuracy of intonation, and facility of blowing, At LIMBIRD and Co.'s Music Warehouse, 143, Strand. Near to Somerset House, facing Catherine street.

    So going from the 2L 12s 6d in 1841 Pounds to current British Pounds this instrument cost the equivalent 213.20 pounds today or $335.47 US dollars. A lot of money for that time. Provided I haven't calculated incorrectly. -Mike-

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    1. aghcollect aghcollect, 6 years ago
      J. (John) Limbird's Stationary and Music Warehouse
      143, Strand (near to Somerset House), London
      Several references going back to between 1829 and 1840
    2. aghcollect aghcollect, 6 years ago
      Here is his wiki bio - He was the instrument seller, not the maker, but it gives you a good idea of the circa - 19th century;
    3. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      So cool agh ...thank you :) .....I figured Limbird might just be the retailer. Now finding who made this may be a bit harder. Sometimes they're just anonymous makers but you have English. German, French, and Italian makers to wade through. Might never know more than likely, but it will be fun trying.
    4. nutsabotas6 nutsabotas6, 6 years ago
      Isn't aghcollect a valuable resource here, sort of an encyclopedia of knowledge. Just curious can you play it?
    5. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      He sure is Ken .... Unfortunately no I can't play it. I can make a note or two but it's really in need of restoration. Modern flutes are so much easier to get sound out of than these early ones. I bet it would sound fantastic once restored and played by the right person :)
    6. Elisabethan Elisabethan, 6 years ago
      Cool, would love to hear the sound of it!
    7. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks Elisabethan :)...I really have to get it to someone who knows about these instruments to see if is possible to get it into playing condition again.
    8. racer4four racer4four, 6 years ago
      A thing of beauty even without sound!
    9. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks Karen I think so too. :)
    10. aghcollect aghcollect, 6 years ago
      I saw that Rudall brand one but it was much earlier in the 1830's. Their address then was Rudall & Rose and they were also located in Strand. - I believe the wood is cocus wood not rosewood (that was mentioned in an early Limbird's advertisement). This one is a left-handed version and shows only three pieces;
    11. mikelv85 mikelv85, 6 years ago
      Thanks agh you are a wonder :)...I did see this site, but I didn't look through it very closely.The key configuration seems to be dead on especially toward the end with the square fittings and tiny screws. The crocus wood looks exactly like mine as well. I see the Rudall mark is stamped on the sites instrument at the end but mine does not have one. Just the Limbird marks on the top two sections. As far as I can tell it's also missing the silver (?) ring at the end and maybe two in the center joining sections. There are also two hairline cracks one in the upper section and one in the barrel below it. The key sections seem fine. These all appear to be common problems with these instruments and repairable. It sure does't seem to devalue them either. Rudall's are considered the Rolls Royce of flutes from what I read. Mine not being marked is what bothers me most but if it looks like a duck
      I found this site about Rudall. It has a timeline. They were eventually bought out by Boosey and Hawkes LTD in 1955. Every high school band member myself included recognizes that name. -Mike-

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