Modern Piano

     Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco

Bartolomeo Cristofori di Francesco was an Italian maker of musical instruments, and is most remembered for inventing what would become the modern-day piano. He was born in Padua and became known as a harpsichord and spinet maker. In 1690 he moved to Florence to work for Ferdinando de Medici. He developed the piano between the years of 1698 and 1708. By Ferdinando's death in 1713 he had built four such instruments, naming his invention the harpsichord gravicembalo per suonare col forte e col piano. The hammers of the first instruments were wooden, addind on later instruments a fine layer of vegetable tanned leather to achieve a rounder less metallic sound. He remained in Florence as overseer of Ferdinand's impressive 84 instrument collection, and continued to work on his piano design. His 1726 design boasted almost all of the features of the modern device, including the fast hammer action and the escapement and check. However, his instrument lacked the addition of a metal frame, which meant that the Cristofori instrument could not produce an especially loud tone. Contemporaries found the invention inferior to the harpsichord, due to its weaker sound.

The original design was further developed by German inventors such as Gottfried Silbermann as early as the 1730's. Later developments were often mere "re-inventions" of Cristofori's work.