The following tuning and repair manuals are over 100 years old, and provide an opportunity to trace the early history of our profession. Links are provided for those that are available as downloadable scans.
1744, Sorge, Georg Andreas, Anweisung zur Stimmung und Temperatur sowohl der Orgelwerke, als auch anderer Instrumente, sonderlich des Claviers, Hamburg, 1744.
[Manual for Tuning and Temperament of Organs and Other Instruments, Particularly with Keyboards]
56 pages. Written in a conversational style, explaining the problems of temperament. He demonstrates the incompatibility of fifths, thirds and octaves, using mathematics, and argues in favor of the use of equal temperament, as the solution that makes all intervals "equally pure (rein)," and avoids intervals that are horribly out of tune "wolves." He then explains that each fifth must be narrow, and beat (schweben) just a little, and that all major thirds must be wide, while minor thirds are narrow. In addition to the organ, harpsichord, and clavichord, Sorge specifically talks about tuning the "Clavicymbal," a term that usually refers to an early version of the piano, also called the "Hammer Pantalon." Thus, this is perhaps the first work on tuning specifically referencing a piano-like instrument.
1748, Sorge, Georg Andreas, Gespräch zwischen einem Musico theoretico und einem Studioso Musices von der Prätorianischen, Printzischen Werkmeisterischen ... Temperatur, wie auch von dem neuen Systemate ... Telemans zur Beförd. reiner Harmonie. Lobenstein : Self-Published, 1748.
[Conversations between a Theoretician of Music and a Student of Music Concerning the Temperaments of Praetorius, Prinz, Werkmeister . . . as well as concerning the New System of Pure Harmony of Telemann]
85 pages. Similar to Sorge's 1744 book (above), but with details and arguments concerning various other tuning methods of his time. He argues that systems of subtle unequal temperament proposed by others require tempering some fifths by less than 1/12 of the ditonic comma, and that this was unfeasible in practical terms.
1757, Fritz, Barthold, Anweisung, wie man Claviere, Clavecins und Orgeln, nach ein mechanischen Art, in allen zwölf Tönen gleich rein stimmen könne. Leipzig : Breitkopf, 1757
[Method for tuning claviers, harpsichords and organs, in a mechanical way, equally pure in all keys]
34 pages. Fritz was an instrument builder, and dedicated his book to Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, remembering that he had once tuned for CPE Bach, who found his tuning excellent. He writes in his preface that his book is aimed at musicians who lived outside cities and towns where the services of a master tuner could be obtained, with instructions written simply enough to allow them to tune their own instruments. He comments that a method proposed by Sorge, beginning by dividing the octave into three major thirds, is too difficult, and that using fifths is preferable, as it would lead to the same result. His book was reprinted in many editions, at least until 1799.
1758, Sorge, Georg Andreas and Fritz, Barthold, Anweisung Claviere und Orgeln behörig zu temperiren und zu stimmen. Leipzig : Self-Published, 1758.
[Manual for Temperament and Tuning of Organs and Keyboard Instruments]
1801, Streicher, Nannette Stein, Kurtze Bemerkungen über das Spielen, Stimmen und Erhalten der Fortepiano. Vienna : Albertischen Schriften, 1801. Facsimile The Hague : L. Lelieveld, 1979.
[Short Remarks on Playing, Tuning, and Caring for the Fortepiano]
40 pages. Most of the text is devoted to how to play the piano. Concerning tuning, general advice is offered for raising and lowering pitch, for the effect of temperature, and the like, with no actual instruction on how to tune. Some very basic advice is given to solve a few mechanical issues. This booklet was probably furnished along with every new instrument sold by the Stretcher firm.
1805, Gall, Clavier-Stimmbuch oder deutliche Anweisung wie jeder Musikfreund sein Clavier-Flügel, Fortepiano und Flügel-Fortepiano selbst stimmen, reparieren, und bestmöglichst gut erhalten könne. Vienna : 1805, Carl Rupffer. Facsimile reprint Straubenhardt, Germany : Antiquariat-Verlag Zimmermann, 1988.
[Keyboard Tuning Book, or clear instructions on how every music lover can tune, repair, and in the best possible way preserve his grand piano, fortepiano and grand fortepiano (these three terms are not clear in their meaning)]
ca. 1830 original? (1853 6th edition) Hamilton’s Practical Introduction to the Art of Tuning the Piano-forte - Written for persons desirous of tuning their own instruments; with a mathematical demonstration of the theory of equal temperament; observations on sound, vibrating strings and the monochord; some account of Earl Stancope’s principles of tuning instruments with fixed tones; with a list of authors who have written on temperament; to which are added observations on the several parts of the pianoforte (particularly of the cottage, semi-cottage, and piccolo) its mechanism and the method of remedying its defects; as also some historical notices; instructions for the preservation and maintenance of he Pianoforte, etc. etc. New Edition, greatly enlarged and improved by Joseph Warren. London : Robert Cocks & Co., 1853.
84 pages. This is a revised edition of a book first published probably in the 1830s, perhaps as early as the late 1820s, based on internal evidence (the types of piano it describes).The original author, James Alexander Hamilton, published many books on various musical topics, and was not a professional piano technician himself. Later editions added chapters or expanded existing ones. Since the Tuners Guide (below) plagiarized Hamilton, it seems likely that the sections that are identical in the two books were in the original or at least an early edition. The linked pdf was made from a microfilm created by the NYC Public Library.
1834, Montal, Claude, Abrégé de l'Art d'Accorder soi-même son Piano déduite des principes exacts de l’acoustique et de l’harmonie. Paris : Meissonier, 1834.
[Abridged version of the Art of Tuning your own Piano, deduced from precise principles of harmony and acoustics.)
36 pages. This short book was prepared for the Grand Exposition of 1834, where it was sold in the exhibits of various piano manufacturers, whose pianos Montal tuned. It was very successful, and a German translation was published the following year by the prominent music publishing firm, Schott, and a Czech version appeared in 1836. It was published in Dutch in 1847, and it is quite likely that there may have been other translations. These three translations survived and are in various libraries. A new English translation by Fred Sturm can be found here. The tuning method is a briefer version of that presented in Montal's longer book, published in 1836 (below). He also includes brief instructions for replacing a broken string.
1834, Armellino, Giorgio : Manuel simplifié de l'accordeur, ou L'art d'accorder les pianos mis à la portée de tout le monde. Paris : Roret, 1834
[Simplified Tuning Manual, or the Art of Tuning Made Available to Everybody]
69 pages. Armellino was a student in one of Claude Montal's classes in 1832 or 1833, and plagiarized Montal's tuning sequence. However, he also includes an error commonly held in France at that time, that a circle of just fourths will result in fifths that are tempered as in equal temperament. (The origin of that claim was P. J. LaSallette, who first made the claim in 1786, in a short tuning section of a piano method published under the names of J. C Bach and F. P. Ricci). The book includes some material on repairs.
ca. 1835 original? 1853, The Tuner’s Guide: Containing a complete treatise on tuning the piano-forte, organ, melodeon, and seraphin, together with a specification of defects and they remedies. Boston : Oliver Ditson. 1853
72 pages. This book was originally published in England, probably during the 1830s or 40s, and much of its content plagiarizes Hamilton's Art of Tuning (above). Its main topic is tuning and temperament, but it also contains some instructions on basic piano repairs, which is quite distinct from that contained in Hamilton. This scan is from an edition printed in Boston in 1852. There is a physical copy of this book in the Steve Jellen Library.
1836, Montal, Claude : L'Art d'accorder soi-même son piano, D’après une méthode sure, simple et facile, déduite des principes exacts de l’acoustique et de l’harmonie, contenant en outre les moyens de conserver cet instrument, l’exposé de ses qualités, la manière de réparer les accidents qui surviennent a son mécanisme; un traité d’acoustique, et l’histoire du piano et des instruments a clavier qui l’ont précédé, depuis le moyen-âge jusqu’en 1834. Paris : Meissonier, 1836.
[The Art of tuning your own piano yourself, by a secure, simple and easy method, deduced from precise principles of harmony and acoustics, containing in addition the means of maintaining that instrument, a description of its qualities, the means of repairing problems that arise in its mechanism , a treatise on acoustics, and the history of the piano and of the keyboard instruments which preceded it, from the Middle Ages to 1832]
252 pages plus fold out plates. The most comprehensive book about the piano, its tuning and maintenance of its time.
1836, Thon, C.F.G. : Abhandlung über Klavier-Saiten-Instrumente, insbesonderheit der Forte-Pianos und Flügel, deren Ankauf, Beurtheilung, Behandlung, Erhaltung und Stimmung. Ein nothwendiges Handbuch für Organisten und Schullehrer. 2. Aufl. Weimar: Voigt 1836.
[Treatise on keyboard string instruments, especially forte-pianos and grand pianos, their purchase, assessment, treatment, maintenance and tuning. A necessary manual for organists and school teachers.]
1855, Armellino, Giorgio : Manuel simplifié de l'accordeur, ou L'art d'accorder les pianos mis à la portée de tout le monde. Paris : Roret, 1855.
[Simplified Tuning Manual, or the Art of Tuning Made Available to Everybody]
62 pages. This is a slightly revised second edition of Armellino's 1834 book.
1865, Montal, Claude : L'Art d'accorder soi-même son piano. Paris : Gérard et Cie., 1865.
[The Art of tuning your own piano yourself] Revised edition of his 1836 book, with especial attention to the upright piano, as well as supplementary material concerning teaching blind students to tune, and biographical/promotional material about Montal's achievements (awards, medals, quotations from reviews).
1881, Daniell, Charles Addison : The True Piano-Tuner : containing simple directions for tuning, regulating, and remedying defects of the piano-forte, together with a description of the theory of sound, also concise instructions for tuning reed organs, melodeons, and organettes. Cincinnati : J. Church & Co., 1881
1887, Norton, Edward Quincy : Construction, Tuning and Care of the Piano-forte: A Book for Tuners, Dealers, Teachers, and Owners of Pianos and Organs. Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1887. Written by a piano factory foreman, this is a fairly comprehensive account of repair and regulation methods of the time, covering pianos from older squares with both French and English actions, to then modern uprights. Grand pianos receive minor attention by comparison. Tuning is by fifths and fourths, with test chords, then octaves in both directions. Fifths are to beat five times in three seconds, fourths once per second. Much of the mechanical portion of the book consists of descriptions of defects and their remedies.
1893, Spillane, Daniel : The piano. Scientific, technical, and practical instructions relating to tuning, regulating, and toning. New York, E. L. Bill, 1893. Less detailed than Norton's book (above), about half as many words (nearly the same number of pages). More literary in style, but less comprehensive in content. Same tuning approach, fifths and fourths, with test chords, but without the prescribed beat rates.
1895, Moscow, Charles E. : A Practical Piano Tuner. New York: Carl Fischer, 1895.
1900?, Anonymous : Repairing the Pianoforte ; with chapters on regulating, toning, polishing, case repairing, etc. London, "Musical Opinion," ca. 1900.
1902, Faust, Oliver C.: The Pianoforte Tuner’s Pocket Companion. Boston, self-published.
1902, Nugues, E., Pouget. H. C, et Martin, CH. : Manuel pratique de l'accordeur de pianos et harmoniums : traitant de l'accord et de la réparation de ces instruments : contenant en outre des principes élémentaires d'acoustique et différents procédés de travail. Paris : H. Langlois, 1902.
1913, English translation of the above: Nugues, E., Pouget, H.C., Martin, Ch. : Practical manual for the piano and harmonium tuner ; a treatise on the tuning and repair of these instruments containing in addition elementary principles of acoustics and different working methods. Paris : Leon Pinet, 1913.
1903, Talbot, H. : National Self Tuner ; or Tuning Made Perfect for Amateurs by a Practical Tuner of Years Experience. Chicago: Chart Music Publishing Co., 1903
1906?, Follett, E. A. : Construction of Pianos : How to Tune and Repair, Tools and Materials Used and Required. London: Nunhead, 1906?
1907, Fischer, J. Cree : Piano Tuning: A Simple and Accurate Method for Amateurs. Philadelphia: Theo. Presser, 1907.
1917, White, William Braid: Modern piano tuning and allied arts : including principles and practice of piano tuning, regulation of piano action, repair of the piano, elementary principles of player-piano pneumatics, general construction of player mechanisms, and repair of player mechanism. New York : E. L. Bill, 1917.
1919, Moore, H. Keatley : A Manual of Pianoforte Tuning. London : "Musical Opinion", 1919.