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0904 - 7-key conical flute stamped J. Arthur, Willis Fecit (John Willis)

John Willis is best known for being the maker of George Rudall's flutes before the latter's partnership with John Mitchell Rose. Such instruments were usually stamped GEORGE RUDALL/WILLIS FECIT. Willis also made instruments for others though, including his brother Isaac, who sold such flutes stamped WILLIS & CO. This flute was made at the request of J.Arthur, a (self-titled) 'Professor of the Flute' whose Modern Art of FLUTE PLAYING, being a New and Original Treatise on the Flute was published by Willis & Co. in or around 1827 to praise from The Harmonicon, and the instrument almost certainly dates from a few years before this. As was common for flute players at the time, Arthur offered not only lessons, 'compositions' and instructional material, but also promoted himself through flutes stamped with his name. This one, similar in most details to a Rudall/Willis flute, is of boxwood with domed ivory crown and foot mounts, and survives in its original Brazilian rosewood veneered case. The embouchure has probably been slightly enlarged. Several of the blocks are fairly crude replacements, and the back of the headjoint is cracked.

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J.Arthur's Treatise won cautious praise from a reviewer in The Harmonicon (Vol.5, 1827, p.14) who signed off with evident relief 'that musicians are beginning to employ their intellects as well as their fingers'. The review is reproduced below, alongside an earlier published mention of Mr Arthur, from The Monthly Magazine: Or, British Register... (Vol.57, 1827, p.344) in which his Serenade for the Flute and Piano-Forte, in which is introduced Mozart's favourite Air, "La ci Darem," and "Cupid's Dream," an original Rondo, priced at three shillings, also receives a brief comment.

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In June 2015 another 'J.Arthur' stamped flute appeared on eBay, through sellers MDR Violins of Newark. This was a cocuswood instrument with 8 keys, and ill-advised decorative carving applied to the headjoint, evidently in a bid to establish a visual identity for his instruments, but far too clearly aping the (equally aesthetically questionable) Clementi Nicholson headjoint design. With a starting price of £800 this was beyond my means, and the present whereabouts of the flute are unknown.

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