THE SWAN MARK

Why the swan in the heading?

Historically many instrument makers (and other craftsmen) used stamps with which they marked their work in order for it to be identified.  In many instances there is no maker’s name attached to the mark.  Even today this practice is carried on with the marks that are associated with hallmarked gold and silver.

Keyboard instrument makers generally didn’t follow the practice, although wind and stringed instrument makers often did.  For instance, various members of the Tieffenbrucker family used an anchor with their initials either side of it, and Pietro Railich used a cross with his initials.  Occasionally the mark is a little more elaborate – the maker Daniel(?) Pfanzelt used the front half of a horse with his name around it, and a still unidentified maker of a chittara battente (now in the National Music Museum, Vermillion) has a bird inside of scrollwork, topped with a star with the letter “C” or “G” below, possibly with a “M” above that (if it is “MG” then Magno Grail of Rome comes to mind, further research may be able to confirm that).

Perhaps the best known examples of maker’s marks occur on wind instruments, such as the so-called “rabbit’s foot” found on early recorders.  It was later suggested (by David Lasocki) that the mark was, in fact, a silkworm moth, and the mark indicates members of the Bassano family of Venice and London – a theory which is now generally accepted.  One also finds, for example, the use of interlocking roses in the instruments of Peter Bressan.

Generally the only place a keyboard instrument maker might have need of a maker’s stamp is on the jacks – generally the use of a initialled rose in the soundboard and/or signature painted on the nameboard or jackrail makes any stamp irrelevant.  

That still doesn’t mean it might not be a good idea to have one – hence the swan.  Why a swan?  It is not just any swan, but a black swan, which is the symbol of Western Australia.  Coming originally from Western Australia made it an obvious symbol to use, although the actual design is slightly different to that on the State’s coat-of-arms.  It is more interesting than a cross or some other symmetric symbol, and is not too complicated to reproduce.  It is planned that future instruments without any obvious place for a signature will have the swan.