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Keyboard Armonica

Date: 1784, Jul 5
From: BF (Paris)
To: The Count de Saluces (Turin)


I received the Letter you did me the honour of writing to me some time since, respecting the Application of Keys to the Harmonica, as contriv’d by Abbé Perno; and requesting to know if any thing of the kind had been done at Paris, London or elsewhere. When I was in London, about 12 Years since, Mr. Steele, an ingenious Musician there, made an Attempt of that sort; but the Tones were with Difficulty produc’d by the Touch from the Keys, and the Machinery in Playing made so much Noise and Rattle, as to diminish greatly the Pleasure given by the Sound of the Glasses; so that I think the Instrument was never compleated. The Dutchess of [Villeroy] at Paris about the same time endeavour’d to obtain the same End, and has not yet laid aside the Project, tho’ it has not hitherto perfectly succeeded. Baron Feriet of Versailles, began to work on the same Idea about the Time I receiv’d your Letter; and as he is a very ingenious Man, and has a Hand to execute as well as a Head to contrive the necessary Machinery, I hoped soon to have given you an Account of his Success: but I begin to doubt it, as I hear nothing from him lately. In my Manner of Playing on my Instrument the Fingers are capable of Touching with great Delicacy; and the Glasses turn so smoothly, that one hears no other Sound but that given by the Touch. If the Instrument of Abbé Perno has the same Advantages, its being play’d with Keys gives it an undoubted Preference, and I should be glad to know the Construction.

I should be happy if I had any thing to send to the Academy worthy its Acceptance. My Occupations have for some Years past, prevented my Attention to philosophical Subjects. I can only wish Success to its laudable Pursuits; and beg you to believe me, with sincere Esteem, Sir,

Benjamin Franklin