21. May 2012 11:43
ON Wednesday 16th May a local lady came into the shop asking if we would value an old instrument for her. This happens very regularly and always generates a slight air of excitement because you never know what is going to come out of a battered old case or scruffy shopping bag. Usually, it's some tarnished and tangled web of brass tubing that would be lucky if it justified going on a pub wall.
Sometimes however... The lady took out two lengths of pale material and said that this flute (for that was what it was) had belonged to her mother and grandmother and could it be made to work again. Hmmmm. Interesting... looks like ivory... looks very old... very old.
It had four keys, well at least it should have had four keys, but one was missing with only the saddle remaining. The two keys on the body joint were of a slightly different design than the footjoint key, so we surmised that they were a later addition. Also, bizarrely, it had two embouchure holes. We searched for a makers name. Even under the best magnification it looked like it was made up of indistinct elements of a mixture of letters that could have been S's or E's or B's or R's or F's or H's. We just couldn't fathom it out, but we did have a sneaking feeling that this was something interesting...
On Thursday 17th May, we emailed some images and had a long conversation with an old friend in London who is an expert in these things. He was also quietly intrigued about it. He explained that the additional embouchure hole would have been added when standard pitch rose after the Baroque period, but from what he could see this was a 17th century ivory flute.We agreed to ship the flute to him immediately by courier for a full examination and so that our friend could call in other experts for their verdict.
Friday 18th May. Early in the morning, and within minutes of the courier delivering the flute, we get a call from London. 'It's a Scherer'. We'd heard of lots of makers from this period, but not Scherer. 'Is that good?' we asked. 'It's very rare' came the reply. So rare that the word was already out and notables were offering their opinions and queuing up to come and see it. In it's day it would have been the crème de la crème. Our London expert wasn't prepared to quote a value, as he wasn't certain exactly what effect the modifications would have on the price if it were offered for sale. However, as he put it 'it's worth a lot of money and it's staying in my safe'.
Now we wait. Hopefully, we will bring you up to date soon when we get more news. Watch this space...!