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2001/12/1 Digitorium finger exercise machine, timber / ivory / metal, made by Chappell & Co, London, England, 1860-1880. Click to enlarge.

Digitorium finger exercise machine

Made by Chappell and Company in London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom, Europe, 1860-1880.
The Digitorium is part of a genre of nineteenth century finger exercise machines that were made for a mainly amateur pianist market. The piano had become a hugely popular instrument throughout the middle class during this time and devices such as the Digitorium were created to assist in the physical development of a player's fingers and hands. These devices came in a variety of forms and allowed players to strengthen their fingers by playing weighted keys, the weight of which could be adjusted. Other devices were made to assist in the stretching of the fingers by inserting wedges between the fingers.

The Digitorium also illustrates the response by nineteenth century manufacturers to capitalise on the public enthusiasm for the piano and for the growing popularity of the virtuoso performer as a public figure. Manufacturers seized on the opportunity to create finger exercise machines to satisfy the desire of amateur players wanting to improve their playing ability, encouraged to a certain extent by seeing the ability of popular virtuoso players. These machines however are reputed to have caused damage to people's hands rather than of being of any great benefit.

Summary

Object No.

2001/12/1

Object Statement

Digitorium finger exercise machine, timber / ivory / metal, made by Chappell & Co, London, England, 1860-1880

Physical Description

Square wooden box featuring five ivory piano keys. The device has a small timber slide at the front with a central hole. Panels attached to the sides and back are covered with worn gold-coloured velvet, while the base is covered in green baize. A plaque on the top of the box reads 'The Digitorium' and lists information about the patent and manufacturer. The number '2/2681' is stamped into the wood on the front of the unit below the keys and also on the timber slide. The letters C, D, E, F and G are stamped into the front side of the wood panel above each key. The letters R, M, B, L and B are handwritten on the front of each key.

Marks

Plaque on top of the machine reads; 'BY HER MAJESTY'S ROYAL LETTERS P ATENT. / THE/ DIGITORIUM / CHAPPELL & Co. / 50, NEW BOND STREET / LONDON.'.
Stamped into the wood on the front and also on the timber slide, '2/2681'.
National Trust (Victoria) number printed in black ink on the lower rear left,'CMO 1243'.
Label adhered to the base reads 'Little 198 / 136 New Street / NB 4667'. Possibly refers to name and address of original donor who gave the Digitorium to the National Trust of Australia in 1963.

Dimensions

Height

69 mm

Width

162 mm

Depth

210 mm

Production

Notes

The Digitorium was made by Chappell & Co, 50 New Bond Street, London, between 1860-1880.

The Digitorium bears the inscription 'By Her Majesty's Royal Letters Patent'. However the book, Patents For Inventions. Abridgements of Specifications Relating to Music and Musical Instruments AD 1694-1866, lists a patent for a Digitorium fitting a similar description being taken out on 23 November 1866 No: 3076 by Myer Marks. There is no mention in this publication of the Chappell Company being associated with this application or any other patents for similar finger exercise machines.

For further information see; Patents For Inventions. Abridgements of Specifications Relating to Music and Musical Instruments AD 1694-1866, second edition, Commissioner of Patents, London, 1871 (Facsimile edition published by Tony Bingham, London, 1984).

History

Notes

The Digitorium was previously part of the National Trust of Victoria's collection but no information relating to the object's provenance is known other than it was donated to the Trust by a Mrs R Little in 1963. It was officially deaccessioned from the National Trust in 2000.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Mrs R Little, 2001

Acquisition Date

15 February 2001

Cite this Object

Harvard

Digitorium finger exercise machine 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 4 August 2020, <https://ma.as/9739>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/9739 |title=Digitorium finger exercise machine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=4 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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