Guittar (English guitar), cittern, with Smith's patent box and capo tasto.

The English guitar or guittar was the name given to a cittern popular in the 1750s to the early 1800s. This instrument was called the English guitar to differentiate it from the Spanish guitar, and a seven-course cittern made in Continental Europe. This particular guitar has two patents: one is the watchkey tuning mechanism of J.N. Preston which made the short strings easier to tune than normal pegs; the other is Smith's playing mechanism, a hammer action making the guitar easier (and possibly less painful) to play. A third feature is the capo tasto, screwed into holes in the fingerboard. This device makes it easy to play in different keys. The English guitar became so popular that Kirckman, the harpsichord maker, saw it as a threat to his livelihood. He gave away English guitars to street singers and prostitutes, in order to lower its status and to boost the popularity of the harpsichord as an instrument played by "respectable" women.

Collection Information

These objects are only a part of our collections, of which there are more than 350,000 objects. This information comes from our collections database. Some of this is incomplete and there may be errors. This part of the website is also still under construction, so there may be some fields repeated or incorrectly formatted information.

The database sometimes uses language taken from historical documents to help research, which may now appear outdated and even offensive. The database also includes information on objects that are considered secret or sacred by some communities.

If you have any further information about objects in our collections or can suggest corrections to our information, please contact us: enquiry@horniman.ac.uk