Harpsichord The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked, rather than hit with a hammer (which is the mechanism for the piano, a more recent development). The distinctive sound of the harpsichord creates an almost immediately association with the baroque era.

The earliest references to such instruments date to about 1400. The oldest surviving harpsichords date from the 1500s, by which time the instrument’s complex mechanism had been perfected.

The harpsichord became enormously popular throughout Europe. Notable centers of production appeared in Italy, Flanders, France, Germany, and England. The instruments could vary significantly from each other, with different configurations for keyboards, foot pedals, and hand stops. The cases housing the mechanisms were often exquisite works in themselves, featuring inlays, paintings, and other fine surface decorations.