{Cataloguing Methods}

  • Abbreviations

    See under for the abbreviations of the names of the cataloguing fields.

    Empty fields e.g. ‘Serial Number’ or ‘Case’ are sometimes omitted when there is no object.



    Top joint


    Middle joint




    not measurable


    floruit (‘flourished’)


    Total Length


    Left-hand thumb


    Left-hand index finger


    Left-hand middle finger


    Left-hand annular finger


    Left-hand little finger


    Right-hand thumb


    Right-hand index finger


    Right-hand middle finger


    Right-hand annular finger


    Right-hand little finger


    Springs attached to the body


    Springs attached to the keys

  • IND inv. Number

    Brussels Musical Instruments Museum inventory number.

    In some cases instruments also have other numbers.

  • CN common name

    According to the present standards (2011). Concerning the lower sounding A and F-oboes, Mahillon names have been adapted in line with the latest reference literature and consensus in organology.


    About the F-oboes

    There is much confusion about names and types, and the translations of them.


    In his catalogue Mahillon states that “…the baroque evolution of the alto pommer was called hautbois de chasse, haute-contre de hautbois ou oboe di caccia...”[1] That he was thinking of a straight instrument - like the alto pommer - becomes clearer further on:


    “On attribue à un hautboïste de Bergame, Jean Ferlendes [sic], établi à Strassbourg vers 1760, l’idée de courber l’instrument en demi cercle pour faciliter le maniement.”

    “We ascribe to an oboist from Bergamo, Jean Ferlendes [sic], residing around 1760 in Strasbourg, the idea of curving the instrument in a semicircle to facilitate the handling.”


    This seems to indicate that Mahillon did not know that the real oboe da caccia was curved, and existed already about 40 years before the so-called ‘invention’ of Ferlendis.


    This chapter about the history of the oboe is also to be found in English in Mahillon’s article ‘Oboe, or Hautboy’ in the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.[2]


    Mahillon probably assumed that the baroque oboe da caccia was a larger oboe, sounding one fifth lower, being the straight instrument we now call tenor oboe (Taille de Hautbois), of which the museum collection had about 7 in Mahillon’s lifetime. In the catalogue he consequently uses the name of haute-contre de hautbois ou hautbois de chasse for the German tenor oboes and for the anonymous 0179. For the Rottenburgh tenors 0180, 2618 and 2619 though, Mahillon uses only “haute-contre de hautbois”, being Brussels made, and which he probably presumed were not oboi da caccia or used for the German Bach cantatas. So by using the name hautbois ténor for the 0985 he points to another oboe type, the 0985 indeed being a bass oboe. (see this file).


    This confusion about names with F-oboes goes on until far into the 20th century, often remaining uncorrected in museum databases and catalogues.

    This matter was only clarified after the Second World War, with the Early Music movement and in the literature.[3]


  • NP Nominal Pitch

    This is the note sounding one major second below the note, with all 6 finger-holes closed.

    Evidently the nominal pitch is always connected to the UP Usable Pitch (see under).

    In cases where the instrument is not in good playing condition, the nominal pitch was determined by playing a few notes, or as many as possible.

  • TS Type or System

    Short description of the type or system of instrument.

    Mostly the number of keys is mentioned.

    2-keys = low C and Eb-key for the R-hand unless otherwise stated.

    3-keys = low C and 2 Eb-keys, for both left and right hands, unless otherwise stated.

    For the Triebert systems (Système n°3/4/6, no no. 5 oboes in this collection) we would like to refer to the general reference literature for more information about these commonly known oboe keywork systems, such as Bate[4], Burgess & Haynes[5], and the Triebert 1855 catalogue[6].

  • MK Maker

    Name of the maker if known.

    Any assumptions about a possible maker - in case of non-marked or anonymous instruments - are in the Remarks field.


    First name given only:

    • if known precisely, otherwise it is assumed to be the ‘workshop of’. In many cases families or generations of instrument makers and workshops used the same stamp or mark, which often makes it difficult to determine the actual maker.
    • if the name of the maker and/or the mark refer to one single person, as far as it is described in the reference literature.
    • Initials – if known – are given, where the mark refers to a family, and (in case of e.g. Rottenburgh) to distinguish from another mark or family member.

    Any assumptions about a possible first name of the (known) maker - in the case of a mark referring to a dynasty or family of makers - are in the Remarks field.

  • IN Mark, Inscriptions

    Distinction is made when several different marks appear on the instrument. 

  • SN Serial Number

    There are only very few oboes with a serial number in the MIM oboe collection. This field is only mentioned when a serial or any other number or marking is present.

  • PL Place of Origin

    Town if known. Since all oboes discussed in this list originate from Western European cities, no countries of origin are mentioned, since these sometimes changed throughout history.

    Names of cities are either in English and/or the local language. In some cases a translation (between brackets) is provided.

    Any assumptions about a possible region or country - in case of non-marked or anonymous instruments - are in the Remarks field.

  • DM date of making

    If not present on the instrument or deductable, e.g. through a serial number or by its presence in dated catalogues, it is the author’s careful estimation, attempting to be as accurate as possible, having observed a large number of oboes and collections.

    In many cases the dating can only be vague, within a margin of 50 years. Sometimes a degree of probability is given.

    Further assumptions concerning the dating can be found in the Remarks field.


    Wood determination was made by Charles Indekeu, wood restoration expert. This involved visual inspection, with the complementary help of macroscopic and stereoscopic photography, together with historical literature research about wood species used in woodwind instruments.


    • The highest degree of possible accuracy was searched for without affecting the integrity of the instrument.
    • The exact kind of coloration, varnish, stain or lacquer was not examined in this project. Coloration or staining is discussed on isolated instruments only.
    • For ivory, horn or bone mounts visual inspection only was used.



    In some cases there were different opinions on wood species, e.g. in comparison with Mahillon. In these cases a re-evaluation and/or a 3rd and even a 4th opinion was sought. The wood species mentioned in the Materials field are those noted by the majority of the experts. Dissident opinions are mentioned in the Remarks field.


    Metal determination was made by Evelien van Biezen, metal expert from the MIM museum. The metals most used are brass, silver, nickel silver (German silver) and silver plated metal.


    • Different instruments from different periods show that there is often a huge difference between the alloys used at different times and places. Since these different alloys could not be determined, the catalogue refers to the obvious general group of metals.
    • In case of doubt a rudimentary cleaning test was applied to give a better view of the metal.

    The climatic conditions inside the MIM museum:

    Temperaure = 20° C

    Humidity = 55%


    Measurements are in millimetres.


    Only rudimentary length measurements are provided except for some instruments where a complete measurement drawing is hyperlinked:


    Some measurement drawings are available through the MIM bookshop www.mim.be:

    • Bormann 3580
    • Grundmann 2331
    • Lot 1980


    In some cases the numbers were rounded up or down to the millimetre. The total length of the instrument, therefore, is sometimes not the exact sum of the separate parts.

    Also the total length of the instrument is sometimes not the same as the sum of the joints, because these do not fit perfectly.

    In some cases separate joints could not be measured accurately, because they were stuck.

    Accuracy for warped instruments, and angled or curved English horns is only approximate. 

  • BORE

    Measurements are in millimetres.


    Only rudimentary bore measurements are provided except for some instruments where a complete measurement drawing is hyperlinked.

    In case of irregular or ovalised bore the widest dimension is always given, being often in the horizontal plane.

    The given bore data also reveal if there are any steps in the bore.


  • TD Technical Description

    The terminology used for the description of 18th century oboes is the one used by Haynes (2001).[7]

    As to outward characteristics and some keywork systems much will be clear and visible from the picture, and thus will not be described any further in the text.


    For most keyhead types the catalogue refers to some common keyhead designs, as illustrated by Young (1993)[8] p.xxxiii, and Heyde (1976)[9] p.179 and 181.


    If the description mentions vent-holes (in the bell) this refers to non-keyed holes which are (if there are 2) opposite each other unless otherwise stated. Since on the 19th century oboe many keyed vent-holes appear, only the key will be mentioned for the most part.


    SATB (springs attached to the body).

    SATK (springs attached to the keys). This becomes universal from the middle of the 19th century; then it is not mentioned any more, unless otherwise stated.


    ‘Brille’, (German for ‘spectacles’) meaning the ring-keys as invented by Theobald Boehm.

  • PA Playing accessories

    Only reeds or bocals. In many cases these are probably not original, or originally made for the particular instrument they come with. The author gives his opinion about it in every single case.


    In a few cases reeds, staples and/or bocals were made to order for the museum to complete an instrument for display.

  • CS Case

    Description of every object that comes with the instrument but not used for playing. This field is only listed if there is any case or object present.

  • FL Faults

    Brief description of the condition of the instrument.

    Missing parts.

  • UP Usable Pitch

    The climatic conditions in MIM museum:

    Temperature = 20° C

    Humidity = 55%


    Mahillon often gives information about the pitch of particular instruments, always referring to the UP usable pitch in Belgium and France, being the diapason normal A = 435 Hz, at the time of the writing of his catalogue (end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century).[10]

    The unanswered question is: with what reeds did they estimate the pitch? We could assume that basically ‘modern’ anno 1880 reeds - so rather inadequate (for e.g. baroque oboes) - were used to play most of the oboes, since the historical research about how 18th century reeds must have been was not at the point it is today.

    To give the non-oboist reader an example: playing an 18th century oboe with a 19th century reed could make it play considerably higher, since the staple and reed surface are generally speaking rather narrower.


    Therefore it was necessary to re-evaluate the usable pitch of the instruments with today’s know-how about historical reeds.


    The reader should take into account that instruments were never played or tested for long or intensively, but, given the stable museum temperature, we can assume that pitch results reflect a realistic playing situation.


    Determining the Usable Pitch of an oboe is often very difficult, because it depends a great deal on the reed one uses, and on the player. If bocals and staples are involved the margin sometimes becomes very big. With bocals the spread of pitch can sometimes be huge, and makes it very difficult to find the ‘ideal’ pitch giving an even intonation - this is not the same as equal intonation - in all ranges.

    The larger the instrument the greater the number of parameters for the reed set-up, often giving very different results.


    External expertise for a number of instruments was provided by Paul Dombrecht, specialist in historical staple making and reed making, and by Marcel Ponseele on a limited number of instruments.


    All instruments were tested with an ‘open mind’, without prejudices and without trying to tend towards any kind of 20th or 21st century standard pitch or any kind of pitch standard whatsoever.

    In some exceptional cases, where no satisfactory results could be found, historical pitch information[11] was used as a kind of starting or orientation point, but discarded if unsatisfactory.


    Instruments were always tested with a large variety of staples that differ in length and conicity, and with different reeds on top of them.

    Nevertheless, in some cases no appropriate reed (with the appropriate staple, shape, length, conicity) was readily available. In these cases the conclusion was that a special reed has to be made to overcome the instrument's particularities.



    Given pitch is always approximate. When results gave a (slightly) different pitch with exactly the same reed material between the two testing persons, the average was taken.


    The reed measures always contain:

    • TL total length of the reed. In cases of the oboe reeds it is always the complete reed set-up including the 1-part or 2-part staple.
    • Staple length, sometimes referring to (modern) standard type staples. Sometimes the staple top and/or bottom diameters are given.
    • Reed tip width.
    • In case a crook or bocal is used (for the larger oboes) length and sometimes top and/or bottom diameters are given.
  • PC Performance Characteristics

    The author’s subjective idea of the performance characteristics, in an attempt to describe it briefly.

  • PO Previous Ownership

    Any known information about a previous ownership, collection or player is given as well as any further information about the provenance that could be of interest about the instrument. Sometimes the acquistion date is given, since some of the oboes were manufactured around that time. In some cases acquisition details are omitted for privacy reasons.


    The former ownership sometimes goes together with the SU Specific Usage of the instrument, but since this specific usage is not known with certainty about any oboe in the collection so far, and could only be assumed for some of them, this field is not listed separately.


    The MIM collection was initially built around the acquisition of a few big private instrument collections.[12] The most important collections that contained oboes are Fétis (1873), Tolbecque (1879), V. & J. Mahillon (1883) and Snoeck (1908). In case of the ex-Mahillon instruments the year of 1883 corresponds with the inventory numbers between 0961-0985 plus the 2331 (Grundmann). The MIM numbers 1979 (Gatley) and 1983 (Pupeschi) were registered in 1900.

  • FM Further information on maker

    For almost all of the catalogued instruments additional information on the maker (if known) can be found in Waterhouse’s The New Langwill Index.[13]

    This field will only mention literature other than this.


    About the Braet 2612 and Mairh 0961 oboes:

    • no information on the makers could be found other than that mentioned in Waterhouse (1993).
    • No other instruments by these makers could be located so far.
  • SR Specific literature Reference
    • Any specific literature reference about the specific instrument is given here.
    • Instruments with Inventory numbers until 3300 are listed in the Mahillon catalogue (R1978) with a brief description and some comments. The exact page reference is given.
    • A number of instruments are listed – with some rudimentary data – in Young (1993).[14] The exact page reference is given.
    • A number of instruments are mentioned - as an example of an existing instrument of a certain maker – in Waterhouse (1993).[15] The exact page reference is given.
  • IR Illustration Reference

    Any specific illustration reference about the specific instrument is given here.

  • GL General Literature reference

    Any general literature reference about the specific instrument type.

  • Comparable Instruments

    References to other comparable instruments of the same type and maker are given here.

    This is a very incomplete list because only instruments that have been viewed and observed close-up by the author are mentioned, with a few exceptions.

    Extensive listings of comparable instruments will be available shortly through the international online database of the MIMO website.[16]


    Main visited collections are:

    • Amsterdam: Han de Vries Oboe Collection (private)


    • Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments)


    • Stockholm: Musikmuseet


    • Oxford: The Philip Bate Collection


    • Oslo: Norges Musikkhøgskole


  • Remarks
    • Particularities of the instrument
    • Remarks of the experts and the author
    • Assumptions of the experts and the author
    • Any non-objective information
    • Any additional information