Richard Potter


Stamp: Full stamp on barrel joint with slide out: 4/5/6/POTTER/Johnson's Court/Fleet Street/LONDON. All other joints marked POTTER / LONDON. Cork stopper marked 4,5,6, from the top.

Marks: A hash mark of four lines with a fifth drawn through is under the low C, D#, and Bb keys. This mark is also cut into the wood in the D# keyway.

Manufacture Date: Made c.1795-c.1800. The patent for this model was filed in 1785, and the change of the footjoint keys to a side-by-side shank arrangement seems to have been done in the mid-1790's. Richard Potter retired in 1800, his 40 year old son William Henry very successfully assuming the business. Richard died at the age of 80 in 1806.


Comments: This was our #403, sold through here in 1984. A superb and perfect example of the most famous and successful workshop in classical London, and perhaps throughout Europe. Andrew Ash began his remarkable career playing on a Potter flute in the Netherlands, Mozart apparently composed the flute and harp concerto for a Potter flute player in Paris, even a Roman flute tutor used the Potter flute as the standard. The playing quality of this flute is very much 18th century. The tone is rich and compressed, favoring the lower partials. The action is quick and precise. The volume is strong, all the way down to low C. This flute compares favorably in tone with an excellent traverso, yet has the advantage of the keys. The cross fingerings are not at all as clear as the keyed equivalent. The F is not bad, and the F# is serviceable without venting the F key, although better with the vent. The cross-fingered G# and Bb are very traverso-like. In short, this is indeed a professional quality flute, full of the quirks of a good 18th century instrument. With practice and familiarity I believe this would make a dandy performance instrument. So successful was the workshop that Potter flutes are the most frequently counterfeited instruments, with many bogus Potters still to be found on the market today. The tricks to identify authentic Potters include the unique double undercutting of the tone holes, and the P shaped spring end under the low C and C# touches.

Material: Made of beautiful boxwood with ivory rings and silver keys. The key pads are pewter plugs, patented by Potter in 1785. All of the materials, including the plugs, are in as-new condition.

System: This is the famous Potter 6 keyed flute with foot to C and a fully lined headjoint with tuning slide. The keys are all Potter's patent pewter plugs. Happily the keys all seat, and the flute has a strong low C and C#. Curiously, the blow hole has been undercut as though the player would hold the flute angled towards the audience, blowing towards the upper right corner of the embouchure. This undercutting appears original. This model flute became so popular and famous it really transformed flute playing, ushering in the use of the keyed flute as a chromatic instrument.

Condition: This beautiful flute is in the rare state of perfect condition. There are no cracks, the original finish is untarnished, the pewter plugs are clean and tight. No one has altered the tone holes or embouchure. This is a fine player and an extraordinary example of the seminal flute model of the late 18th century.

Pitch: The number 4 setting gives a pitch of A=425, surprisingly well in tune all the way down to low C (not counting the open, and flat, C#s). All the way in at #6 the highest I can get the footjoint is at A=435, yet the rest of the flute seems to be playing at A=440. I feel that the best pitch is probably A=430, but others may differ. Potter, incidentally, gives instructions that the flutes with long foots need the cork action to be reversed, in spite of the numbers on the cork screw. Thus the more the head is pulled out, the further out one wants the cork set. This does seem to help. Charlie Delaney's trick of pulling out the joints just a tad to compensate for the compression of time also helps.

Sounding Length: Sounding length at mark 6-592 mm. Mark 5-598 mm. Mark 4-604 mm.


Weight: 356 g.

Case: In probably the original case, which is a classic Potter case in excellent condition. The whole package appears very little used.

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