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CLAVIE—CLAVIJO, R. G. DE

cythera or cetra, names which in the 14th and 15th centuries had been applied somewhat indiscriminately to instruments having strings stretched over a soundboard and plucked by fingers or plectrum, was probably of Italian[1] or possibly of south German origin. Sebastian Virdung,[2] writing early in the 16th century, describes the clavicytherium as a new invention, having gut strings, and gives an illustration of it. (See Pianoforte.) A certain amount of uncertainty exists as to its exact construction, due to the extreme rarity of unrestored specimens extant, and to the almost total absence of trustworthy practical information.

In a unique specimen with two keyboards dating from the 16th or 17th century, which is in the collection of Baron Alexandre Kraus,[3] what appear to be vibrating strings stretched over a soundboard perpendicular to the keyboard are in reality the wires forming part of the mechanism of the action. The arrangement of this mechanism is the distinctive feature of the clavicytherium, for the wires, unlike the strings of the upright spinet, increase in length from left to right, so that the upright harp-shaped back has its higher side over the treble of the keyboard instead of over the bass. The vibrating strings of the clavicytherium in the Kraus Museum are stretched horizontally over two kinds of psalteries fixed one over the other. The first, serving for the lower register, is of the well-known trapezoid shape and lies over the keyboards; it has 30 wire strings in pairs of unisons corresponding to the 15 lowest keys. The second psaltery resembles the kanoun of the Arabs, and has 36 strings in courses of 3 unisons corresponding to the next 12 keys, and 88 very thin strings in courses of 4, completing the 49 keys; the compass thus has a range of four octaves from C to C. The quills of the jacks belonging to the two keyboards are of different length and thickness. The jacks, which work as in the spinet, are attached to the perpendicular wires, disposed in two parallel rows, one for each keyboard.

There is a very fine specimen of the so-called clavicytherium (upright spinet) in the Donaldson museum of the Royal College of Music, London, acquired from the Correr collection at Venice in 1885.[4] The instrument is undated, but A. J. Hipkins[5] placed it early in the 16th or even at the end of the 15th century. There is German writing on the inside of the back, referring to some agreement at Ulm. The case is of pine-wood, and the natural keys of box-wood. The jacks have the early steel springs, and in 1885 traces were found in the instrument of original brass plectra, all of which point to a very early date.

A learned Italian, Nicolo Vicentino,[6] living in the 16th century, describes an archicembalo of his own invention, at which the performer had to stand, having four rows of keys designed to obtain a complete mesotonic pure third tuning. This was an attempt to reintroduce the ancient Greek musical system. This instrument was probably an upright harpsichord or clavicembalo.

For the history of the clavicytherium considered as a forerunner of the pianoforte see Pianoforte.  (K. S.) 


CLAVIE, BURNING THE, an ancient Scottish custom still observed at Burghead, a fishing village on the Moray Firth, near Forres. The “clavie” is a bonfire of casks split in two, lighted on the 12th of January, corresponding to the New Year of the old calendar. One of these casks is joined together again by a huge nail (Lat. clavus; hence the term). It is then filled with tar, lighted and carried flaming round the village and finally up to a headland upon which stands the ruins of a Roman altar, locally called “the Douro.” It here forms the nucleus of the bonfire, which is built up of split casks. When the burning tar-barrel falls in pieces, the people scramble to get a lighted piece with which to kindle the New Year’s fire on their cottage hearth. The charcoal of the clavie is collected and is put in pieces up the cottage chimneys, to keep spirits and witches from coming down.


CLAVIÈRE, ÉTIENNE (1735–1793), French financier and politician, was a native of Geneva. As one of the democratic leaders there he was obliged in 1782 to take refuge in England, upon the armed interference of France, Sardinia and Berne in favour of the aristocratic party. There he met other Swiss, among them Marat and Étienne Dumont, but their schemes for a new Geneva in Ireland—which the government favoured—were given up when Necker came to power in France, and Clavière, with most of his comrades, went to Paris. There in 1789 he and Dumont allied themselves with Mirabeau, secretly collaborating for him on the Courrier de Provence and also in preparing the speeches which Mirabeau delivered as his own. It was mainly by his use of Clavière that Mirabeau sustained his reputation as a financier. But Clavière also published some pamphlets under his own name, and through these and his friendship with J. P. Brissot, whom he had met in London, he became minister of finance in the Girondist ministry, from March to the 12th of June 1792. After the 10th of August he was again given charge of the finances in the provisional executive council, though with but indifferent success. He shared in the fall of the Girondists, was arrested on the 2nd of June 1793, but somehow was left in prison until the 8th of December, when, on receiving notice that he was to appear on the next day before the Revolutionary Tribunal, he committed suicide.


CLAVIJO, RUY GONZALEZ DE (d. 1412), Spanish traveller of the 15th century, whose narrative is the first important one of its kind contributed to Spanish literature, was a native of Madrid, and belonged to a family of some antiquity and position. On the return of the ambassadors Pelayo de Sotomayor and Hernan Sanchez de Palazuelos from the court of Timur, Henry III. of Castille determined to send another embassy to the new lord of Western Asia, and for this purpose he selected Clavijo, Gomez de Salazar (who died on the outward journey), and a master of theology named Fray Alonzo Paez de Santa Maria. They sailed from St Mary Port near Cadiz on the 22nd of May 1403, touched at the Balearic Isles, Gaeta and Rhodes, spent some time at Constantinople, sailed along the southern coast of the Black Sea to Trebizond, and proceeded inland by Erzerum, the Ararat region, Tabriz, Sultanieh, Teheran and Meshed, to Samarkand, where they were well received by the conqueror. Their return was at last accomplished, in part after Timur’s death, and with countless difficulties and dangers, and they landed in Spain on the 1st of March 1406. Clavijo proceeded at once to the court, at that time in Alcala de Henares, and served as chamberlain till the king’s death (in the spring of 1406–1407); he then returned to Madrid, and lived there in opulence till his own death on the 2nd of April 1412. He was buried in the chapel of the monastery of St Francis, which he had rebuilt at great expense.

There are two leading MSS. of Clavijo’s narrative—(a) London, British Museum, Additional MSS., 16,613 fols. I, n.-125, v.; (b) Madrid, National Library, 9218; and two old editions of the original Spanish—(1) by Gonçalo Argote de Molina (Seville, 1582), (2) by Antonio de Sancha (Madrid, 1782), both having the misleading titles, apparently invented by Molina, of Historia del gran Tamorlan, and Vida y hazañas del gran Tamorlan (the latter at the beginning of the text itself); a better sub-title is added, viz. Itinerario y enarracion del viage y relacion de la embaxada que Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo le hizo. Both editors, and especially Sancha, supply general explanatory dissertations. The Spanish text has also been published, with a Russian translation, in vol. xxviii. (pp. 1-455) of the Publications of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences (Section of Russian Language, &c.), edited by I. I. Sreznevski (1881). An English version, by Sir Clements Markham, was issued by the Hakluyt Society in 1859 (Narrative of the Embassy of R . . . G . . . de Clavijo to the Court of Timour). The identification of a great number of the places mentioned by Clavijo is a matter of considerable difficulty, and has given rise to some discussion (see Khanikof’s list in Geographical Magazine (1874), and Sreznevski’s Annotated Index in the Russian edition of 1881). A short account ot Clavijo’s life is given by Alvarez y Baena in the Hijos de Madrid, vol. ix. See also C. R. Beazley, Dawn of Modern Geography, iii. 332-56.

  1. Mersenne, Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636), p. 113, calls the clavicytherium “une nouvelle forme d’épinette dont on use en Italie,” and states that the action of the jacks and levers is parallel from back to front.
  2. Musica getutscht und auszgezogen (Basel, 1511).
  3. See “Une Pièce unique du Musée Kraus de Florence” in Annales de l’alliance scientifique universelle (Paris, 1907).
  4. See illustration by William Gibb in A. J. Hipkins’s Musical Instruments, Historic, Rare and Unique (1888).
  5. History of the Pianoforte, Novello’s Music Primers, No. 52 (1896), p. 75.
  6. L’Antica Musica ridotta moderna prattica (Rome, 1555).