The Mysterious Anonymous
 Pratten-style flute

Now here's a little mystery - a recently-acquired flute with no markings, but at least superficial similarities to the great Pratten's Perfected.  Our aim here is to chronicle the similarities and differences, with the hope that someone passing by will recognise one of the features and provide us the key to identifying the instrument.  At the same time, we'll investigate the flute's playing qualities.


The flute is in cocuswood, only lightly stained, and therefore easily confused with rosewood.  Keys and rings are nickel silver, heavily tarnished.  Both head and barrel are cracked, for the usual reason - these sections are lined with metal, preventing the wood from shrinking in dry weather.  The long body section is like the Pratten's style of flute, with all six finger holes and 5 keys.  The foot has three keys, all padded types.

Cap and Stopper

The stopper arrangement is typical - cork affixed to a shaft via a tapered wooden screw, the shaft controlled via the threaded cap by a cylindrical wooden screw thread.  This thread is 11.75mm OD, 18TPI.  There is a nickel silver cover on the end of the shaft, 7.75mm diameter, forming the indicator which appears through the hole in the cap.  At first sight there are three incised rings on this cover, from the end: 1.5,  6.5 and 11mm.  The last one cannot protrude through the cap, and is probably not an indication but an indentation to secure the cover to the shaft.  

If we assume the cork to be original, the stopper to middle of embouchure distances are:
Indicator position Distance, stopper face to centre of embouchure
Flush 20mm
First mark 21.5mm
Second mark 26mm
Hard in 27mm

(these dimensions are hard to be sure about due to the crumbly consistency of the old cork.  They do not take into account possible longitudinal shrinkage of the cork.)

The cap has the typical rounded shape used on flutes by Siccama and Prattens.

Boosey Prattens 8626 above, the Anonymous Mysterious below

The Head

The head is unusually short - merely 155mm, compared to a Prattens 170mm.  The middle of embouchure to end is also short, 82 compared with 95mm.  The embouchure is not unusual at 12.2 by 10.6mm.  Head OD is the usual approx 27mm, the ID a little over 19mm.  The rings are similar to a Prattens, but quite a bit wider.

The body

The body is very reminiscent of a Pratten, with these points of similarity:

  • bore at top and bottom similar
  • keyshapes generally similar
  • hole sizes similar
  • G# and Long F are in line, rather than offset as in earlier flutes

and these points of variance:

  • hole spacing slightly wider, and holes set slightly lower down the tube
  • holes significantly undercut
  • OD at the first hole is 25.5 , rather that the stocky 27.5 of the Prattens
  • two tenon rings at each tenon
  • C and Long F hinge blocks much wider
  • Long F blocks taper tangentially to body on offside rather than curve as on nearside
  • Long  key sweeps down after G# cup, and uses long flat spring rather than curved spring; block does not have usual raised striker step
  • very heavy expansion (greater than head bore) at start of cone
  • right-hand holes offset towards player (Pratten's are in-line)
  • no striker plates under key springs
  • tops of pad seats rounded rather than sharp.

The foot

Again, superficially similar, but with these differences:

  • 6mm longer
  • holes set lower
  • all three padded - no pewter plugs
  • Eb touch slightly eccentric and offset
  • C shaft double-curves around the C# pad, rather than a single offset
  • C and C# shaft blocks are rounded rather than square
  • Coupling between the articulated C and C# keys are ball-in-long-hole, rather than finger-through-short-hole type. 


So what is this flute?  It is much like a Pratten's but unlikely to be one unless it was an earlier or later version (why use different rings, head length, hole spacing, undercutting, keys, etc from the standard model?)  One intriguing possibility arises from the fact that no Pratten's Perfected flutes below serial number 4513 have been reported.  Could this be a Primeval Pratten?  Or is it made by a completely different maker in competition with Boosey?

Hey, wait a second ....

If you recognise any features of the flute from another flute you've seen, do let us know!

So what happens now?

Here's the instrument as it arrived.  Mostly in good condition apart from the cracks in head and barrel, and the totally desiccated stopper  The pads are all missing or dried out too.

First task is to get the body and foot sections working again to find out what we can about the pitch the instrument works best at (remember the slightly different hole spacing?).  That might give us some extra clues as to its provenance.  Then we work out what to do with the head - it may be that such a short head has no real place in modern society, and that a new head is called for.  You'll be able to follow the saga of the Mysterious Anonymous as it unfolds by joining us here later. 

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