My daughter gave me this book for my birthday, and I am grateful. There are countless books on the history of [....]. Without delving into the relative merits of the many instances in the "history of the harpsichord" genus, the distinguishing feature of this one is that it's written by a very knowledgeable and practical man with the hands of a craftsman, the brain of an engineer, and the heart of a musician. Mr Kottick is also the heaven-sent author of "The Harpsichord Owner's Guide: A Manual for Buyers and Owners", which addresses the final chapter in the history of the harpsichord, namely the day you get one, and the trying days (and months) that follow. To this volume falls the responsibility of setting the stage, and it's very well done. As a coffee-table resident, it pleases; the color plates are wonderful. As narrative, it succeeds; I was moved to learn that Dr Hermann Poll, the plausible inventor of the harpsichord, was executed on "the wheel" at the age of 35, for having taken part in a conspiracy to poison (his) king Rupert, in clear violation of his Hippocratic oaf. It even corrals the clavichord into the fold. As a treatise it tickles; tantalizing controversies abound. The CD is great; it's not meant as a repertoire demo or entertainment, it specifically illustrates the sonic character of each typical harpsichord design, and is indispensable to grasping the range of available timbres. Where other authors insult the somewhat informed reader by reiterating, often inaccurately, and ad nauseam, how the harpsichord is not a struck instrument like the piano (or the kettle drum), but a plucked instrument wherein a plectrum plucks the string, Mr Kottick is not afraid to promptly move in past this level and discuss the detailed mechanics. This is the first such book in which the author, at every turn, anticipates my question: "yes, but HOW?". The little boxed asides in which a specific digression is pursued, are great. This is a recent book, and thus it is based on a far deeper and wider range of sources than the authors of the classics had at their disposal. Controversial issues that were once presented unilaterally are now part of a narrated dialectic, and Kottick is demonstrably well-qualified to do so. Of course, for the inveterate reader, classics such as Russel, and Hubbard, and Boalch, along with Zuckermann's "Modern Harpsichord", are musts, as are Couperin, Troeger, Schott et al. for the player, while Brauchli and Bavington are inevitable for the clavichordomaniac. But if you want to acquire the sort of hands-on sense of the harpsichord family that you might glean at the feet of a literate master builder, and a great story teller, with a realistic picture of how it actually does what it does, how it came to do it, and what can be done to it, and with it, as of 2009 there is no better single-source "tome de resistance" than Kottick's. A tad expensive, but at 550 pages, beautifully printed, it is highly recommended.