The serpent is thought to have first appeared in France at the end of the 16th century, as a church instrument, accompanying plainchant. Subsequently they became very popular in military bands, though were gradually superseded by the tuba. An Irish serpent, very similar to the present five-keyed example, is in the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (see Ladislav Cselenyi, Musical Instruments in the Royal Ontario Museum, 1971, no. 51a, pp. 84-85).
WOOD AND IVY
Wood & Ivy are recorded at the address inscribed on this instrument between 1837 and 1847. George Wood, who was apprenticed to Thomas Percival in 1823, is recorded at the same address between 1833 and 1836.
Edward Croft-Murray was Keeper of Prints & Drawings at the British Museum, 1954-73.