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Southern Oregon University

Galpin SocietyThe following excerpt, reprinted with the generous permission of The Galpin Society, was written by Jack Schuman and appeared in the July 1971 issue of the Galpin Society Journal. Our sincerest thanks to the Society. Please visit their website at

The entire text of this article appears in the Summer 2008 issue of the Friends of the Schuman Collection Newsletter.

Reversed Portatives and Positives in Early Art - an excerpt

Among the numerous representations of portative and positive organs from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century, there is a surprising number of instruments in which the pipe arrangement is clearly reversed. Rather than the normal arrangement, in which tall pipes on the left descend to small treble pipes on the right, artists not uncommonly show us instruments with the opposite disposition.

Whether or not one considers these representations to be merely artistic license, organological ignorance on the part of the artist, or printer’s error in the case of engravings and woodcuts, one fact is certain: they appear in a wide variety of artistic media both in South and North Europe over a span of several centuries. While the above mentioned factors may be relevant in some instances and cannot be discounted as possible reasons for the appearance of reversed organs, other evidence should be considered.