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L. M. Middleton

revised by Anne Pimlott Baker

Light, Edward (1746/7–1832), inventor of musical instruments and composer, was probably the man of that name who on 6 August 1774 married Elizabeth Hawkins at St Mary's, Marylebone Road, Middlesex. Nothing is known of his early life.

Light invented a number of instruments for ladies to play as an accompaniment to singing, at a time when the piano was not yet widely available. His first invention, about 1798, was the harp-guitar, which looked like a small pedal harp, but with seven gut strings, tuned like an English guitar, giving a more powerful tone than a guitar. This was followed by the harp-lute-guitar, with longer strings. He worked on the harp-lute between 1810 and 1813, adding five open strings off the fingerboard and a harp-like pillar to support the extra strings, with brass ring stops which could be used to raise their pitch by a semitone. He then went on to develop the British harp-lute, patented in 1816, with devices known as ‘ditals’ which when pressed by the fingers would change the pitch of the strings. This became known as the dital harp and although held like a guitar was in effect a small harp, played with both hands....