Generally considered to be the successor to the curtal (a double reed instrument with its read attached to a metal crook), the bassoon was developed during the baroque period. At around the time of 1650, extra keys were added to the instrument, extending its range down to a Bb - a development usually credited to Martin Hotteterre and other French makers of the period.
The earliest bassoon in the Collection dates to c.1720; it has four keys and was made by Dondeine, probably a French manufacturer. The Collection includes a systematic selection of 19th and 20th century instruments, these include smaller tenoroon instruments and a variety of large contrabassoons from French and German workshops and factories. There are also many examples of English bassoons by Thomas Cahusac senior and Milhouse, among others.
Around the middle of the 19th century bassoon manufacture was increasingly divided into two schools, developing independently. In Germany, the Heckel system; and in France, the Buffet system. Both of which were still used in this country until the 1980s.