Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Hi everybody,

Recently I obtained a guitar with a label pasted in it with the signature stamp 'A. Meurger'. The same stamp is to be found on music by Alphonse Meurger (1791-1827), so this guitar is also connected to him. I take it that such a label indicates normally that he built the instrument.

An extended search on the internet (where would we be without it) resulted in quite a few details on the biography of this rather obscure musician, as well a a number of compositions, four of which in a presumably autograph manuscript. As far as I can tell now, he wrote mainly songs for voice and guitar, some for voice and piano and one piece for guitar solo, a kind of Fantasy on 'Au clair de la lune'. But nowhere I have found any mention of him as a guitar maker.

Does anyone know anything about the existence of other Meurger guitars? I would be very thankful for every piece of information, also about other aspects of this musician/luthier(?)

Jan Burgers

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May I suggest,without any internet searching or reaching for my books (which could be a mistake), that Meurger was the owner, not maker, of the guitar. Many players included their names on the labels. It would help to know what nationality he was and where he lived, and to see where the guitar was made, i.e. a photo of the neck to head join.

Thank you James. I also was wondering if Meurger was perhaps involved in buying and selling guitars. Problem is that his label is not directly under the soundhole, but at the side of the back, directly next to the rib. It would perhaps be hard to past it there when the instrument is intact, but on the other hand it could perhaps be done with the appropriate tool.

Meurger was born in Rouen and lived most of his life in the North of France: Chalons-sur-Marne, Douai.

I enclose a picture of the instrument and one of (what I presume you mean by) the neck to head join. It would be nice if you could tell me more on the background of the guitar (period, location).

Attachments:

Dear Jan,

the Alphonse Meurger you mentioned is probably homonym of Alphonse Meurger luthier and cellist (1841 - 1892) active with his father at Reims from about 1860. A Reims town history book mentions among the most important people of 1867 the address of the luthier and cellist Meurger at rue Colbert, 24.

Look at the photo of my guitar that is very similar to yours. In place of the mechanic of the palette originally there were the tuning pegs like in violins.

It's a wonderful guitar that sounds very well. 

Best regards

Alberto

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Dear Alberto,

This is exciting, another guitar with a Meurger signature! In his music publications we find three different signature stamps, and this is undoubtedly the one he used during a short period, c.1820-21, in his journal Le réveil du troubadour (in the library of the Antwerp Conservatoire). Could it be that the guitar was also built in that period?

Best wishes,

Jan

Dear Jan,

I got my informations from luthier@luthiermirecourt.com to whom I sent the same photos you saw. There could have been a luthier grandfather and homonym ? It is interesting the mention you did to the use of this signature during 1820-21, that shifts of about 40 years behind the guitars manufacture. Can you upload a few photo of the journal and music you mentioned and of the different signatures? I am a little doubtful that these guitars where manufactured in the first quarter of XIX century because of the shape and design of the palette that was typical of the middle/second half of XIX century.

Thanks

Best regards

Alberto

Dear Alberto,

I upload two pages from my study; you will see that the signature stamp in the guitar is identical to the one called S3 (although I only have a rather vague impression, it is unmistakably the same stamp). Concerning the Alphonse Meurger in Reims ca.1860: it is very well possible that he was a relative of "my" Alphonse Meurger who died in 1827. I know he had a son, Eugène, who in 1840 was a confectioner (a maker or seller of sweets) in Reims; perhaps "your" Alphonse was Eugène's son? One can imagine that the signature stamps of the elder Alphonse were kept in the family, and ca.1860 used to put a stamp in that guitar.

Best regards,

Jan

Very interesting documentation. Considering that the Chronicle of the city of Reims of the year 1867 mentions only the family name of the cellist and luthier Meurger but not the first name, and that it is not likely that a cellist can compose music for different instruments than cello, I think probable that the luthier was the grandchild homonym of the composer whose signature was used to brand his instruments and our guitars.

I'll contact again my references in Italy and France to try to solve the question.

I'll keep you informed. Thanks

Best regards

Alberto  

Dear Jan,

all the history has now cleared by the my contact of Mirecourt (luthiers@luthiers-mirecourt.com). I paste here his answer:

Les dates doivent permettre d’être sûr. Le compositeur Jacques Alphonse (le grand père) est né en 1791 et mort en 1827

Le fils Eugène qui est confiseur et luthier est né en 1816 et mort en 1894. Marié en 1840 à Melle Lemanski, c’est sous ce nom de Meurger-Lemanski qu’il s’inscrit dans l’annuaire de 1860

Son fils Emile Alphonse est né en 1841 et mort en 1892. il n’est que luthier et est inscrit dans les annuaires de 1861 à 1862 comme A Meurger père et fils, puis A Meurger (seul) en 1864.

Now it is clear that the grandson used the grandfather's signature.

I remark only that Alphonse's father Eugene was both a luthier and a confectioner (confiseur) and that on the book La Vie Remoise, Eugene Dupont, in the year 1867 a luthier and cellist Meurger is mentioned at rue Colbert 24.

Considering the type of the palettes of our guitars, I think they were made in the second half of XIX century.

Last: can you send me a copy of the song guitar solo you mentioned of A. Meurger grand father? I'm enjoying myself by playing with my romantic guitar the music written for this kind of guitars (Sor, Mertz).

All the best

Alberto

Jan, look what I could find just a few minutes ago: the Meuger family tree ! 

Only one discrepancy concerning the death date of the father Eugene in 1851 and not in 1894. It's likely that he died between 1862 and 1864 in agreement with the above mentioned annuaires.

Best regards

AB

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Great! All dates and names that I can verify (of the composer/guitarist Alphonse, his parents, his wife and his son) are correct.

Kind regards,

Jan

Hello Albert,

Earlier I missed this message. Thanks for all the information.

Meurger published dozens of songs with guitar (and sometimes also piano/harp) accompaniment, but as far as I know there is just one piece for guitar solo, in a manuscript in Paris, Bibliotèque nationale: 

Recueil de musique // dédié à Madame Duhring // par A. Meurger (man...

Best regards,

Jan

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