Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas


I am planning to build myself a baroque guitar (based on either the 1688 or 1700 Stradivari), can anyone recommend a reference book that covers the construction of baroque guitars?  I have plenty of books on the construction of modern classical guitars, and on baroque guitar music and stringing etc, but I need something that covers the differences in construction and construction methods used in baroque guitars.  I'd be very grateful for any suggestions.

Views: 9540

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Also on Stradivari's guitars, something that has been niggling at me for many years.

Almost all extant baroque guitars have bridges with moustachios.  However a large proportion of those by Stradivari do not, and perhaps never have had?  His best known instrument until fairly recently was the one in the Ashmolean.  This does not have moustachios BUT did have during the 19th c. when it was illustrated in Hipkins and Gibb's book of 1888.  (I have been told, although I have no idea how reliably, that it was being restored by the Hills, and that the repairer failed to survive the 1914-18 war.)  Are some of the extant "Strads" copies of the Ashmolean instrument's current condition?


The only surviving Strad guitar with its original moustachios still in place is the "Guistiniani" (see below). Neither of the bridges, however, are original, albeit still being copied by makers all over the world, with some choosing the "Hill", others "Rawlins" type bridges (both, I believe, were made by either the Hill brothers themselves or whoever was working for them). Just as an example, for the very recent restoration of the "Sabionari" Strad guitar (which was announced on this forum a few weeks ago), the "Hill" bridge design (with its triangular-shaped slots) was chosen for the reconstruction; and the "HIll" rose too!? An odd sort of choice really for such an important historical guitar ...

What then is current thinking about the battented guitar in Milan?  I only have a copy of the catalogue entry, but the moustachios look similar to those in the Ashmolean.  I don't know enough about the provenance of the Ashmolean guitar.  The rose of 1888 looks to be the present one? - I've always thought the bridge to be an ingenious improvement on the Paris model!
Peter, you are quite right, it does seem to belong to Q.Elizabeth's virginals; I've just checked with the keyboard catalogue of the V&As collection. I haven't seen that particular spinet exhibited though, otherwise I would have had its rose picture. I find it really interesting the fact that the same rose design (i.e. as on c.1570 spinet) was still being used by rose makers in Stradivari's time. So it's kind of similar to what was fairly common in the lute making tradition.

I've got a few images (made from your black&white photographs that you once lent me) of the "Sellas" rose from the Fitzwilliam collection. It's a really nice one; I must have a close look at the original one day.

I'm not quite sure which particular "battented" guitar you have in mind? Can you put up a scan, so as to get an idea?

Anyway, just to finish off with the Strad bridges, here is a compilation of those from three guitars, on two Stradivaris and one on G.Sellas, all of which once belonging to W.E.Hill & Sons:

It's pretty much clear that all of them were probably made about the same time and, quite possibly, by the same hand. Also, as far as I can see the soundboard on the "Rawlins" is not original but only the rose with its surrounding rim (from the original soundboard?) and the inlaid circle.

I'm attaching two photos taken directly from the Milan catalogue perhaps as much as thirty years ago.  They were poor photos then and have not improved!  Hope they will be sufficiently legible.

Q. Elizabeth's virginals are/were not in the instrument gallery of the V&A.  They are/were kept in the series of 'period room' mock-ups.

I suppose the very idea of attributing this guitar to Stradivari is just too light-hearted to be taken seriously.

Thanks for the info on Q. Elisabeth virginal. Have you got any images, whatever the quality, of its rose?
Q. Elizabeth's virginals has a dozen or so details, including the rose, easily accessible on the V&A website.
Returning to the Milan catalogue, whilst admitting that the guitar shown is a rather horrible sight, I am puzzled by the similarity of its moustachios to those on the Ashmolean.  This seems to suggest that the maker of one set had some knowledge of the other.
There might be many different reasons why the moustachios look similar (this guitar could even well be re-sold though the Hills in the first place, bearing a possible attribution to Stradivari, being repaired by the same person who did those moustachios on the Ashmolean guitar etc etc ...). We can't just guess without knowing more information about its provenance and, in a way, what exactly prompted the compiler(s) of that catalogue to come up with the idea of attributing it to Stradivari.

What about suppliers who might have produced roses, tuning pegs, maybe mustaches? Is there evidence to show that there might have been suppliers of parts that makers like Strad. and others could have taken advantage of. If so that might throw a wrench into identifying instruments by those parts that were "mass" produced.


I attended a renaissance lute lecture with a prominent maker last summer where he mentioned historical references to soundboards (with roses carved), necks and bridges that were available from craftsmen that made only those parts and the implication was that they traveled about selling their goods.


Just wondering if that sort of thing might have carried over into the baroque and indeed many luthiers use these kinds of services today.

This might of course be possible too but the big question here really is whether those moustachios, that are reproduced in Hipkins and Gibb's 1888 book, have anything to do with the original ones?! They appear to be made of pale wood which is rather uncommon feature for original moustachios on most (if not all!) surviving 17th - 18th century guitars. There is nothing wrong of course for moustachios being made of pale (quite possibly pear, on some of the original 17th century guitars that I have examined) wood, which would normally be stained black. The stain can wear a bit but not to such an extend that making them appear totally pale.

The trade in ready-made parts is fairly well documented and seemed to be carried over into the late 18th, perhaps even early 19th century, well at least among Spanish guitar makers: virtually identical soundboard inlay patterns can be seen on a good number of, for example, Cadiz school of makers. The quality and precision of the inlay work is simply mind blowing; frankly, I can't even figure out how it was made ...

PS: I never ever come across the idea that the craftsmen travelled about selling their parts ... I would imagine their business was more organised and, in a way, regulated, so I'm not sure about that one.


© 2023   Created by Jelma van Amersfoort.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service