Early Guitars and Vihuela

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I've jut purchased a late Baroque guitar that I think was originally a 5 course instrument, but is currently set up or 6 strings. It has the tall peghead typical of 10 string, and a 3/4 flush ebony fretboard with ivory frets. The Maple back has a large crack and possible veneer warping. There may also be a crack in the neck, but otherwise it looks to be in good shape with what I assume is the original finish that has darkened to a reddish brown on the top and gold on the Maple. I'm in the US, and would like to find someone with experience to assess this guitar and make recommendations. I'm not sure if I should keep it as a six string or try to restore it to 10.

It looks similar to this one listed as French ca 1770:


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Françoise, did you look at the right picture(s)?

I am not sure, i look at this one…

I saw 2 guitars on this conversation, one made by Nicolas in Mirecourt around 1780, modified in 6 strings later but with its the original non-modified head and size neck/fingerboard, and another guitar also made in Mirecourt (Chappuy label) in need of restoration made around 1810.

Both are nice and can be restored and played…

Well, but it's not the one that is under scrutiny ...

Anyway, the guitar under question looks totally original to me: in its 6-string configuration, pin-bridge, as well as the label. I came across and closely examined one very similar guitar. I can post some images and give a more detailed description when I have time.

I would encourage the 'misery person' av8t0r to have a close look, in a strong side light, at the edges of the neck at both sides: there might still be signs of impressions there left of double gut frets.

I surely meant to say the 'mystery person', not 'misery' of course, I do apologise!

I'm sorry for the confusion, I should have started a new thread. The Nicolas was just for illustration as a similar style and period.

Alexander, I would be very interested to see the images of the guitar you describe. My initial thought about the "Chappuy" was that it was a 5 course converted to 6 strings, but having it in hand, I do not believe so now. I see no indication of changed bridge or other holes in the headstock. Someone suggested that there could have been an overlay of the faceplate, but I do not see it, and it would have had to tuck under the dart joint on the back. I looked carefully for indications of gut frets, but I see none.

I understand that the Chappuy label is suspect, though I would love to hear Françoise’s thoughts on it, as well as the meaning of the illustration in 'La Guitare, Vol. I Paris 1650-1950” of “fake labels“ where this one clearly shows up. On the linked page, I show the same label from an early dictionary of French violin makers, so the label style is authentic, though there may be some indication that this one is a forgery. I have seen indications that 18th century guitars are often mislabeled. When did this take place, and why? I can understand if someone recently would try to fake an 18th century guitar, but I'm sure the Chappuy label has been in the guitar a long time, it is cracked in accordance with the brace underneath. But why would anyone in the 19th century be trying to fake a guitar that was so out of style, that everyone converted them?

So it seems there are two possible scenarios:

  1. It was a 5 course guitar converted to 6 strings sometime in the early 19th century.
      a. There is no indication of change
      b. Would ivory frets have likely been used if it was originally gut fret? Wouldn’t a conversion use brass?

  2. It is an original 6 sting in a transition style.
      a. What indications could help pin down the date?
      b. What do you make of the friction pegs? They seem too early for an 18th century guitar, but much older than late 19th century banjo tuners. Has anyone seen any like them?  These, of course, are the most likely thing to have been changed on the guitar.

To be honest, it is not that important to me if this is a labeled Chappuy (though if it is, the date is significant). What I know about the guitar is that it is finely made, of a size and style that is consistent with several in the Paris book from 1770-1790, such as the Ory, apparently mostly original, and can easily be restored to playability. My main concern was determining if I should attempt to restore it to 5 courses, and right now, I'm pretty sure that I will not. I am still very interested in any discussion about the guitar and it's likely history.

Concerning the "labelled Chappuy" guitar, i persist and sign ; for me (after just some photos on internet, what cannot be serious, i agree, and just for the pleasure of a discuss with you and other guitar lovers) i persits and sign : it is not a Chappuy for several reasons :

not the internal building (cleats, linnings, bracing) not a good label but the violin one easy to find, not the parisian rules of building, but a Mirecourt making, a early 6 strings head with the sides painted in black. I dont consider the bridge (with a saddle and pions) which could has been replaced… and at least I dont beleive Chappuy has made other instruments than violins (viols, etc), but i am going to check in the books…

I mean the guitar means totally original, but not by Chappuy, not Paris but Mirecourt circa 1810, what is early for a 6 strings and possible for ivory frets…

At this period luthiers still used non drilled bridges and began to use drilled bridges, as well fret guts and ivory frets…  it is the transition period!

I deeply appreciate your time and expertise. I know it is difficult with just photos. Did you see the other page with more detail? It has dimensions and a bracing pattern. I thought the size, internal bracing and cleats looked similar to the Ory (1780?) from the Paris book.

This kind of bracing (the drawing on the other page) is more early 19th than late 18th, and the bar just above the bridge is after 1830, not so early… Ory was a family of makers based in Mirecourt who teached a lot of luthier and from who 1 or maybe 2 "youngs" went to Paris to Work, during the transition period. That is why we can found in these family some "fashonable" instruments and other more "old school", same for Mast, Thouvenel, etc…  or other luthiers in Mirecourt around 1800…

Mirecout made thousands of guitars between 1790 and 1850…

ans a lot of them are very good, like violins…

What guitar from "La Guitare, Vol. I Paris" do you think is closest to this? When and why do you think would someone have added the label, and have you ever seen friction tuners like these?


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