Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

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(Gil de Avalle’s Private Collection)

Life and work

Joséf Pagés was probably born in EcijaSevilla around 1740. His brother Juan Pagés also became a notable guitar maker. It is thought that Joséf was the first of the brothers to go to Cádiz around 1760. He established his workshop in Calle de la Almargura by 1809.[1] A leading member of the Cádiz school, Joséf, followed very closely all the innovations that Francisco Sanguino had introduced, but with the additional development of doming the soundboard with the struts, an approach that later makers such as Jose Recio, Antonio de Torres, and Francisco Gonzales also adopted.[2] Pagés started with systems of three braces, like the early guitars of Sanguino and Benedid; his later instruments used five.

His guitars greatly influenced Louis Panormo, who used similar fan strutting designs and similar proportions for the body of the guitar.[3]

The great Spanish composer and guitarist Fernando Sor thought highly of Pagés’s guitars, stating ‘The guitars to which I have always given preference are those of Alonso of Madrid, Pagés and Benediz of Cádiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga…’[4] The composer Dionisio Aguado also mentions the Pagés brothers as among the makers he would recommend. Joséf Pagés’s known surviving guitars date from the 1790s to 1822.


This is an incomplete list of the guitars that Joséf Pagés made.

  • 1791 – A six course Juan Pages instrument in the Granary-Guitars museum, UK.
  • 1805 – In the collection of the Royal Academy of MusicLondon.
  • 1809 – (no. 70) Plucked, struck and fretted guitar labeled “Josef Pages Me Hizo En Cadiz Ano de 1809 Calle de la Amargura N.70″. Length of back 455mm (17 15/16in), the soundhole surrounded by concentric circular dotted wood, with 16 nickel frets to soundhole, with later tied bridge, with some inked manuscript lining on the inner back and ribs, the head cut down with machines added for 6 strings, in lined and fitted mahogany brass mounted case. Sold 15 December 2009 for £8,160, inclusive of Buyer’s Premium, at Bonhams,[5]
  • 1810 – (no.30) In the private collection of Timothy Lawrence Williams (MA).
  • 1811 – In the collection of Ringve Museum, Trondhjem, Norway.
  • 1813 – The Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments Item #282 is a 6-course: (6 x 2) strings, 12 strings guitar.
  • 1818 – Mentioned in Romanillos, J.L., Bream, J. Antonio de Torres: Guitar Maker, His Life and Work (Bold Strummer, 1997) p. 94

Andrew Galliano, playing a guitar by Joséf Pagés.

  • 1822 – (no.177) Spanish Six-course guitar, labeled “Josef Pages Me Hizo En Cadiz ano de 1822″ and inserted over top of label in script Calle del Sacremento in print no. 70 and inscribed over no 177. Length of back 455mm (17 15/16in); Upper bouts 217mm; Middle bouts 177mm; Lower bouts 281mm. The soundhole is surrounded by a band of inlayed white circles on a black ground with further concentric circles surrounding the sound hole. The six course head has 12 pegs, with 10 brass frets to the body with later bridge with an inalid cartouche under the bridge. The back and ribs is made of various coloured wood and shows some slight wear and tear due to use and age. The guitar has a soft black case. The guitar previously belonged to Antonio Maria Galliano (1841–1903) of the Galliano Bank. The guitar passed from Antonio Maria Galliano to his eldest son, Andrew (1875–1939). When Andrew died in 1939, the guitar passed to his only son, Jacinto, who died in 1967 without issue. Andrew’s widow, Ana Bonell de Galliano (1880–1969) gave the guitar to her nephew Francis (Paco) Galliano OBE, ex-Chairman of A.L. Galliano Bankers Ltd. On 10 March 2008, Francis Galliano sold the guitar for £6,600 at auction via Bonhams.

Source: Wikipedia

The Spanish School, 1800-1870 and the Birth of the Modern Guitar

……The guitars which I have always given the preference are those of Alonzo of Madrid, Pages and Benediz of Cadiz, Joseph and Manuel Martinez of Malaga…….” – Fernando Sor, “Method for the Spanish Guitar” English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions.Spanish guitars of the 19th century, and the Panormo, are the most similar to the modern Spanish guitar of any 19th century builder. However, the Spanish guitar has changed considerably since then. Spanish guitars have had fan bracing since at least the 1700′s (older instruments do not survive, so it is impossible to know how far back this construction dates). Fan bracing is a distinguishing characteristic of Spanish guitars, pre-Torres and beyond. Spanish guitars share the mellow, singing quality that is still embodied in the modern guitar, though today’s guitar is physically larger.The most famous Spanish builder was no doubt Antonio de Torres. Although Torres is sometimes credited with inventing the modern guitar, the construction characteristics of Torres guitars can be found in other Spanish builders of his day and in earlier periods.The Spanish school is sometimes described as a delayed initial response and slow decay, with heavy bass dominance. The French and Viennese schools were also excellent sounding, with a different sound characterized by a more rapid attack and a treble or midrange dominance.Much credit for the Spanish school should go to Juan Pagés, as these guitars were fan braced since around the 1790′s, and formed the basic architecture of the Spanish design. Spanish Baroque guitars were fan braced since the 1700′s. Juan Pagés was highly recommended by both Sor and Aguado. The basic body shape of the Spanish guitars was established by the early 1800′s, and in turn evolved throughout the 19th century and even into today. It is widely said that Torres increased the guitar’s dimensions, but this same trend was happening in all the schools of construction at that time, and other examples of Spanish guitars contemporary with Torres show similar dimensions. Some original Torres guitars were much smaller than the modern guitar, and modern players often lose sight of the evolution in internal construction which occurred since then. Other Torres guitars, later ones, are almost as large as a modern guitar.

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Comment by Rob MacKillop on February 17, 2014 at 15:47
I know the Pages 6c guitar in Edinburgh. I think it is perhaps playable, but we haven't tuned it up to full pitch. I'd love to get it working again. Maybe some day. But judging by this single instrument, I would agree with Sor.

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