General Information about 19th century guitars:
Only the most famous builders from the earliest 6-string guitar through the 19th century are discussed on this page. This site presents only the most rudimentary basics of the topic. There were numerous 19th century builders, in fact probably hundreds of luthiers. For many of these makers, perhaps only a handful or even only 1 guitar survives. Just like today, some builders made expensive, highly-prized concert guitars, while other makers made cheap household guitars, and every level inbetween. Some makers achieved great playing guitars with tremendous power and tone, while others made ornate instruments for social graces. There were plain-looking guitars for musicians (which often have surprisingly good tone quality and power), and ordinary household guitars for students. There was a great variety of construction technique and design. The historical facts of most of these builders have fallen into historical obscurity and are lost. Even the primary builders remain surrounded by uncertainty as to the most basic details. Most guitars of this era have lost their label and are identified by estimating their country of origin and time period, based on design characteristics of other labeled, known dated guitars. It often helps the resale value of the guitar to pay for a written appraisal. Fernando Sor mentions several builders in his “Method for the Spanish Guitar” English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions: “Mr. J. Panormo made some guitars under my direction, as well as Mr. Schroeder at Petersburgh…. In the goodness of the body or box, the Neapolitan guitars in general long surpassed, in my opinion, those of France and Germany; but that is not the case at present, and if I wanted an instrument, I would procure it from M. Joseph Martinez of Malaga, or from M. Lacote, a French maker, the only person who, besides his talents, has proved to me that he possesses the quality of not being inflexible to reasoning… 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, or Rada, successor and scholar of the latter, and those of M. Lacote of Paris. I do not say that others do not exist; but never having tried them, I cannot decide on that of which I have no knowledge.” More links to 19th century builder information can be found on this page: More Information and Links
Instruments used by the great 19th Century Guitar Composers:
Here is a chart showing what instruments were played by the most famous guitar composers of the early 19th century. This information is based on some surviving written accounts, luthier information, surviving ownership and instruments. It is always possible new information could be revealed to change our thinking.
|Guitar Composer||Builder / Luthier||Comments|
|Since Aguado came from Spain, he must have used Spanish instruments early in his career, but information as to which specific builders has not surfaced. After his arrival in Paris, various accounts indicate he used French guitars by Lacôte and Laprévotte. The oval-shaped soundhole of the guitar Aguado is playing in his famous lithograph is clearly a Laprévotte design, while another drawing looks like an early Guadagnini guitar. Jimmy Westbrook’s book shows actual photos of Aguado’s later guitars: these are nearly as large as modern concert guitars and are surprising to see in a French design.|
|Arcas||Torres||Arcas initially played Spanish guitars, probably in the style of Martinez and Panormo early in his career. Later Arcas worked with Torres in the 1850′s and 1860′s to slightly customize the Torres guitar to his specifications (Tarrega was born in 1852, thus the Torres was already established). This basic design, similar to other Spanish guitars of the period, has become the standard modern classical guitar, although the original Torres was smaller and had a somewhat different sound than today’s modern classical guitar.|
|Carcassi||Lacôte ?||I have not been able to find documentation as to the maker of guitar used by Carcassi, although 19th century depictions of Carcassi indicate he played a French style guitar, probably by Lacôte or his rivals. I asked musicologist Matanya Ophee, and he is also not aware of any sources which reveal Carcassi’s guitar, other than the following: “The only reference to this I know, was an article in Cadenza magazine in the late 1890s, where an American claims to have bought a guitar from Carcassi and bring it to the US. There is a fairly good description of the instrument, but no name attached to it.” Prior to arriving in Paris, Carcassi undoubtedly played Italian guitars similar to Fabricatore.|
|Carulli||Lacôte||It is well established that Lacôte built guitars for Carulli. Gary Southwell confirms this detail. Prior to arriving in Paris, Carcassi undoubtedly played Italian guitars similar to Fabricatore.|
|Coste||Lacôte||Coste’s Lacôte guitar is in a museum; it was a 7-string instrument of Coste’s own specifications.|
|Degen||Stauffer||A photo of Degen indicates he is playing a 7-string guitar by Stauffer. Interestingly, as Coste’s duet partner and friend, Coste surely came into contact with Stauffer guitars as well.|
|Contemporary accounts indicate Giuliani probably played a Fabricatore at one time. A recent discovery (cover of GFA Soundboard Magazine) shows that Giuliani owned a French guitar by Pons, a gift of Napoleon’s wife, which he later gave away (presumably to settle debts) and likely did not play in concert. You can read the article on this topic here: www.paulpleijsier.nl/assets/pdf/soundboard_2001.pdf (Written by Paul Pleijsier). Giuliani was in Vienna and is depicted in paintings playing a guitar that resembles a Stauffer, and surely Giuliani would have come into contact with Vienna’s leading builder during his years there, but no proof of this association exists. Giuliani’s close friend, the famous composer Franz Schubert played a Stauffer. In the Fabricatore section below, one source claims to have Giuliani’s Fabricatore guitar, with photos. My best guess is that Giuliani switched from Fabricatore to Stauffer while in Vienna.|
|Horetzky||Lacôte||Robert Coldwell Notes: “Horetzky’s guitar, made by Lacote, Paris, No.64 and bearing his autograph. A large instrument pearl and ivory inlaid, with patent machine in good condition.”|
|Huerta||Panormo||Depictions of Huerta from his own time clearly show Huerta playing a Panormo guitar. Published music was issued and underwritten by Louis Panormo, and Huerta was married to Mr. Panormo’s daughter. Luthier Gary Southwell also confirms Huerta’s concert guitar was made by Panormo.|
|Legnani worked with Stauffer to derive the famous “Stauffer-Legnani model” which was regarded as the finest model in that part of Europe. Legnani also played an 8-string Stauffer and wrote compositions (notably op 201,202,203) for it. Gary Southwell confirms this detail. Prior to arriving in Paris, Legnani undoubtedly played Italian guitars similar to Fabricatore. Other Viennese guitars, e.g. by Reis, mention Legnani on the label, but it is not clear whether this was a collaboration, or simply copying the Stauffer style. Legnani also collaborated with Ries and possibly others which also have the Legnani label. It is believed that Legnani also built his own guitars later, but only one instrument claimed to be his to my knowledge has survived: a large body Guadagnini style instrument.|
|We know from Makaroff’s accounts that he played an 8-string Stauffer, and 8-10 string Scherzer guitars (Scherzer was Stauffer’s foreman). Gary Southwell confirms this detail. Makaroff tried many luthiers and was of the strong opinion that Stauffer and Scherzer were the best luthiers in Europe, though he was perhaps not exposed to the guitars of the Paris school.|
|We know from Makaroff’s accounts that Mertz played 10-string Scherzer guitars (Scherzer was Stauffer’s foreman). Gary Southwell confirms this detail and that Mertz also played Stauffer, presumably 6-string. Mertz was from Vienna and this is to be expected.|
|The book by John Sugden: Paganini in the series of “The Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers” lists the estate sale contents of Paganini’s musical collection. “Mr. George Withers has purchased from the widow of Signor Luigi Guglielno Germi.. the following highly interesting collection, which was left by the world-renowned violinist, Nicolo Paganini, to the late Signor Germi, ..” This included “An Italian Guitar, by Gennaro Fabricotar (sic), Anno 1819, Napoli, ebony ornamentation over table. (This instrument was for many years used by Nicolo Paganini).” This guitar sold for only 25 English pounds (!), presumably in the late 19th century, and it is not known who owns it today. Françoise Sinier de Ridder notes that there is a drawing showing Paganini playing his Fabricatore in “Casa de Paganini” in Genova. The famous Paganini-Berlioz museum guitar shows that Paganini played this Lacôte-style instrument made by Grobert of Mirecourt, France, at one time. This instrument was used for a short period, and we do not know what other instruments Paganini played, other than presumably Italian guitars. The Martin guitar web site claims that Paganini played Stauffer guitars, but I do not know the validity of this information.|
|Padovetz||Friedrich Schenck, Vienna 1841 (Staufer workshop)||Photos and historical documents reveal that Padovetz played a 10-string guitar patterned after Staufer innovations, and very much like the Scherzer instrument played by Mertz, with the additional ability of using a device to raise the bass notes one pitch.|
|Pettoletti||Stauffer ?||Evidence is unclear, but it is believed that Pettoletti played Stauffer guitars before switching to Russian 7-string instruments made in St. Petersburg.|
/ Madame Sydney Pratten
Other 19th c. London guitars
|Gary Southwell has examined and copied Madame Sydney Pratten’s concert guitar ca. 1850. Madame Pratten is also shown in a photo playing a J. Guiot circa 1844 guitar. She also worked with builders on specifications and endorsed several fine instruments: in the Lacote style, but larger.|
|Regondi||Stauffer||Robert Coldwell Notes: “Regondi’s guitar made by Stauffer of Vienna and bearing his autograph and also the following inscription of Regondi – To his friend and pupil T. Gaisford Esq. M.D. from Giulio Regondi 15th April 1871. This is a very large instrument and in good condition with machine head.”|
|Schubert||Stauffer||A surviving instrument proves that Schubert played a Stauffer instrument. Gary Southwell confirms this detail. Schubert was from Vienna and this is to be expected. In addition to Schubert’s guitar, Stauffer made an arpeggione for him.|
|Sczepanowski||Panormo||Gary Southwell confirms Sczepanowski’s concert guitar was made by Panormo.|
LacôteAlso: Martinez, Schroeder, Alonzo, Benediz
|Sor mentions many builders in his Method, and presumably he played all these instruments at one time. Sor favored fan-braced Spanish guitars such as Pages, Martinez, Rada, and Benediz and had Panormo build a Spanish-style instrument to his specifications. Sor also praised Lacôte in his method, and it is commonly said that this was his main concert guitar, also Adam Holzman told me this in a master class, though I do not know the reliability of this information. It is known that Sor left Coste with his Spanish guitar by Rada when he died.|
|Zani de Ferranti||Lacôte||Ferranti’s biography by Simon Wynberg details the instruments left behind by Ferranti. Also Gary Southwell confirms Ferranti’s choice of instrument.|
Schools of Construction
Guitar construction varied considerably before the modern Spanish Torres-based design became the de facto standard for classical guitars. Although each builder showed unique designs or decoration, the basic design centered around four primary regional styles, or “schools”. The most well-known builders in the early 19th century are: Fabricatore, Stauffer, Martin, Lacote, Panormo and ending with Torres. These respectively represent the Italian, Viennese-German, French, and Spanish schools. Each primary builder for these schools has its own sound characteristic. Gary Southwell aptly describes them briefly thus: “The Panormo is closer in style to a modern or ‘Spanish style instrument’ due to its fan strutting. The Lacote and Stauffer both rely on transverse barring systems and have a sound that speaks quickly and responds easily to the touch. I would say that the Lacote has a more complex sound and is more elegant for want of a better word. The Stauffer is more powerful and direct in its sound, maybe more flambouyant. It is of course difficult to describe these things in words but I hope this has given you an idea.” Dennis Cinelli breaks down the phases of early romantic guitar evolution into four major schools, all of which have a focused sound which projects well. “Like the violin family, guitars from the 17th, 18th, and 19th century can be classified by families, or rather countries.”
|French – Mirecourt / Paris||Italian||Viennese||Spanish|
|Ladder-braced, flush or raised fingerboard||Ladder-braced||Ladder-braced||Fan-braced|
|Quick responsive sound, balance and clear mellowness; early guitars with a delicate sound.||Slightly punchy sound, warm and clear.||Focused and very loud, punchy.||Mellower and warmer.|
|Pons, Lacote, Lamy, etc.||Fabricatore, Guadagnini, etc.||Staufer, Brunner, Schertzer.||Lorca, Pages, Martinez, Panormo.|
|Sor, Carulli, Coste, Ferranti||Giuliani, Legnani, Carulli, Moretti||Giuliani, Mertz, Legnani, Regondi, Degen||Sor, Aguado|
The Italian School
The Italians began commonly building 6-string guitars in Napoli in the 1790′s as evidenced by Fabricatore and others. Surviving instruments can be found earlier, but authentity of very early guitars (e.g. early 1790′s and before) is sometimes in dispute. It is important to note that many instruments which were originally 5 double-course “Baroque” guitars from the late 18th century were later altered in the early 19th century for 6 single-strings, by changing the headstock, bridge, and nut. A pair of Fabricatore guitars survives; they are identical except one is a 5 (double) course baroque guitar and the other is a 6 (single) course classical guitar. Additionally, a 5 single-string Fabricatore exists – apparently original, and apparently during the transitional period. Moretti, an Italian who switched from the baroque guitar, wrote a method for the new 6-string instrument, and composed music which influenced Sor. Most early Itaalian guitars were highly ornate. The Italian school seeded the Viennese school, and later the Viennese guitar innovations were adopted in Italy so that the two styles became nearly the same.
Staufer and ornate Fabricatore
Near-identical body styles The composers who used Italian guitars were of course the Italian guitarists such as Giuliani, Legnani, Carulli, and Moretti. These guitarists later switched to other instruments. There were dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of Italian builders in this time period, but Fabricatore is the most famous. Guadagnini also deserves special mention; surviving instruments are still played by Duo Maccari-Pugliese, Leopoldo Saracino, and John Williams on his re-recorded Giuliani opus 30 Concerto in A. The Guadagnini family, which included guitars by Carlo and Gaetano, came in a large and small model. Guadagnini was mostly known as a maker of violins, but today the guitars are also collector’s items.
Fabricatore Family, Naples, 1770 – 1845
Claimed to be
Mauro Giuliani’s Guitar
Several Fabricatore family members were known to build guitars or assist in building them. The most famous were Gianbattista and Gennaro Fabricatore. Gianbattista was the father or uncle of Gennaro Fabricatore (the correct spelling per the label is Gennaro, not Genarro). Gianbattista made baroque guitars in his early period. These guitars were often very ornate, though other more plain and presumably cheaper models were produced, and in appearance look like the early Baroque guitars. Later instruments utilized Stauffer innovations, including the Stauffer headstock. They are distinguished by usually having vine inlays, and often purfling that runs all around the guitar body, including the neck
The 1790 instrument depicted above reads: “Gennaro Fabricatore Fecit in Neapoli Anno 1790 Strada S. Giacomo N. 37″. The 1813 instrument is a rare guitar by Gianbattista made with his son (figlio in Italian) Raffaele Fabricatore’s assistance. It appeared on EBAY in 2002 and was purchased by a Japanese collector after active bidding. According to the CRANE Homepage by Makoto Tsuruta, the smaller labels of the type above, indicated custom instruments made by the Fabricatore’s themselves, whereas instruments with the larger label containing a woman playing the guitar were less expensive instruments made by other luthiers and labeled for resale by Fabricatore. However, all of these guitars were considered high quality labels according to many sources, but the custom Fabricatore’s are the most valuable to collectors. An excellent source of information on Fabricatore is the Research on Fabricatore Family from the CRANE Homepage by Makoto Tsuruta. This has the most comprehensive information on-line to date of the family tree, individual makers, construction characteristics, etc.. Makoto’s page also shows a pictoral overview of building a Fabricatore style replica: Lutherie: Makoto Tsuruta Making a Fabricatore style guitar.
The Giuliani – Fabricatore Connection
A 19th century source mentions that Giuliani played a Fabricatore, presumably early in his career, as later depictions show Giuliani with a clearly Viennese style of guitar (see the front cover of Dr. Heck’s Giuliani biography, for example). According to Dr. James Buckland, there is an interesting quote about Giuliani in a contemporary source, from a biography of Giuliani written in 1836 by Filippo Isnardi (who also posthumously edited some of Giuliani’s works for Ricordi such as Gran Sonate Op. 150), that describes a performance where he demonstrates the “invention” of the 6th string by Fabricatore: “He demonstrated the invention of the 6th string, due to Maestro Fabbricatorello in Naples; but his greatest innovation was that of adapting to the guitar any musical piece or chord whatever, and of creating an infinity of concertos and compositions, not to mention his playing the instrument with a mastery, with an elegance, and with a vibrazione (?) which no one before him achieved.” (Heck, T. “Mauro Giuliani: Virtuoso Guitarist.” p.7)
… Click to Link …
The Maccari-Pugliese Duo web site has images of a guitar claimed to have been owned by Mauro Giuliani; it is a beautiful, labeled 1809 Fabricatore. According to Paolo Pugliese and Claudio Maccari: “The Fabricatore guitar (1809) was surely owned and played by Giuliani; it has just been found because it was in a private collection in Naples. Now the guitar is owned by our friend Gianni Accornero, a very important collector and luthier. We are going to play it, after it is restored, probably next autumn, and to record a CD with Giuliani music… You can see M.G. written on the table board near the bridge from the photo on our site. The case is original and you can see M.G. written on it. On the palette you can see the Giuliani family’s silver coat of arms; the same can be found on a door in the Giuliani’s house in Italy. Gianni was able to buy the guitar because Nicola Giuliani, (one of Mauro’s discendents) told us that the guitar was given to the collector by his family.“
The Viennese-German School
Italian guitars went to Vienna due most likely to Italian guitarists Giuliani and Legnani who enjoyed great fame and success for many years in Vienna. Legnani worked directly with Stauffer to create the Staufer-Legnani model. Legnani apparently worked with other makers as well, such as Ries, to produce various Legnani-model labeled instruments. Legnani himself was thought to be a luthier (though I have not seen hard evidence), per this surviving instrument claimed to have been made by Legnani (a copy of the large body Guadagnini instrument):
Guitar made by Luigi Legnani The Italian and German schools influenced each other, and became indistinguishable very quickly, particularly in the case of Stauffer and Fabricatore. Early guitars by Stauffer, a cello maker, were copies of Fabricatore. Later Stauffer developed his own model and later still Fabricatore in Naples made guitars in Stauffer’s style. Stauffer designs and innovations became the standard model throughout Austria, Germany, Eastern Europe and Russia. Do not assume that if you find an antique guitar in the style of Stauffer (or Staufer) and Martin guitars, that it was actually made by one of these 2 builders. Stauffer and Martin are among the most widely counterfeited instruments around, with countless fake labels in existence. Thousands of 19th-century guitars in the German-Viennese style of Stauffer and Martin were made in those days. It was the prevailing guitar design of the day, just like today everybody makes classical guitars that look like Torres. You cannot be sure that a guitar of this style is a Stauffer or a Martin unless you have convincing proof and documentation of authenticity. Guitars in this style were made for 75 years throughout Germany, Austria, Russia, and Eastern Europe by dozens, if not hundreds of makers. Only an expert can tell a true Stauffer or Martin from the rest.
Johann Georg Staufer, Vienna, guitars ca. 1800 – 1845
Staufer is the most famous builder of the Viennese school of guitar, whose work summarizes that school of building. (Some guitar labels say Staufer, others Stauffer – though it is commonly spelled Stauffer by many.) There are many guitars of the 19th century made by other makers which copied Staufer’s design. Staufer is famous today because of the many innovations in guitar design he introduced. The most well-known Staufer guitar type is the Legnani model based on collaboration with the famous guitarist Luigi Legnani. Staufer headstocks often had the “Persian slipper” shape with single-side machine tuners, a shape still used in Fender Stratocaster electric guitars today. The Rodgers Stauffer Machine Heads article describes the tuner design. The body shape has very pronounced upper and lower bouts, much closer to the modern design.
According to specialist Bernhard Kresse, “J.G. Stauffer, the father, started guitar-making with an Italian-type model like it was probably brought to Vienna by Giuliani or other Italian players around 1805. This guitar, I call his “Italian model” had a long body, long scale (around 650), flush fingerboard, traditional bridge with floral moustaches, and a peg-head. He continued to build this model his entire lifetime up to the 1830′s. The 1809 Stauffer on my photo seems to be a pre-Legnani type. It already has a raised fingerboard and a shorter scale-length but not the strongly-waisted body of the later “Legnani-models.” The bridge on this guitar is original; I know that it looks a bit incomplete, but I found it on several other Stauffer-guitars. Unfortunately, dated J.G. Stauffer guitars are rare, so the date of the first “Legnani-model” is unknown, but probably around 1815. Shown are photos of the three different types.”
It is not known exactly when the “Legnani model” of Stauffer appeared. Kresse estimates around 1815. Alain Bieber estimates it was around 1821 (+/- 1 year), and improbable in 1815, as “that would be more than six years before the Ertl-Stauffer Privilegium”. It is also a subject of discussion as to what made the “Legnani model” different from other Staufer or Viennese guitars. Kresse believes “the most important specification for the “Legnani-model” was the stronger waisted body and strongly bowed neck. All other attributes like the adjustable neck, machine (tuners), 23 frets, and short scale do not seem to be absolutely necessary and you will find the Legnani-label also on guitars that do not have these specifications.” Philip Bone’s “Guitar and Mandolin” states: “Stauffer .. was a guitar maker living in Vienna, and he had received the patronage of the guitar virtuosi of the time – the renowned Regondi having used one of his guitars for a period: Legnani, too, supplied him with designs for a guitar, which Stauffer labelled ‘Legnani Model’. Stuaffer was constantly seeking to improve, and ot give to the musical world new ideas in instrument construction, and he it was who introduced the guitar with the detachable neck and fingerboard. This guitar was so constructed that the neck and fingerboard could be removed from the body of the instrument, by simply loosening a screw bolt which was inserted through the block of the handle to the inner block which holds the table to the back of the instrument. Stauffer claimed that a guitar so constructed, would take up less space, and therefore tend to greater ease in portability; but, the disadvantage occasioned by the necessity of having to adjust the neck and fingerboard to the body each time, more than counterbalanced this asserted advantage. In these guitars, too, as in the arpeggione, the fingerboard was not attached to the table, but slightly raised from it, as in the violin family.” Stauffer guitars were exceptional, as are the modern reproductions. There is no bracing on the top; it is a simple design with only a harmonic bar, but it works well, and the back is sloped somewhat like a violin. The sound is very different from the Spanish school, as is the construction. Spanish guitars have a slow response (particularly in the trebles). This means that during a split second, the sound starts softly, then grows in strengh and fades away more slowly after the string has been plucked. This is what contributes to the singing, mellow quality of the Spanish intruments. The Stauffer on the other hand is much quicker. The sound is immediate when the string is plucked; it speaks quickly. Therefore the Stauffer does not have the same singing quality, but this is not what the Austrians wanted (think romantic piano music, e.g. Beethoven.) They wanted an instrument that could play dramatic music, with a lot of expression. The basses are solid and deep to provide a foundation to your music. The Stauffer projects exceptionally well and many surviving originals as well as replicas are easily as loud as a modern classical guitar. I recently had the opportunity to play an early J.G. Staufer-Legnani, and my impression was that it was an outstanding guitar. It played easily, designed for virtuosic playing – neck shape, scale, action, all contributed to speed. It had a strong tone and a loud voice, bold and vibrant. This one was a figure-8 peg headstock, maple, of plain aesthetics, and without a raised fingerboard or adjustable neck.
If you already have a Spanish instrument, perhaps it would be more interesting to have a Stauffer, since it gives you more of a contrast. Mertz played on Scherzer guitars; Scherzer was Stauffer’s apprentice who later took over Stauffer’s workshop. The music of Mertz is amazingly well-suited to Stauffer guitars. Regondi owned a guitar by Stauffer. Coste played Lacote, but he worked closely with Søffren Degen, a Danish player and composer, who used a Stauffer. Coste’s music also works well on Stauffer.
Stauffer later used the neck adjustment mechanism, essentially a bolt-on neck. In the heel there is a nut that you can turn with a key. This slides the neck up or down relative to the strings, and thus you can adjust the action easily, even between pieces in concert as David Starobin has done. This design was ingenious. A few modern builders have started to re-introduce this design, but it is not widely used, due mostly to tradition. While some attribute this invention to Stauffer, a surviving Lyre-guitar of Fabricatore shows this invention earlier than Stauffer. (Photo courtesy of Bengt Wikström, Sweden).
Depicted left is the Kresse Anton Staufer replica, showing characteristics of the earlier Johann Staufer. The back at the upper half was sloped like a violin, rather than straight. The fingerboard was quite innovative. The fingerboard is not glued to the soundboard; it is elevated over the soundboard with a gap of around 1cm, like a violin. It protrudes slightly over the soundhole, to make room for the 22 frets – a much greater range. The Humphrey Millenium guitars used by Eliot Fisk, Adam Holzman, and others adapted the sloped back and elevated 22-fret fingerboard of Staufer with a few modifications. The neck was adjustable using a clock-key mechanism that allowed the player to raise and lower the height of the fingerboard to set the action. Setting the action on any other classical or romantic guitar requires surgery to sand down the nut or bridge piece, or to replace them, or use a shim.
According to Ian Watchorn, “Staufer used 4 main string lengths, 640mm, 625mm, 607mm and 596mm. Virtually all Legnani style instruments by Viennese makers use either the 607 or 596mm scales.” There are actually two famous Staufers. First, is Johann-Georg Staufer, who made the famous “Legnani model” with an adjustable fingerboard, 22 frets, machine-head, etc..
According to Gary Southwell:
Second is “Anton Staufer” – the son of Johann-Georg Staufer. Johann Anton Stauffer was probably born in 1805 and died around 1851 or later, as it appears that Anton stopped his workshop in 1848. Anton’s instruments are slightly larger in size than the earlier Johann-Georg Staufers. The sound is pleasant and warm, fresh, impulsive and with an enormous dynamic range. Anton’s instruments often have an adjustable neck, ~22 frets, and wooden pegs or “scroll” machine head. Bernhard Kresse has this photo of his reproduction; other photos as well as the original Anton Staufer are in the link below.
More Staufer Photos … The Memoirs of Makaroff mentions Staufer, and an interesting note that Makaroff’s Staufer guitar was actually built by Schertzer. Staufer’s shop foreman was none other than CF Martin, who founded the Martin guitar company (more below). (Though it is reported that Martin was foreman of the guitar case making operation).
Christian Frederick Martin I, Vienna and USA, guitars ca. 1830 – 1867
ca. 1834 Martin Stauffer style:
CF Martin was making guitars during the ERG era, with known examples dating to the 1830′s – several years before Sor published his Method. Martin at first copied the prevailing Viennese design, of which Stauffer was the most famous, but later started copying the Spanish guitars and the English guitars that were also copies of the Spanish design. According to Kurt Decorte and his listing of an earlier X-braced Guiot instrument at The Guitar Workshop, Belgium, Martin did not invent X-bracing since this was done earlier by other builders including Guiot. Richard Brune owns and has photos of several pre-1800 Cadiz school instruments with some form of “X” bracing on the top, usually under the fingerbord. This depends on how “X” bracing is defined, as it is different from the Martin system. Brune notes that Chris Martin, in speaking about the Martin history, said that rather than lay claim to having “invented” X bracing, Martin prefers to take the view that it was C. F. who commercially popularized it. Inventions applied to the guitar often appear independently and simultaneously; the key point is who it is that brought them into the common lexicon of the lutherie world. Martin himself never claimed credit for inventing the x brace as far as Richard Brune is aware. Later Martin guitars and other mostly American instruments diverged from the European beginnings as they followed the Martin Spanish design, but with X-bracing as per the English guitars of the mid 19th-century, and later the guitar’s body dimensions increased. During CF Martin’s lifetime, he made classical gut strung guitars. Martin founded the Martin Guitar Company in the USA which still thrives today making steel-string guitars. Steel-string guitars were introduced much later in the company’s history, in the 20th century, well after the founder’s death. Generally, Martin guitars copied Stauffer’s designs until around the 1840′s: ladder-bracing, “scroll” headstocks with 6 tuners per side, and adjustable floating necks. Later, Martin used the X-bracing system which is still used today for steel-string guitars because it strengthens the top. According to Martin Company’s web site: “The early Martin guitars were totally hand-crafted products, made on a one-by-one basis, and there was little standardization. However, there were a few features that commonly incorporated in most of C. F. Martin’s instruments. Until the mid-1840s, Martin guitars were characterized by a headstock that had all the tuning keys on one side. Martin acquired this design from his teacher in Vienna, Johann Stauffer. The headstock design with all the tuning keys on one side was discontinued by Martin and went unused until Leo Fender resurrected the design in 1948 with his Telecaster guitar. Another feature of the early Martin guitars was an adjustable neck. A screw mounted in the back of the heel of the neck was extended into the neck block. At the top of the dovetail (where the neck joins the body) there was a wooden fulcrum about which the neck could pivot up and down. With the strings attached, the neck could be adjusted via a clock key inserted into the heel. While the adjustable neck allowed the player to adjust the playing actions of the guitar, the device was complicated and prone to slipping under full string tension. So gradually, Martin phased out this unique neck adjustment. The 1850s also witnessed one of C. F. Martin’s major design innovations, the “X” bracing system for the guitar top. (Editor’s Note: Today’s luthiers dispute the notion that Martin invented X-bracing due to earlier examples from other luthiers.) Still in use today on all steel-string Martin guitars, the bracing system is largely responsible for the distinctive Martin tone, characterized by brilliant treble and powerful bass response. C. F. Martin, Sr., died on February 16, 1867, leaving to his family and the musical world a fine tradition of guitar making.“
Martin’s history is well-documented, and a good place to start is the Martin Guitar Company’s web site history section: www.martinguitar.com. There are also several books available on Martin history.
The Staufer – Martin Connection
CF Martin left Germany to apprentice with Stauffer before setting out on his own in America and founding the Martin Guitar Co. For better or worse, the Martin Guitar Company took the guitar in a different direction, toward the steel string folk guitar which remains much more popular than the nylon or gut strung classical guitar. It is probable that financial considerations led Martin to change direction toward building mass-market steel string folk guitars, instead of high-end classical / romantic guitars which required classically trained musicians. At this time, the Martin classical design based on German principles embodied by Stauffer, had become eclipsed almost completely by the Spanish Torres design. Here is an excerpt by Ken Vose:
1834 Martin Staufer
“It was Vienna’s Johann Staufer, who began making guitars about 1800, who is the undisputed early master of the instrument. According to devotees, in guitar history somebody is always reinventing the wheel. If this is true, then Staufer was one of those responsible for making the prototype. At least a half-dozen twentieth century “innovations” can be traced back to Staufer’s workshop, including the scroll-shaped peghead with the tuners on one side, the detachable neck, the raised fingerboard and the first “signature” model guitars endorsed and autographed by famous artists of the day. Unfortunately, innovation never has guaranteed success, and Staufer, who stopped making guitars in order to produce violins, died in the poorhouse in 1853. Ironically, it was one of Staufer’s employees, a shop foreman named Christian Friedrich Martin Sr., who would become one of the most famous guitar makers in the world. He would do it not in Vienna but in the small town of Nazareth, Pennsylvania. C.F. Martin & Co., one of the oldest continuously owned family businesses in the United States, is still headed by a C.F. Martin (the fourth), and remains in Nazareth to this day. “I think a lot of people are beginning to see that these early guitars are more than just musical instruments; they are cultural icons.” … A case probably could be made that Staufer’s influence on C.F. Martin was comparable to that of Niccolò Amati on Antonio Stradivari, who apprenticed under him in the mid-1600s.” Editor’s Note: While Stauffer was clearly a leading builder, others were also early masters of equal talent. There is no evidence of Stauffer dying in poverty, but rather some evidence of his success.
Article: Restoring an 1830′s Martin: www.superiorguitar.comOther photo links:
1835 Martin at www.themomi.org – Mark Twain’s original guitar.
The French School
The French guitars are refined and elegant in their sound, with a personality all their own, but most similar to the Stauffer sound. The best of these guitars have sweet trebles, a pleasant tone, character, good projection, and volume. They are bright and crunchy-sounding. There were many French builders, perhaps hundreds. Guitars were primarily built in Mirecourt and Paris. Also, “French” style guitars were made in London and many other European cities. Many of these instruments were fine concert guitars. The French style romantic guitar continued to be made well into the late 19th century, and somewhat into the early 20th century. The guitars evolved to become larger than the early French guitars, and evolved with attached fingerboards and mechanical tuners. Some of these guitars embody the best of the romantic guitar sound, being braced like the Lacote school, with a powerful sound and ease of play. I recently played 2 fine late 19th c. instrument owned by Jimmy Westbrook, a Boullangier and a Roudlhoff:
Pons is well known and sought-after as the teacher of Lacote and builder of Napoleon’s wife’s guitar later owned by Giuliani. You can read the article on this topic here: www.paulpleijsier.nl/assets/pdf/soundboard_2001.pdf (Written by Paul Pleijsier). Pons is also known as an innovator. (Pons guitar photos below, circa 1800, courtesy of early French specialists Sinier de Ridder):
Other notable builders of fine guitars included: Lavigne, Roudhloff, Coffe, Petit Jean, Mousset, Grobert and others… email me if you own an early French guitar which is of high caliber to be considered “great”.
Laprévotte is also notable: these guitars had an oval-shaped sound hole, and are famously depicted by Aguado. Surviving instruments demonstrate an amazing sonority per first-hand accounts.
Another innovation was the double cut-away design which is today often found in guitars for popular music. One such maker was Vissenaire; as shown in 2 examples at the William Petit site, one is labeled 1824. The guitar depicted in this photo appears to be older, based on the frets on the soundboard and peg tuners.
René François Lacôte, Paris, guitars ca. 1819 – 1868
182_ – Built circa 1829 or in 1830′s
c1850 – Brugere written in pencil under the soundboard
1830 – short scale of 580mm
It is often said that Lacôte came from the instrument-building center of Mirecourt and later moved to Paris. However, Alain Bieber points out that “In Paris the few ‘experts’ I met doubt very much that Lacôte was from Mirecourt. A very old mistake by a German dictionary was reproduced over 100 years. The best bet is that he was born in Paris or the Paris area, where he spent almost all his years. He might have been with Pons when Pons was still in Grenoble during his apprenticeship.” I asked French early guitar experts Sinier de Ridderabout the many labels, styles, and different addresses on the Lacote labels, and if Lacote had a “master series” and “workshop series” like Panormo? In other words, are some Lacotes mass-production, and others are more expensive, better models? Does the label or address determine which kind of Lacote? Their answer is as follows: “Lacote had several (quality levels) of guitars, during all his career (except the beginning of course). He made guitars unlabelled, for great dealers of his time, and some guitars for the British market (again!) with paper label Lacote inside and an English brand on the head. He made also the firm “Lacote & Cie” who sold guitars of different qualities (always top!) until 1845 and 1860 (more or less), and he used several templates for bridges, pruflings, neck, head, etc… but this has nothing to do with his diverse addresses (on the labels). As J.B. Vuillaume did with his “Ste Cecile”, he had a less expensive model, “Lacote & Cie” and a “master series”, but the musicians could ask for special arrangements, for example the width of the fingerboard, or one particular model of bridge, or pegs, etc…” Lacote labels exist with different styles, and different addresses. Authentication of labels is a matter best left to the few experts in the field as many fakes exist. Strangely, I have observed many “Lacote & Cie” labels where a piece is cut off and a portion of the label has been scratched out deliberately, where it would have the date and the words “BREVETTE D’INVENTION”. They are all scratched in the same way, which would tend to indicate this was done during the period, perhaps due to a patent expiration or similar. Some of the labels have dates, while others have only the Exposition date (not the date of the instrument construction), or 182_ or 18__. Hopefully, someone will finally publish a book on Lacote to sort all this out with primary sources. Lacôtes are a bit inbetween the Spanish and the Viennese guitars. They are described as having a refined, elegant, and complex sound. French guitars were very popular, and most of the guitarists based in France played French guitars; Sor concertized with Lacote, the Italians such as Ferranti and Carulli later played Lacote, as did most of the leading musicians in Paris. Sor cites Lacote as his top recommendation, along with his favored Spanish guitars.
1826 Lacote, near mint condition, photo by Sinier de Ridder, France
“…if I wanted an instrument, I would procure it .. from M. Lacote, a French maker, the only person who, besides his talents, has proved to me that he possesses the quality of not being inflexible to reasoning… The guitars which I have always given the preference are…, and those of M. Lacote of Paris.” – Fernando Sor, “Method for the Spanish Guitar” English Translation of 1836, published by Tecla Editions. Rene Lacôte is the most well-known French guitar builder mostly due to the endorsement of Sor, Carulli, and others. Lacote ran a large retail shop, and labeled guitars for sale by other builders as well. Period Lacote guitars are very hard to find and authenticate. However, many excellent replicas exist that fully capture the sound and appearance of the originals, due to excellent and accurate luthier plans available on the internet, based on surviving originals. According to Gary Southwell: “René Lacôte 1785 to 1855 was born in Mirecourt, France; a noted centre for instrument making, and later moved to Paris where he established himself as one of the greatest luthiers of his time. His guitars were fine examples of the French style and have a wonderfully bright sound with a quick response, largely due to the transverse style of strutting the front. Lacôte made many experiments and innovations; he worked on ideas with, and made instruments for, players such as Aguado, Carulli, Ferranti and Sor.” Unfortunately, many counterfeit Lacote guitars exist, since the Lacote labels were objects of forgery even during his lifetime. I personally once bought a fake Lacote.
The Lacote tuners were an impressive innovation of these guitars. The Rodgers Lacôte tuning heads article describes them. According to Kurt Decorte at The Guitar Workshop, Belgium, the earliest Lacote guitar is believed to be 1819. The early labels state “Lacote Sr. de Martin, Luthier, Eleve de M. Pons.” According to Bernhard Kresse, “this means ‘Successor of Martin’ – probably Lacote took over the workshop of Mr. Martin in the early twenties. I had another Lacote of 1821 with the same label a few years ago.” It also notes that Lacote was a student (Eleve) of Pons, whose fame is now the instrument made for Napoleon’s wife and subsequently given to Giuliani. The latest Lacotes I have seen are an 1862 in the collection of RE Brune, and an 1868 restored by Ian Watchorn in the collection of Mr. Rasko. The death date of Lacote is in dispute. As James Westbrook points out, “one person (probably Bone, or some violin dictionary) wrote the date of 1855 and everone took it as gospel. I know this in incorrect for a fact, but I do not know the date! I actually guess c.1870.”. Rumor has it that 1 or 2 books about Lacote are being researched that will hopefully clear up basic details. More Lacote Photos …
According to RE Brune: “Although Lacote died around 1855, his operation continued under the Lacote & Co. name. The instruments remained fundamentally the same, with few changes, as Lacote’s operation had always been a large one, relying as much on imported Mirecourt instruments as his own in house made models. Typical of the 19th century French models, they have significantly shorter scales and differently proportioned bodies than the Spanish models. The tops are usually thicker, and the bracing on the soundboard is very simple straight “ladder” bracing.”
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. As Alain Bieber points out, “At that time eight or nine out of ten guitars out of the Spanish shops (Masters included) WERE FLAMENCAS. Now we forget that because the flamenca guitar was exposed to risks and had generally a very short life. What made the difference is that, only in Spain and the US (and maybe eastern Europe) there was, at that time, a very active folklore oriented ‘guitar only’ music .. and players. ”
Antonio de Torres
Antonio Torres began building guitars during the end of the Early Romantic Guitar period. Torres is known for the style of guitar that is basically the modern classical guitar today. Torres built in two major epochs. Some Torres guitars were more similar to existing Martin, Martinez, and Pages guitars of the day, with smaller scale lengths and smaller bodies. Other Torres guitars, and the performers who popularized this design, launched the late Romantic and subsequent modern era of the guitar.
I once had the privilege to play an original Torres guitar, owned by Jimmy Westbrook. It played and sounded like a modern classical guitar, but not so boomy as some are. It had a nice sweet tone, and excellent capacity for tone color, a strong voice, clarity – in short all the things a good Spanish guitar should be. It sounded plenty “Spanish” – and sounded great playing Julian Arcas. The wood used was terrible, really – 3 piece mahogany back, with a nail hole covered up because it was furniture wood. Despite having modest materials, Torres was an excellent builder. Many people follow the blueprints of Torres or Lacote or Staufer, and simply cannot build as good of a guitar. However, many surviving Torres guitars are in bad condition and do not sound well anymore; fortunately, Jimmy’s was probably one of the better ones. Though important historically, objectively speaking, many of today’s modern concert guitars sound better. Although it was magical playing an original Torres, I cannot honestly say that it sounded better than my 1994 Contreras. To anyone thinking of an original Torres, they are very expensive, and beware of the many fake Torres guitars !
Len Verrett – playing a Torres
Original Tarrega MS on music stand
“Guitar built by Brian Cohen 1999, taken from an original Torres, no. FE 08. The original guitar is regarded as Torres’ masterpiece, made specially for exhibition. ( This copy contains over 92 feet of handmade double-herringbone purfling, and over 100,000 individual wood inlay blocks set in the complicated geometric pattern on back, ribs and table).” Editor’s note: This guitar shows the Torres “ideal” guitar, very much in the 19th century style with a large Spanish rosette, ornate purfling bands, and an ornate bridge. The simple, plain aesthetics of other Torres guitars, including the extremely ugly plain rectangular wood bridge on today’s modern classical, was more a function of limited financial resources by Torres than a decision that such plainness was desirable. The back and sides were flamed maple, also typical of early 19th century guitars. Brazilian Rosewood was used as well in many guitars because at the time, as it was furniture wood which was shipped to Europe.
Common Torres Misconceptions:
Shown below are several Spanish builders of the early 19th century. I am most grateful to the vintage guitar dealer Spanish Guitar Shop for providing most of these photographs of exceptional early Spanish guitars. Many of the dates are guesses. Spanish guitars from the 1790′s to the 1820′s often had double-course strings, e.g. 12-string guitars, while others were 6 string.
A good bio of Torres is here: www.laguitarra.net. Biographies of Historic Spanish Guitar Makers An excellent overview of the early Spanish builders, including Juan Pagés, José Benedid, Josef Martinez, and others, with photos of rare surviving instruments. FFSI past early Spanish instruments:
1870′s Molina Due to Sor’s recommendation of Juan Pagès in his Method, Juan Pagès is one of the most important builders. The Panormo guitar of the middle half of the 19th century was but a copy of this earlier design. The Pagès guitar shares much with the modern Spanish guitar, the primary difference being its smaller size. Here is one such example, from 1808, by Philippe Mottet-Rio (Anselmus) in Switzerland:
The English Guitar
In England, the instrument popular in the late 18th century was not really a guitar, but a cittern in C-tuning called a “guittar”. In the second quarter of the 19th century, as immigrants from primarily Spain and France brought the new 6-string early classical guitar / romantic guitar, the English seem to have adopted the French and Spanish style. No doubt, Fernando Sor had a profound influence on London taste during his years in the English capital, bringing in and playing mostly Spanish guitars in that period. Thus we see two kinds of English guitars, Spanish and French, with a large number of instruments from around 1825 through the 1860′s, after which the guitar suffered an apparent decline as the piano took over. The French instruments were primarily made in the workshops of Mirecourt and imported to England, where they were labeled by their English import companies, but they show distinct French construction. We also see Panormo, who made copies of Spanish guitars in large part due to the urging of Fernando Sor. Several members of the Panormo family made guitars, the most famous being Louis Panormo, but also his nephews George and Edward Panormo who were respected luthiers in their own right. Panormo had a large workshop which employed many craftsmen who made guitars under the Panormo name. Later, some of these craftsmen established their own shops in England and made guitars in the style of Panormo, such as notable luthiers Hanbury and Guiot from France. As Sinier de Ridder informed me, Guiot must have been “one of the numerous workers who left Mirecourt (or Paris) between 1830 and 1850, to work in London, like Chanot or Roudhloff (the 2 sons) did. You must remember the situation in France during these years is horrific; after Napoléon’s wars, the revolution named “3 glorieuses” in 1830, the cholera epidemic in 32, the civil war in 48, the life became very, very difficult in France and many luthiers left their country. Some of them went to Turin, some to London, others to Germany or even Spain. We believe these very good luthiers were employed by English makers as workers, Panormo for example, and the workers are not supposed to put their name inside the guitar. (In fact it is very often we found some names inside guitars, always the name of the real maker, and easy to read by the sound-hole, the “author” label or brand).” Alain Bieber, however, provides a different perspective: “The years 1815-1848 were not “horrific” in France. In fact after the Empire wars, the country developed rather quickly, but as all other countries a bit behind the UK (the super power of the time). The Panormo family went rather naturally to London, the equivalent of New York today, but were successful in Paris. There was more competition in Paris for sure, with Lacote, Laprévotte and many others as you know.”
The English 18th Century “Guittar”
Click photo for more photos and informationNote: Since there is surviving music for the English “Guittar” and reference to it, it is important to show this instrument of the late 18th century, which is not really a guitar at all.
In England, the “Guittar” was popular in the 18th century, but this was actually a modified cittern, with wire strings and open C-Major tuning. Rob MacKillop proposed that the cittern was introduced from Germany. The Spanish and Romantic 6-string guitar in normal guitar tuning did not become popular in England until the early 19th century.
Here are a few examples of English romantic guitars; again, either Spanish or French in construction style, as there did not appear to be a distinct “English” school of construction:
Shown are L-R: Johanning circa 1850, Manby circa 1840, Goulding circa 1830, and J. Guiot 1844 (photos: Music Treasures, Guiot by Guitar Workshop).
Louis Panormo, London and New Zealand, guitars ca. 1816 – 1860
Photo courtesy of the CRANE Homepage by Makoto Tsuruta
Louis Panormo was a violin builder who later made guitars. Panormo violins and bows are very expensive today. While in London, Fernando Sor showed Panormo the Spanish guitars he preferred such as Martinez and Pages. Panormo made guitars under Sor’s direction, to his requirements after the earlier Spanish instruments, as cited in Sor’s method. Panormo labels stated his guitars were “The only maker in the Spanish style” – which may have been true, only in London. Thus, Panormo guitars were more or less copies of older Spanish designs. Panormo produced a large quantity of instruments, many of which still survive. They vary in quality considerably, with some players suggesting they are fantastic concert guitars, while others claim the tone is harsh and thin. Replica instruments typically sound close to a modern guitar sound, but with some “period” tone. Many modern luthiers provide fine reproductions of Panormo guitars. Various members of the Panormo family were involved in building guitars. Certain experts can tell, based on the label and construction, which Panormo member made the guitar. The Louis Panormo instruments are the most collectable. In addition, the Panromo workshop produced large numbers of instruments of more simple materials and construction: ladder braced, with painted necks, smaller bodies, and one transverse brace: these instruments are not as valuable to collectors as the Louis Panormo’s. They are known as the ‘French Model’ in England. However, many of them sound good (in fact I tried one once), use in some cases better varnish than the Louis P.’s, and were customized to order – which is not indicative of a ‘factory’ instrument. It is literally impossible to know to what extent Louis or others may have been involved in the construction, some 175 years later, and there is some debate among experts on the topic. Panormo used fan bracing, but he did not invent this construction technique; it was adopted from earlier Spanish guitars. Likewise, the distinctive headstock had been used on French and Spanish guitars for several years; it is a very strong headstock and a superb design. The bridge design was also used on earlier guitars, particularly French guitars from 1800-1820. Panormo’s main claim to fame was not innovation, but rather being an excellent luthier in the Spanish style, and his affiliation with composer and virtuoso Fernando Sor for whom he built guitars. According to Ian Watchorn:
“Louis was the manager and driving force behind the guitar making workshop. It was a large affair, founded in 1816 in Bloomsbury, and moving several times during its existence, mostly in the High St. Louis ran the business along with family members Edward and George Louis, and a bevy of other makers employed by the Panormos including Thomas Hanbury, who worked for them for 20 years and then continued building the same model from his own workshop thereafter, and Guiot, a Frenchman who worked in London for many years. In the 1850′s the family sold the business to George Louis and moved first to the goldfields of Victoria, and then to New Zealand, where they purchased a sheep farm, and where Louis died at the age of 85.”
|1844 and 1849|
Ian continues: “Panormo’s have the identifying “P” carved into the bar above the soundhole. Panormo often put a bow-shaped attachment on the underside on his later guitars to resist string tension. Panormo guitars seem to have the most stable necks of any from the early 19th century, because the Spanish heel is so substantial… George Louis (Panormo instruments) ..are virtually identical in every way to.. Louis Panormo (instruments), but carry the nephew’s label from about 1854 onwards. I suspect that the nephew bought the entire business including all the timber stocks. Louis used a very fine bear-claw spruce of medium grain and excellent stiffness for his bellies and very dark chocolate brown and black Brasilian rosewood for the backs & sides of the Spanish models. The uniformity of wood use from the 1820′s to the 1870′s is remarkable, and indicates very precise guidelines for timber selection.”
The guitar depicted here is the “London Model” by Kenny Hill. Some are made in the Hill workshop, whereas others were made in Paracho, Mexico. It is not an exact replica, but it plays very well with a good sound. The neck is re-inforced with a truss rod (not visible), and other changes were made to accommodate high tension classical guitar strings at normal A440 pitch. The neck and fretting is modernized, though 1cm more narrow at the nut than a modern classical guitar, and 635 scale. I personally owned one of these guitars for over 2 years, which inspired me to pursue 19th century guitars in more depth. These modern elements and lower price of the Paracho version make this guitar a good introduction to the 19th century guitar. Although I later sold mine to acquire several period antique guitars, and more expensive historically-accurate reproductions, this was a good guitar for the price. Unfortunately, the Hill Guitar company has discontinued the Paracho model in favor of the more expensive Panormo copies made in Hill’s custom shop; while the custom guitars adhere to higher standards, they are more expensive, and thus there is not a good student-level romantic guitar alternative. “Built in the style of Louis Panormo, an Italian born luthier working in London in the 1830s, this guitar is nicknamed “Cacahuate” or peanut in Spanish because of its distinctive shape. The volume and projection of this small guitar are quite astonishing, and the ease of playing is pure pleasure, attributable to the relatively short string length.” – Kenny Hill.
The original Panormo labels read: LOUIS PANORMO
The only Maker of
GUITARS in the SPANISH STYLE
31 High St, Bloomsbury
1952[serial No] LONDON 1849 [date]
Guitars of every description from 2 to 15 Guineas “The only maker of guitars in the Spanish style” – clearly, in appearance and sound, this was the Spanish guitar of the pre-Torres era. Spaniard Fernando Sor worked with Panormo to design this instrument in the mid-1830′s; Panormo guitars are most famous because of their mention in Fernando Sor’s Method for the Guitar. According to Gary Southwell: “The Panormo family were leading instrument makers for three generations from 1734 to 1890, and were famous for their guitars between 1820 and 1860. The family originally came from Italy and, after living in Paris for a time, finally settled in London. The most noted guitar makers in the Panormo family were Louis 1784 to 1862, and his nephew George Lewis 1815 to 1877. The Panormo guitar is made in the ‘Spanish Style’ but is much more refined than the Spanish guitars of the time. The construction of the front is notable for its use of fan strutting, helping to give the sound a rich rounded tone. This stylish guitar is closer to the modern classical guitar than any other models from this period. Famous Virtuosi players who used their guitars include Huerta and Sczepanowski.” More Panormo Photos …
“Louis Panormo was the fourth son of an Italian luthier, Vincenzo Panormo,and was born in Paris in 1784. He moved to London in 1819 and set up shop in Bloomsbury, where he built guitars, violins, cellos and double basses. The body shape and decoration of Panormo’s guitars were closely copied from Pages. Louis Panormo continued to work in London until 1854, after which it is believed that he emigrated to join his son in New Zealand. Louis was not the only menber of the family to make instruments in London. Two of his elder brothers, Joseph and George, and their respective sons sons, Edward and George Lewis, were also successful luthiers, and built guitars. None of them,however, was the equal of Louis.”