Stephen Barber & Sandi Harris, Lutemakers
Catalogue and Price List 2016
1  Six course lutes 8  Gallichone/mandora, colascione
2  Seven and eight course lutes 9  Mandolino
3  Basslutes 10  Continuo instruments
4  Ten course lutes, 9-course lutes 11 Renaissance and Baroque guitars
5  Wire-strung instruments 12 Vihuela, viola da mano
6  Eleven and Twelve course lutes 13 Student Lutes
7 Thirteen course lutes  14 Footnotes

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Eleven course lutes

The first five lutes offered here are suitable for the French repertoire, having string-lengths in the range 650-700mm, thus facilitating the playing of the left-hand embellishments and chords found in this music, which would be difficult on instruments with a longer mensur.

The original Hans Frei and Laux Maler lutes are interesting in that the three Frei lutes which are likely to be by the hand of the Bolognese master (two in the Vienna KHM collection, and the Warwick instrument) have come down to us fitted with eleven courses of strings, and both the Warwick Frei lute and the recently-discovered Laux Maler lute (now in the Paris Cité de la Musique collection) were discovered in France, where old Bolognese lutes commanded very high prices indeed, and were much in demand for conversion to an eleven course string disposition.

All of our eleven-course lutes are built with a cambered fingerboard (as are most of the original instruments) in order to facilitate playing barrés.


Shown below is a recently made lute, which we feel gets very close to the spirit of the original instrument, the Hans Frei 11c lute, formerly listed as C34, in the Vienna Kunsthistorischesmuseum (see No.2 below).

It seems to have been converted to its current set-up in order to play the French repertoire; it is an instrument of breathtaking beauty and simplicity: it hasn't now – and indeed never had – either a half-edging or a parchment protective strip fitted to the edge of its soundboard, which carries a gorgeous rose of understated elegance and simplicity.

The neck and fingerboard are made of walnut, as are its fingerboard points; the bridge and pegs are made from plumwood, and the instrument as shown below was initially strung with 'new' Nylgut and Aquila overspun strings; it is intended that it will be strung completely in gut eventually. We have kept very closely to the dimensions, curves and nuances of the original lute, which is in a delicate but stable and conserved condition (much of the soundboard is affected by woodworm and cracks, for example). Nevertheless, when asked by the player who commissioned it – Chris Pearcy, of Brighton – to make an instrument as close as possible to the original lute in the Vienna KHM, it was a very interesting project to be handed, since we often find ourselves making earlier versions of this wonderful lute (in 6, 7, 8 or 10-course dispositions). The only obvious aspect of the original that we changed was its open pegbox rear, because that seemed to us probably a later intervention, since such a construction simply causes pegs to jump out of their holes unpredictably, and as any player who has grappled with such a pegbox will know, it is wildly impractical.

To go back to the source and work very closely from it was inspiring and interesting, since it is quite obviously today in the state and disposition that its most recent playing life required: a lute intended for the French 17th Century repertoire.

£5400 (see No.2 below).


1. After Andreas Berr, Vienna 1699 (Boston Museum of Fine Arts, USA; formerly Hever Castle)

11 ribs in yew, rio rosewood, figured maple or figured ash; ebony-veneered neck & pegbox; ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; treble (chanterelle) rider.
String length: 650mm
Pitch: f'

£5400 (with plain ebony fingerboard, and ebony half-edging)

Also available decorated, with pegbox cheeks veneered with snakewood, edged with bone; snakewood-panelled fingerboard** with bone panel-line; snakewood half-edging, and with the carved and pierced leaf-trail design to the rear of the pegbox found on the original (in either wood or mammoth ivory – the original is ivory).

 

The instrument shown above, which was built in 1983, is a decorated version of the Berr lute; it has a back from rio rosewood with holly spacers, and an ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, the cheeks of the pegbox veneered with snakewood to echo and complement the striking colours of the rosewood; the fingerboard has a bookmatched snakewood panel**, framed by a 1.5 or 2mm wide bone line, within an ebony border, the soundboard half-edging and fingerboard points are snakewood also; the pegs are ebony with bone pips. The veneer atop the bridge is mammoth ivory, engraved with a leaftrail, the flowers and buds of which are coloured red, the leaves green, and the stems black.

This instrument was made, at the player's request, without a chanterelle rider, so that all the courses go over the nut and into the main pegbox. Although there are surviving 11-course lutes without a chanterelle rider, such as the Martin Kaiser lute in the Brussels MIM (Nr. 1560 ) we usually build the Berr and other 11-course lutes with the more common little chanterelle pegbox for the first string mounted on the treble side of the main pegbox, near the nut.

£5800

(decorated as described above; pegbox rear panel with carved and pierced leaf-trail – in pearwood or maple – is £1000 extra; in mammoth ivory – the original is ivory; £POA).

Basic version is £5400.


The current set-up of the lute, and its likely original disposition

Having already examined the instrument when it was in the possession of the Astor family at Hever in 1977, Stephen was fortunate to have been granted unique access to the instrument a second time to properly photograph and measure it while it was at the London auction house Christies, in May 1981, prior to its sale.

The original Berr lute has an ivory back, and although it is set up as a 13-course with a bass-rider, this is a later conversion, although clearly done during its active playing life. Contrary to an ill-informed claim circulated in recent years on the internet, there is no evidence whatsoever that this important instrument is a converted 7 or 8-course lute; quite apart from the fact that there is only one label inside the instrument (and there were traces of no other labels visible when Stephen examined it in 1977 and 1981) the vestiges of extra points (certainly present in the photos he took in London in 1981 – and something observed as a stylistic feature on some instruments by Tielke) are actually outside of the existing fingerboard points, not within them: meaning that if this lute had at some point been altered and had its neck replaced, then the original neck was wider – not narrower – and therefore quite obviously an earlier set-up was not as a 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10-course lute. And furthermore, if the existing soundboard is not original, it could only have come from a lute with a wider neck, not a narrower one. What is certain is that this lute by Berr was originally made as an 11-course, and later converted to a 13-course disposition with the addition of a bassrider.

So whether it is original to this 1699 Berr or not, this soundboard rather obviously didn't come from a lute with a narrower neck (which an earlier lute would have had); moreover, the existing neck actually looks slightly too narrow for the body, suggesting the possibility that it was fitted during the conversion from 11 to 13 courses. What is beyond question is that whether the existing soundboard is the original or not, it did not come from a 6. 7, 8, 9 or 10-course lute (as has been suggested elsewhere) and the absence of any other labels or marks suggests that the only label inside unambiguously states the authorship of this instrument – in its probable original state: an 11-course lute by a famous and highly-esteemed maker, Andreas Berr, working in Vienna in 1699.

Nevertheless, the beautifully-proportioned back of this lute is an inspiring model to work from, and it does indeed make an excellent smaller 11-course lute (as well as a very useful smaller 13-course – which is presumably exactly the reason it was thus converted during its original playing life). Andreas Berr is recorded as having been a lutemaker of some renown, mentioned by Baron in his 1727 treatise (see below).


The original external soundboard edge lining, or 'Lace'

The 1699 Berr lute originally had a beautiful and delicate metal protective 'lace' around the edge of its soundboard (of the type known to have been often fitted to 17th Century lutes – and often seen represented in the paintings of Gerard ter Borch – but very rarely surviving today on an old lute) of fine woven silver thread, at the time it was sold from the Hever collection in 1981; this unfortunately disappeared when it was indifferently 'restored' later in the 1980's.

Thomas Mace, writing almost contemporaneously in Musick's Monument (London, 1676) with reference to removing an outer edging or lace from a lute, makes it clear that some lutes were fitted with a 'lace' made of silver:

The relevant part of the quote where the Berr is concerned being: "But if it be Silk or Silver, and that it shall serve again, take This Course with it:"

(Mace then explains how to remove the 'lace' using moisture and heat).


Andreas Berr and Count Losy

There are precious few refernces to exactly which lute was played and or preferred by the old composers/lutenists, but in the case of the lutemaker Andreas Berr and the famous Bohemian lutenist Count Losy, it is known that there was an active working relationship between them.

Andreas Berr (1656 - 1722) is known to have been favoured by Losy; the 1699 instrument, with its ivory back (formerly in the Hever Castle collection) is one of only two known surviving examples of his work. The other, dated 1694, is in the Pokrajinski Muzej, Ptuj, near Maribor, Slovenia (GL46S); it is much larger at 710mm string length, and has a 9-rib back in plain maple.

Count Johann Anton Losy von Losinthal (c.1650-1720) inherited from his father in 1682 not only a vast fortune and estates, but also the high official rank of Councillor to the Bohemian Crown. Based in Prague, he travelled frequently to the Imperial capital, Vienna, where he combined his official duties with an active musical life, in which he encouraged interest in lute playing. He must have met Andreas Berr there, and it was said that as he lay dying, Losy asked for his 'small' Berr lute to be brought to him; could this 'small' instrument have been similar to this 1699 lute by Berr ?

According to the English lutenist and musicologist Tim Crawford, 150 or so compositions by Losy are known to have survived in various lute tablature manuscripts, although it is likely that a large number of so far unidentified pieces have also come down to us; curiously, only one of Losy's pieces seems to have appeared in print during his lifetime.

Ernst Gottlieb Baron, writing in Untersuchung des Instruments der Lauten (1727) refers thus to Andreas Berr: "In Vienna, Herr Andreas Bähr and Herr Mattheus Fux, both famous lute makers, are well known. The former built with wide staves and his instruments enjoyed uncommon esteem with the famous Count Losy".

The Kapellmeister Stölzel frequently visited Losy in Prague, and commented admiringly on his lute playing:

"He played the lute as well as one who makes a profession of it, in a nice, full-voiced mostly broken French style, complete and learned, since he had mastered the fundamentals of composition. This commonly happened in the mornings for some hours in his bed, where he sat playing a small lute, which I often had the honour to hear. If he had an idea that particularly appealed to him, he wrote it down immediately and locked it up afterwards in a box especially kept for this purpose".

After the year 1700, according to Thomas Janowka:

"Lute playing had become so widespread in Prague that one could cover the roofs of the palaces with lutes".

Losy, one of Prague's most famous sons, clearly did much to popularise the instrument there. Andreas Berr, born in Freygencht Hohenschwangau, near Füssen in 1656, married Anna Margaretha, widow of the lutemaker Hans Klinger in 1680, and obtained Viennese citizenship in 1681; he worked in Vienna until his death in 1722.


2. After Hans Frei, Bologna, c. 1540 (Vienna, Kunsthistorischesmuseum C34)

11 ribs in figured maple, birds-eye maple, Hungarian ash or figured ash; ebony-veneered neck & pegbox; ebony fingerboard; ebony or snakewood half-edging; ebony pegs with bone pips; treble rider. Also available with pegbox cheeks veneered with snakewood, edged with bone, and with an ebony or snakewood panelled fingerboard with inlaid bone line.
String length: 675mm (fitted with 9 tied frets as standard)
Pitch: f'

£5400

Also available made in the spirit of the original Hans Frei lute as it has survived from the last period of its working life, with an unveneered walnut neck and pegbox, walnut fingerboard, fingerboard points and without half-edgings; black-stained or unstained plumwood pegs with or without bone pips.

(Shown in the image at the top of this page).

£5400

The lute shown above has a back from figured maple striped with birds-eye maple, an ebony-veneered neck and pegbox, and ebony pegs with bone pips.


3. After Hans Frei, Bologna, c. 1540 (Warwick County Museum No. 162)

11 ribs in figured maple or birds-eye maple; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips; treble rider.

£5400

Also available made in the spirit of three of the surviving original Hans Frei lutes (which have all survived as 11-course instruments, two of which are fitted with unveneered walnut necks) and according to the description of Mary Burwell:

"The flatt part of the Necks of the Lute and the bridge are to be made of ebony, but to Cover the head, the back of the necke with it as some do is improper because it makes the Lute too heavy upon the left hand the neck cold and slippery for the Thumbe and the frettes are never fast, a neck made of a light wood with a fine varnish as neare as may be to the colour of the Lute but you must keepe it cleane".

Having been prompted and inspired by these comments, we offer a version – as shown in the images below – fitted with an unveneered walnut neck & pegbox, ebony fingerboard, fingerboard points and half-edgings in ebony or holly; black-stained or unstained plumwood pegs with or without bone pips.

String length: 700mm (fitted with 9 tied frets as standard*)
Pitch: f'

£5400

This version of the instrument was fitted with unstained, plain plumwood pegs which have a beautiful terracotta colour which nicely complements the walnut and the colour of the oil varnish used on the back of the lute; the soundboard here is made from Haselfichte (figured spruce from the Bayerischer Wald).

The soundboard of this example was fitted with a holly half-edging to protect its vulnerable edges; we chose holly because its naturally pale colour is very similar in tone and hue to that of the spruce soundboard itself – in this case, we opted for holly because we felt it was more subtle than a stark ebony line.

Both versions have the stunning rose design which the original Frei lute has. This lute has a rather square body cross-section compared to the previous Frei model, which is slightly flattened.

The example shown above – based upon the beautiful original Warwick Frei lute – has a back made from flamed maple, and an unveneered walnut neck and pegbox and plumwood pegs (the walnut used was from a large tree which fell in Canterbury in the Great Storm which ravaged southern England in 1987; the plumwood was also harvested in the aftermath of the Storm). Note that the bone nut extends beyond the bass edge of the neck, as seen on some original instruments, and also clearly visible in the engraving of the French lutenist Charles Mouton by Gérard Edelinck, shown further down this page.

This feature is also well illustrated in Perrine's Livre de musique pour le Lut (1679):

 

*The vast majority of the dedicated French 11-course repertoire only requires 9 frets (as confirmed by the Mouton engraving further down this page, and Perrine's above); a few pieces require a 10th fret, and we can of course fit this as a fixed, wooden fret; the version shown above was fitted with nine tied gut frets.


Shown below for comparison purposes is a 6-course version of this Hans Frei lute, which we developed in an attempt to reconstruct what its original set-up and appearance may have been; we thought that it would be interesting to try and recreate what the old Bologna lutes – which were in such demand as 11-course conversions by the French lutenists of the seventeenth Century – may have looked like.

The backs of both of these lutes were sawn from the same plank of highly-figured maple.


The Mary Burwell lute tutor of 1660

This well-known manuscript tutor for the eleven-course baroque lute was published in facsimile in 1974 by Boethius Press. The book was either written by Mary Burwell (born in 1654, married in 1672) or by her mother Elizabeth (1613-1678); it is possible that the lute teacher whose comments are transcribed was John Rogers, who taught the lute in London.

There are several comments concerning the lute, and some echo Mace's remarks in Musick's Monument (1676).The following remark, quoted from the first paragraph of the 2nd Chapter of the Mary Burwell Lute Tutor (c. 1660-72, page 3) – titled Of The Increase of the Lute and its Shape – makes very interesting reading:

" . . . . besides all Bolonia Lutes are in the shape of a pare and those are the best Lutes but there goodness is not attributed to there figure but to their antiquity; to the Skill of those Lutemakers to the quality of the wood and seasoning of it and to the varnishing of it. The Bolonia Lutes are knowne by there shape and varnish which is darkish red. Laux Mauller and Hunts Frith have beene the twoe cheifest Lutemakers that have lived at Bolonia who have rendered there names immortall by the melodious sound of that famous Instrument and will still make them resound through all the earth as long as it will please God to maineteyne the harmony of the universe".

Burwell also recorded the following opinions from her tutor regarding the neck of the lute, which are confirmed by the two Vienna KHM Hans Frei lutes:

"The flatt part of the Necks of the Lute and the bridge are to be made of ebony, but to Cover the head, the back of the necke with it as some do is improper because it makes the Lute too heavy upon the left hand the neck cold and slippery for the Thumbe and the frettes are never fast, a neck made of a light wood with a fine varnish as neare as may be to the colour of the Lute but you must keepe it cleane".

Notwithstanding that most surviving eleven-course lutes have ebony-veneered necks, this comment demonstrates that players' opinions and preferences – then as now – vary. The suggestion that the bridge should be of ebony is not borne out by the evidence of surviving lutes with original bridges, since not a single one is made from ebony – they are usually stained a dark brown or black colour, and made from maple. holly or a fruitwood.


4. After Laux Maler, Bologna, c. 1520 (Paris, Cité de la Musique E.2005.3.1)

9 ribs in Hungarian ash, quilted ash or flamed ash; unveneered walnut neck & pegbox, ebony fingerboard, fingerboard points (half-edgings available in ebony or holly); black-stained or unstained plumwood pegs with or without bone pips.

This lute – like the Warwick Frei illustrated above – is made in the spirit of three of the surviving original Hans Frei lutes (which have all survived as 11-course instruments, and two of which have unveneered walnut necks) and according to the description of Mary Burwell:

"The flatt part of the Necks of the Lute and the bridge are to be made of ebony, but to Cover the head, the back of the necke with it as some do is improper because it makes the Lute too heavy upon the left hand the neck cold and slippery for the Thumbe and the frettes are never fast, a neck made of a light wood with a fine varnish as neare as may be to the colour of the Lute but you must keepe it cleane".

String length: 685mm (fitted with 9 tied frets as standard*)
Pitch: e' or f'

£5400 (£6000 with a highly-figured Hungarian ash back)

This instrument seems to have been built on the same mould as the Nürnberg Laux Maler lute, MI54; its rose is the same design, albeit rotated through 30°, and looks to have been carved by the same hand – although the six stylised 'thorns' around the central ring in the design are more elongated on the Paris lute. The geometry of the backs of the two lutes is strikingly similar, and the same hard, figured Hungarian ash has been used for both lutes.

We were the first modern lutemakers to properly examine the original lute, and had been asked to give an opinion on it when it was in England in early 2004 for dendrochronological examination by John Topham; this revealed that the lute must have been made before 1529, as this was the youngest year-ring (the oldest was 1350; John observed a relationship between the wood used for this lute and that of the Friedrich Prÿffer lute in Eisenach – the rose of which looks to have originated from the same hand). We were able to study and measure the soundboard in great detail, and were immediately struck by, on the one hand, its intact condition – it appeared almost too good to be true – and on the other by its thickness, which is significantly thicker over its whole area than that of the Nürnberg example. The various bridges which have previously been fitted to this Paris Maler seem always to have been placed in the same location on the soundboard, so we can be reasonably confident that the existing bridge is pretty well where the first bridge was glued. At this point in time, the instrument's future was uncertain, since it was on the point of being offered for sale. Thankfully, the Paris museum stepped in and were able to secure the instrument for posterity, and for the general benefit of makers, players and scholars.

Lutes by Hans Frei and Laux Maler are known to have been highly-prized by lutenists (and copied – and probably faked – by later makers) the French masters holding them in very high esteem indeed; since this lute surfaced in 2003 in the centre of France – albeit with a rather crude guitar neck – it seems not too fanciful to conjecture that it could well have been converted to an 11-course disposition at some stage, upon its arrival in France.


Stephen was one of the first modern lutemakers to specialise in lutes based upon the then-known work of Laux Maler, in the mid 1970's; this included making in 1977 a 6-course version of the Nürnberg instrument MI54 with its bridge placed where the marks of an earlier (possibly the original) bridge are located very low down the soundboard, 64mm from the bottom edge, in fact. This bridge had rounded ends, as one might expect to see on an early sixteenth Century 6-course lute; interestingly, it is placed at approximately one-eighth of what might be conjectured as its original body length as a 6-course lute – yielding a string length of 74cms or thereabouts. We have over the years made a large number of lutes based upon the work of Laux Maler, from 6-course to 13-course instruments; this Maler 'cycle' came full circle when we were asked to make an 11-course version based upon this new discovery by a French player at the time we were examining this Paris lute back in 2004.

In the summer of 2008, we started working on two versions of this lute, which we feel span the historical use of a Maler lute from its origins in the high Renaissance of the early sixteenth Century, to one of its last incarnations, as an instrument much in demand by French lutenists of the second half of the seventeenth Century. Unfortunately, this project was interrupted and had to be temporarily shelved, following the serious accident that Stephen suffered in early July 2008 whilst using a bandsaw; we do plan to complete the instruments when we can find the time, and images of them will appear here in due course.


5. Own design. (based on the famous engraving of the lutenist Charles Mouton, below)

11 ribs in figured maple, birds-eye maple or rio rosewood; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox & fingerboard; ebony pegs.
String length: 680mm (fitted with 9 tied frets as standard)
Pitch: f'

£5400

The design of this lute is based on a computer-generated realisation of the shape and size of the instrument played by Charles Mouton (1617 – 1699) in this well-known engraving by Gérard Edelinck, the image and composition drawn from the painting by François de Troy (1679-1752) which hangs in the Musée du Louvre. According to information supplied by our friend Franco Pavan, Mouton was born in Paris in January 1617, and baptised on the 17th; he had died before 1699)

It has been suggested that Edelinck (1640–1707) made the engraving as payment for lute lessons for his daughter. Many small details, such as bridge, rose, fingerboard points and peg design can be clearly seen. The basic proportions and ratio of fingerboard length to body length are very close to those of an anonymous 11-course lute in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Nr 1125/1869).

The lutenist Charles Mouton: note the rather carefully-shaped nail of his right-hand thumb, and the closeness of his right hand to the bridge. Also note the clear octave stringing of the lower courses, and the nut which extends out beyond the width of the neck; this is both to allow more space for the strings on the fingerboard and to carry the unstopped 11th course beyond the edge of the neck. A narrower and hence lighter neck is achieved by this design detail.


The following five lutes represent the German school of building, typical of the late 17th / early 18th Centuries; they have the long, graceful pearl-form, particularly the Schelle and Tielke - clearly inspired by 16th Century lutes by makers such as Maler and Frei.

 

6. After Sebastian Schelle, Nürnberg 1744 (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MI46)

11 ribs in birds-eye maple, flamed maple, figured ash or Hungarian ash; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox & fingerboard; ebony or black-stained fruitwood pegs with bone pips.
String length: 700, 710 or 720mm
Pitch: f'

£5400

An eleven-course version of the beautiful German theorbo-lute by Schelle which has survived in playable condition. The very elegant body of this instrument, probably influenced by lutes by Hans Frei, which is quite shallow compared to the full-bodied Hoffmann and Weigert lutes, makes it very comfortable to play.


7. After Joachim Tielke, Hamburg 1696 (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MI394)

9 ribs in birds-eye maple or flamed maple or rio rosewood; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips.
String length: 690mm
Pitch: e'

£5400

A very elegant lute, in 'classic' Tielke style; the original has a pierced leaf-trail design to the rear of the pegbox in ivory, its fingerboard is a panel of tortoiseshell, and the rear of the neck is a mythical scene worked in ivory and tortoiseshell. We can offer versions of these details in alternative materials, including snakewood and mammoth ivory, to special order


8. After Johannes Blasius Weigert, Linz 1721 (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MIR898)

9 ribs in yew, with white/black/white (holly/ebony/holly) spacers; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; ebony pegs.
String length: 720mm
Pitch: e'

£5400

This lute is also available with the carved and pierced leaf-trail design to the rear of the pegbox found on the original. Interestingly, there is strong evidence to suggest that this lute was originally of the thirteen-course, swan-necked type, and was converted to its present eleven-course setup, possibly during its playing life.


9. After Johann Christian Hoffmann, Leipzig 1716 (Brussels, MIM Nr.1559)

9 ribs in birds-eye maple or flamed maple; ebony-veneered neck, pegbox and fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips.
String length: 700mm
Pitch: e'

£5400

This lute is a typical example of the work of the younger Hoffmann, who also made gambas, and is a plain, undecorated instrument which relies on the simplicity and beauty of its lines and proportions. It is available with a carved, pierced pegbox, whose design is taken from the thirteen course J.C. Hoffmann lute in the same collection (which was probably originally an eleven-course lute).


10. After Martinus Selos, Venice, 1639  (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, MIM262)

15 ribs in heartwood yew (also available in striped yew, heartwood & sapwood) ebony-veneered neck & pegbox, ebony fingerboard; ebony pegs with bone pips.
String length: 720mm
Pitch: e'

£5400 (£5800 with heart / sap yew)

The original 1639 lute was rebuilt by Gregori Ferdinand Wenger in Augsburg in 1709; it is kept in the reserve collection of the GNM, and not on display, since it is currently set-up as a guitar. The likelihood is that the Wenger conversion was to an 11-course disposition, and that the current 'guitar' neck was made by simply cutting back the neck fitted by Wenger; X-ray analysis reveals that the nail through the existing block has never been disturbed, and there is evidence of the location of Wenger's neck/pegbox joint – which gives the width at the neck/body join, and thereby points to a string length of around 720mm being produced by Wenger's conversion.

The neck made by Wenger does not seem to have been veneered in any way, but probably painted and/or stained – a practice as commented upon by Mary Burwell in 1660, in the quote also reproduced further up this page:

"The flatt part of the Necks of the Lute and the bridge are to be made of ebony, but to Cover the head, the back of the necke with it as some do is improper because it makes the Lute too heavy upon the left hand the neck cold and slippery for the Thumbe and the frettes are never fast, a neck made of a light wood with a fine varnish as neare as may be to the colour of the Lute but you must keepe it cleane".

This lute is a beautiful shape, and its slightly 'flattened' body profile makes it very easy and comfortable to hold; we reached the conclusion that Wenger had converted the instrument to an 11-course and not a gallichon because there survive the remnants of his fingerboard points – indicating the neck width at 108mm – and a fragment of the original end of his fingerboard is also clearly visible. This neck width is far too wide for any gallichon conversion to have been the likely result of Wenger's rebuild, an 11-course seems far more likely, based upon what was probably originally a 10-course lute by Selos.


Twelve course double-headed "French" lutes

We are currently preparing a series of 12-course double-pegbox "French" lutes, following several requests that we build this type of lute, so prevalent in Low Countries genre paintings. We offer 2 models at the moment, both bearing the labels of renowned Füssen makers; we both measured the Wolf in June 2001, and Stephen measured the Mëst back in 1987.

1. After Wolfgang Wolf, 15.. (Füssen Museum der Stadt Füssen)

15 ribs in yew; black-painted maple neck; ebony fingerboard; ebony half-edging; plumwood pegs stained black; treble rider; pretty stamped decoration on pegboxes. 8 fingerboard courses, 4 diapason courses on 4 stepped nuts in second pegbox; gilded rose.
String lengths: 630mm fingerboard, diapasons 695mm / 746mm / 797mm / 886mm

Stringing: 1x1, 7x2 / 4x2

Pitch: f#'

£6000

The conversion to "French lute" dates from 1646, although it is unclear which of the 2 lutemakers named Wolfgang Wolf (father and son) made the original instrument; Wolfgang I's dates are 1515-1570, and Wolfgang II died in 1591; both lived, worked and died in Füssen. The beautiful carving of the pegboxes is almost identical to that of the lute in the background of the painting Amor Vincit Omnia, by Paul de Vos and Jan van den Hoecke (Vienna, KHM, Inventar Nr. 3554).


The label reads:

Wolfgang Wolf zue Fießen

The original lute has a green silk band or ribbon glued around the edge of its soundboard, which overlaps both the edge ribs and the soundboard by approximately 7mm. This feature also occurs on other Füssen lutes, and if it is original, it is tempting to speculate if it is the same detail referred to under item 70 in the Fugger Inventory:

Ain alte Lautten mit einem grienem Pertle von Laux Bosch

The word Pertle means a band or strip, not a beard, as has been supposed in recent years.

Few good examples of twelve-course lutes survive, but this lovely instrument by Wolf is similar to the instrument seen in a number of paintings on the theme Woman Playing A Lute, by Gerard ter Borch (1617-81).

Its outline and proportions strongly resemble the instrument in The Lute Player (1661) by Hendrik Martensz Sorgh (1611-70, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, No. 2213) and it also recalls the lute being played in another painting titled The Lute Player (1640) by Bernardo Strozzi (1582-1644) in the Vienna KHM (Inventar Nr. 1612).


2. After Raphael Mest, 1633 (Linköping, Stifts-och Landsbiblioteket Kuriosakabinettet)

23 ribs in yew; ebony-veneered neck inlaid with triple white stripes; ebony fingerboard; ebony & bone striped half-edging; plumwood pegs stained black; treble rider; pegbox edges inlaid with bone; 8 fingerboard courses, 4 diapason courses on 4 stepped nuts in second pegbox.
String lengths: 501mm fingerboard, diapasons 541mm / 585mm / 636mm / 703mm

Stringing: 1x1, 7x2 / 4x2

Pitch: a'

£6000

Another very interesting double-headed 12-course lute from Füssen, which fortunately survived intact the devastating fire which destroyed the Linköping Landsbiblioteket in 1996. We've often wondered if this lute ended up in Sweden as booty from the Thirty Years' War – since the Swedes devastated Füssen during this campaign – although nobody in Linköping could shed any light on this theory.


Stephen took the opportunity to accurately measure the Mest lute in February 1987 (on the way back to London from restoring the Magno dieffopruchar chitarrone in the Nydahl Collection, Stockholm – No. 8 on the Continuo instruments section – during January and February of that year). He was fortunate to have been able to gain access to the instrument via the good offices and contacts of a friend and customer, Ole Vang, who lived nearby, and was able to exactly record the geometry of the back of this very interesting and important instrument; 6 months later Stephen and Sandi were able to compare these measurements against the Mest lute of 1638 in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum collection, Nürnberg (MIR900).

Both instruments carry a printed label declaring:

Raphael Mest in Fiessen, Imperato

del Misier Michael Hartung in Padua


**bookmatched snakewood fingerboard panels

This is another original design detail of ours, first developed by Stephen back in 1981 as a visually-attractive and practical wooden alternative to tortoiseshell; in the early 1980's, he built a large number of 10, 11 and 13-course lutes and theorboes with this feature, and we still use it today on certain instruments.

A bookmatched – or indeed any form of snakewood fingerboard central panel – does not appear on any old instrument, but although we consider it to be one of the characteristics individual to our late renaissance and baroque lutes, ever since it first appeared on an instrument from this workshop, it has been copied and taken-up by a large number of lute and gamba makers, none of whom have ever had the grace to give us credit for the idea, although more than a few of them realise the source of what they are copying.

Whereas some may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is regretable that other makers blatantly copying this idea have never credited its source, but simply ripped-off the idea, rather than bringing original thought to bear on their own work in this area.