Stephen Barber & Sandi Harris, Lutemakers
Catalogue and Price List 2014
Orpharion, Bandora, Cittern, Ceterone, Hamburger cithrinchen, English guitar
We have considerable experience of building wire-strung instruments, and as well as offering copies of the Francis Palmer and John Rose orpharions, we offer our own design orpharion and bandora, which are evolutions of the Palmer instrument.
These instruments are available with either a plain, scrolled pegbox or one surmounted with a carved head; this can be a human or grotesque head, or an animal, either real, heraldic or mythical - lion, unicorn, dragon, ram etc.
Possibly more unicorns than you might reasonably expect to see (at least whilst sober) together in one place; the three different versions of the unicorn head illustrated in the images above carved on the pegboxes of three different orpharions exhibit subtle variations in the treatment of the head, mane and other features created by our carver, Stephanie Whittington (a former student of Stephen's). The horns were turned by Phil Brown from mammoth ivory, on a 19th Century Holzapffel engine-turning lathe; the eyes of the unicorn shown at top left and bottom right are gilded.
The fretting temperament we use is a meantone system, in preference to equal temperament, which does not work on these instruments, and was not used historically. Meantone temperaments give a more musical and satisfactory response, and, of course, are historically correct; the Palmer and Rose have meantone fretting (although the latter leans towards equal temperament) as do many surviving citterns which have their original fingerboards. Pythagorean fretting, also found on many historical instruments, is also available.
Orpharions and bandoras are strung with plain iron and brass in the treble, with closely-overspun copper on brass for the bass courses; the citterns are strung with plain iron and brass with twisted brass for the bass courses.
The Orpharion and Bandora
The orpharion and bandora were very popular with lutenists of the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods, as can be deduced from the title pages of printed music of the time. Donald Gill writes that they were the alternative or obligatory instruments in 19 out of 63 music books published between 1588 and 1630 in which parts for instruments are specified. Household inventories provide corroborative evidence: in 32 examples between 1565 and 1648 which mention musical instruments of any kind, the bandora and orpharion occur as frequently as the lute.
Very few original instruments are known to have survived, and on the basis of simple arithmetic, according to the household inventories mentioned above, around 16 or so bandoras and/or orpharions were recorded to be in existence between 1565 and 1648. Rather like the fabled contemporary Bologna lutes of Maler and Frei not to mention vihuelas a once commonplace and popular instrument seems to have almost vanished without trace.
Tablature for the Orpharion
In his A New Booke of Tabliture (London, 1596) William Barley includes pieces for the orpharion, which he introduces thus:
A new Booke of Tabliture for the Orpharion: Contayning sundrie sorts of lessons, collected together out of divers good Authors, for the furtherence and delight of such as are desirous to practise on this Instrument. Never before published.
The following quotation from the Orpharion section of A New Booke of Tabliture makes very interesting reading:
Courteous and friendly Reader, as thou hast seene before what my good will hath beene to pleasure thee in the practise of the Lute, so heere in this booke thou mayest perceave my endevoure continued to acquant thee likewise with the stately Orpharion, although indeede that the lessons which are played vpon the Lute may bee plaied vpon the Orpharion, and likewise the lessons which are played upon the Orpharion may bee plaied upon the Lute: But this difference is to be considered betweene them. First for that the Orpharion is strong with more stringes than the Lute, and also hath more frets or stops, and whereas the Lute is strong with gut strings, the Orpharion is strong with wire stringes, by reason of which manner of stringing, the Orpharion doth necessarilie require a more gentle & drawing stroke than the Lute, I meane the fingers of the right hand must be easilie drawen over the stringes, and not suddenly griped, or sharpelie stroken as the Lute is: for if yee should doo so, then the wire stringes would clash or iarre together the one against the other; which would be a cause that the sounde would bee harsh and unpleasant: Therefore it is meete that you observe the difference of the stroke. And concerning the frets or stoppes, the difference doth consist in the different number that is betweene them, for the Lute hath no farther than i. and the Orpharion hath to q. but it is seldome that any lesson for the Orpharion doth passe the stops of L or M, yet those that are cunning, can at their pleasure make use for all the stops. And for that which may bee said of the cunning or of the diversitie of accords with the true manner of fingering or handling the necke and bellie of the Orpharion, the former rules that are in the Instruction to the Lute will sufficiently instruct thee, onely the difference of the stroke excepted, as I have shewed before, which must bee more gentle and drawing, and not so sudden and sharpe as the Lute is alwaies stroken. Thus hoping thou wilt accept both of my travaile & charge seeing my paines hath beene imployed to pleasure all those that are desirous to bestowe some times on the practise of this Instrument, and cannot at all times have a Tutor.
(Barley's original text includes several instances where a letter 'u' is printed where a letter 'v' would be expected, and vice-versa; also the word iarre (jar) is spelt in the original with a letter 'i', which we have replaced with a 'j' for clarity. We have edited the text so that for a modern reader whose first language might not be English, it is easier to read; we have otherwise left Barley's original spelling unaltered).
(If your first language is not English, and you would be interested in reading the above text at least rendered into modern English spellings, please ask we will forward it to you).
The comment that the lute is " . . . alwaies stroken . . . sudden and sharpe . . ." ought to provide food for thought to the moderrn lutenist . . .
Historical metal (and gut) strings some observations and thoughts
Much has been written on the subject of the quality and type of metal wire which was available to the old instrument makers. In the early years of the 'Early Music' revival, wire-strung instruments such as citterns, orpharions and bandoras were generally strung with wire 'borrowed' from colleagues in the harpsichord-making world, who had the benefit of being able to call upon decades of research and experience during the 20th century, and who had persuaded various wire manufacturers to produce suitable brass and low-carbon steel music wire. Many experiments were conducted to try and arrive at a reliable and authentic range of wire strings; makers of plucked stringed instruments relied upon low-carbon steel effectively iron and brass (sometimes 'red brass', which had a high copper content) the brass bass strings being often twisted, according to what historical evidence suggested.
Many cities across Europe were famed as string-making centres; where gut strings were concerned, Venice was famous for its 'Catline' strings, Pistoia and Lyons for basses and Munich for trebles (Minikins); Thomas Mace mentions these cities in 1676, on page 65-66 of Musick's Monument:
"The first and Chief Thing is, to be carefull to get Good Strings, which would be of three Sorts, viz, Minikins, Venice-Catlins, and Lyons, (for Basses:) There is another sort of Strings, which they call Pistoy Basses, which I conceive are none other than Thick Venice-Catlins, which are commonly Dyed, with a deep dark red colour".
Nürnberg was a city famed for its metallurgical expertise: armour-making and goldsmiths' workshops were but two of the important trades which flourished here. Discovery and innovation characterised Nürnberg's ascendency in the metalworking trades and industries; for example, Kupferseigerung the recrystallising of copper ore containing silver and lead to produce crude copper and silver was one of many innovations that had been invented and developed in Nürnberg, a city that was a very important export and import trade centre, standing as it did on one of the two major crossroads of long-distance European trade. Nürnberg was a free Imperial City, which enjoyed the privilege of duty-free trade with over 70 other European cities.
Recent research has yielded that in the wire-string sphere, Nürnberg produced an innovative genius in the person of Jobst Meuler, a leading wire-drawer in a city that was pre-emminent where all of the metal-working arts were concerned. Meuler who died in 1622 during the catastrophic Thirty Years' War had invented a technique for making a steel wire of a far higher tensile strength than anything that had hitherto been produced. Meuler jealously guarded his discovery, and although his process seems to have died with him, his wire was in such demand and his fame so widespread that even the composer Heinrich Schütz wrote to his patron the Elector of Saxony in 1621 asking that an order be placed with Meuler for a quantity of steel music strings. It is likely, given Nürnberg's trading expertise and established lines of communication, that these strings of Meuler's were exported far and wide across Europe, and that any musical instrument maker worth his salt would have been familiar with them.
Meuler was simply continuing a long-established Nürnberg tradition of excellence and supremacy in the field of wire-making, a tradition which has been extensively documented, in both archive and iconography. In around the year 1494, the great Nürnberger Albrect Dürer painted a watercolour, Drahtziehmühle The Wire-drawing Mill; in the detail shown below, the Spittler Gate of the city can be seen in the background on the left, and the mill and its associated outbuildings nestle by the river Pegnitz.
What is particularly interesting is that there is a large white 'drum' (or reel) standing against one of the buildings; its scale can be deduced by the size of the figure on horseback fording the river, the walking figure on the left, the figure in the doorway and the two animals walking across the yard nearby. The way Dürer has painted this object makes it unlikely that it is a mill-wheel, or some other mechanical device from the wire-drawing mill, it seems more likely that it is some sort of large reel for storing (and possibly transporting) wire; the artist has perhaps included this object in his composition, and placed it in the near foreground of the image, so that the contemporary viewer would immediately recognise a wire-drawing mill as the subject of the painting,
In the close-up shown here, the figure visible in the doorway clearly demonstrates that the drum leaning against the storage barn is around 2 metres in diameter. Wire for making music strings could well have been stored on such a drum prior to being cut into shorter lengths and spooled for further distribution and use.
We've long wondered if something is missing here, from the picture modern makers and researchers of historical instruments have formed of early string-making something that might explain a thing or two, once the circumstantial evidence is looked at with an open mind. Modern attempts at making gut basses for lutes have always started from the assumption that the strings must have been made only from gut, or 'loaded' in some way. The red colour of strings in paintings and description has led some to conclude that since Pistoia in Italy was one of the centres of gut string making, and it is near Europe's largest cinnabar deposits, that ipso facto the red colouration was derived from the use of mercuric compounds to densify or 'load' the string; of course, the health hazard implications of using mercury-derived compounds to densify gut strings have prevented modern string makers from attempting to go down that path. Killing your customers off is not exactly a sensible business plan, although such strings might be marketed under the slogan 'To die for'. But are we all overlooking something here? Strings are very perishable items certainly gut strings which is why nothing has survived; also, string-making was a strictly controlled, guild-regulated activity, often kept within the same families for generations (and a very messy business too lower down the social order than even lutemakers . . .). And in the 21st Century, we really have no idea what the old gut strings from the 16th and 17th Centuries sounded like, let alone how they were made.
But ask yourself this: would composers like Francesco Canova da Milano, Luis de Narváez, Albert de Rippe and John Dowland (to name a very few) really have written such beautiful and challenging music, which implied perforce a balance of sound from treble to bass, if all they heard was a nasty dull 'thud' in the bass register? It really doesn't seem very likely.
Also consider for example the iconographical evidence presented by the Holbein Ambassadors painting of 1533: those three bass strings (4th 5th and 6th) look more like modern Pyramids or Kürschners than 'catlines', they're actually unexpectedly quite thin even compared to the strings of courses 1-3 and the octaves of 4th 5th and 6th on the lute in this painting so what are they? What has Holbein a consummate draughtsman painted? They certainly aren't anything like the fat 'catlines' that were being hawked around 25 or so years ago, nor do they resemble 'loaded' strings. And they are not red, they look like plain old gut but they are relatively thin, so what are they?
This is a close-up of the pegbox of the lute in the 1533 Holbein painting The Ambassadors (London, National Gallery). The bass strings of the 4th, 5th and 6th courses are shown here to be quite thin hardly thicker, in fact, than the third course. They must be gut strings, so what did Holbein (and 16th Century players) know that we don't? And will we ever re-discover how to make good gut bass strings which look like these strings? Modern string makers such as Nick Baldock, Mimmo Peruffo and Dan Larson have managed to produce excellent bass strings for 6-course lutes which work very well, but they are much thicker than the strings in this painting. Hmm. Note the broken octave string of the 4th course supposedly an allusion to the transitory nature of life, and the double-tied first fret.
Given the documented status of Nürnberg as a leading European centre of the various metalworking arts, and particularly as the acknowledged leaders in the techniques of wire-drawing thereby ensuring the availability of high-tensile steel wire which must have been used for plucked as well as keyboard instruments and also Nürnberg's renown as a centre for gut string making it isn't much of a leap of the imagination to propose that string-makers were not only producing plain wire and gut strings, but also could well have combined the two materials to produce bass strings for lutes, as modern string-makers like Bernd Kürschner, Nicholas Baldock and Dan Larson do. OK, we don't have any known surviving evidence from the 16th Century to back this idea up, but the technologies existed side-by-side to have made such strings possible, and it's such an obvious thing to do to solve this particular problem. What was effectively a technique to make overspun metal (or gut) strings certainly existed and was known in Nürnberg in the late 15th Century, as the same method was used to make fine gold threads both plain and overspun for heraldry, flags and banners.
It seems obvious that makers of early wire-strung instruments had at their disposal strings of a vey high quality, strings that allowed reliable stringing to relatively high pitches, which clearly produced a good sound; why would they have settled for inferior bass strings? The usual solution proposed for bass strings twisted brass wire is notoriously incapable of playing in tune much above the first fret or two; if makers and players of early wire-strung instruments went to the trouble of setting frets in a meantone temperament (presumably because they wanted the instrument to play in tune) it makes no sense at all that they would then fit their instruments with bass strings incapable of playing in tune on any temperament of frets. Furthermore, were early experiments conducted to densify gut strings by the addition of metal, either twisted into the gut or overspun? The technology certainly existed.
Did string makers in Nürnberg in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries solve the problem of how to make gut bass strings work by combining them in some way with metal wire? Did they make overspun wire-on-wire for the basses of bandoras and orpharions? Just a thought . . .
1. After John Rose, London 1580 (Lord Tollemache collection, Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, England)
7-ribbed vaulted back, in figured walnut; figured walnut sides; pearwood
neck and pegbox; walnut fingerboard with 15 inlaid brass frets secured
with ebony wedges; pearwood rosette (the original is inlaid with pearls
and rubies !).
This instrument by Rose may well be the original orpharion: it was presented by Elizabeth I to Lord Tollemache, and bears the label:
John Rose is generally accepted as having invented the bandora and orpharion early in the reign of Elizabeth I , as an entry in J. Stow's Annales, or a general Chronicle of England (1631, p.869) testifies:
" In the fourth yere of Queen Elizabeth, John Rose, dwelling in Bridewell, devised and made an Instrument with wyer strings, commonly called the Bandora, and left a son, far excelling himself in making Bandoras, Vyoll de Gamboes, and other instruments."
A very decorated instrument, with delicate inlaid purfling motifs between the frets, and inlaid purfling (with the background stamped with a small circular punch) across the soundboard, ribs and back of the neck - similar in style and execution to that which adorns the festooned-outline bass viol by Rose, c.1600, in the Ashmolean, Oxford, No.4. The back has a large carved scallop shell fixed to it, and the sides are inlaid (in maple letters) with the words CYMBALUM DECACHORDON (CYMBALUM reads from the heel along the bass side to the bottom curve of the instrument, and DECACHORDON follows along the treble side, reading back towards the heel with spaces as indicated, the words fitting between purfled, punched and lightly-carved decorative motifs). The year the instrument was built (1580) is also inlaid into the ribs near the heel, 15 on the treble side and 80 on the bass.
We build a plainer version of the instrument, but an exact copy of the decoration of the original is available to special order, £POA.
are grateful to our friend and colleague John Pringle for his measurements
and photographs of this instrument)
Orpharion or bandora?
In a recent Lute Society booklet, Wire Strings at Helmingham Hall: an Instrument and a Music Book, Ian Harwood makes the thought-provoking suggestion that this Rose instrument is an early form of bandora, rather than an orpharion, as it has 6 courses and straight frets and bridge (rather than the sloping type more familiar from later surviving instruments and illustrations of both orpharion and bandora). He points out that William Barley illustrates a 'bandora' with straight bridge and frets as the frontispiece to the 'New Booke of Tabliture for the bandora' section of his A New Book of Tabliture (1596) and notes that the orpharion illustration in the same book illustrates an instrument with sloping frets and bridge. Ian also suggests that because the first recorded mention of an orpharion is in 1593, the Rose instrument should not be considered an orpharion.
We're not so sure that it is as simple as that: consider the 'opposite' line of reasoning, concerning 7-course lutes, which are first mentioned in 1511 by Sebastian Virdung, the Heidelberg-born publisher, in his treatise on instruments Musica Getutscht, although no 7-course instruments or dedicated music survive from anywhere near that date indeed several decades pass before we can identify 7-course lutes or music specific to them. Ian Harwood has provided us with much food for thought regarding the bandora and orpharion, and we thank him most sincerely for doing some fascinating research; however, we feel that some of his conclusions may be far from the last word on the subject. We look forward to the possibility of other material coming to light which will enable us to form a clearer view of how the bandora and orpharion developed.
And just exactly what was a 'penorcon', described by Michael Praetorius in Syntagma Musicum II, de Organographia (Wolfenbüttel, 1619) on page 54 as having 9 courses and being larger than an orpharion, but smaller than a bandora and having 9 courses, yet illustrated by him as having 7 courses on Plate XVII ?
There is still much conjecture regarding this family of instruments, and it has to be said that at least 7 courses are necessary for the dedicated orpharion repertoire. The surviving Palmer instrument (see below) has 9, and a surviving fragment of an instrument in Braunschweig also has 9 courses, and the unsigned instrument in Frankfurt (see No.4 below) has 8 courses. Praetorius illustrates a bandora with 7 courses (and sloping frets and bridge) and mentions in the text that it can have 6 or 7 courses 'like a lute'.
2. After Francis Palmer, London 1617 (Copenhagen, Claudius Collection)
7 ribbed-back, in walnut striped with figured, flamed maple (flat back);
walnut sides inlaid with 2 double-purfled lines; maple or pearwood neck
and pegbox; walnut fingerboard with 15 inlaid brass frets secured with
ebony wedges; gothic tracery 'rose window ' rosette in 2 layers of limewood,
with parchment trefoils behind; double purfling parallel to edge of
This wonderful, intriguing instrument by Palmer represents everything we expect to find in an orpharion, and is the perfect size to play the early 17th Century English lute (& orpharion !) repertoire. Its festooned outline and sloping frets are the quintessential orpharion of iconography and inventory brought to life.
Sloping frets are mentioned as early as 1594 in a letter from Francis
Derrick in Antwerp, written to Henry Wickham in London, in which he
asks Wickham to " procure a bandore or orphtrye [sic] of the
new fashion wh. hath the bridge and the stops slope. . ."
3. Own design (Outlines based on woodcuts in W.Barley A New Booke of Tabliture 1596, and P. Trichet, Traité des instruments de musique c. 1640)
15-ribbed vaulted back, in figured walnut striped with figured pear;
figured walnut sides; maple, pear or applewood neck and pegbox; walnut
fingerboard with 15 inlaid brass frets secured by ebony wedges; gothic
tracery 'rose window ' rosette in 2 layers of limewood, with parchment
trefoils behind; double purfling parallel to the edge of the soundboard,
resolving in a knot pattern at the bottom, below the bridge.
As well as offering a copy of the Palmer, and the unsigned 'Tielke' instrument described below, we build orpharions to our own design, with 2 different body outlines available - one taken from Barley's illustration, and the other, slightly more festooned shape from Trichet. Interestingly, both authorities illustrate instruments with 7 courses, sloping frets, elaborate rosettes, and purfling around the edge of the soundboard; Trichet even shows purfling applied to the sides, as the 1617 Palmer has.
Many players, including Paul O'Dette - who owns the instrument directly above - have opted for a 7-course version, since this is all that is required for the dedicated repertoire.
The instrument shown above, top left, is a left-handed version - possibly the only left-handed orpharion existing today; owned by Brian Payne.
4. After an unsigned instrument (Tielke school ? Frankfurt am Main, Historisches Museum 18508 / Epstein 56)
11-ribbed vaulted back, in figured maple and rio rosewood; sides striped
in the same woods; lightly-figured maple neck; rio rosewood & maple
fingerboard with 18 inlaid brass frets, secured by ebony wedges; gothic
tracery 'rose window ' rosette in 1 layer of maple, with parchment trefoils
behind; double purfling parallel to the edge of the soundboard, resolving
in a knot pattern, below the bridge; curved, arched soundboard.
This intriguing instrument has no label or other identifying marks, but it seems very likely to have been made in the workshops of the Hamburg luthier Joachim Tielke (1641 - 1719). Its carved female head closely resembles in style other heads by Tielke, the rio rosewood used is identical in grain to that found on several Tielke instruments, and furthermore engraved ivory panels on various Tielke instruments illustrate orpharions .
Its relatively small size is very interesting, and if it is by
Tielke, then here is clear evidence indeed that the orpharion and bandora
survived in Germany long after they fell into disuse in England - Tielke's
earliest dated work is 1676.
5. Own design (Based on the 1617 Palmer orpharion, but with a vaulted back)
17-ribbed vaulted back, in figured walnut striped with plum or figured
pear; figured walnut sides; maple, pear or applewood neck and pegbox;
walnut fingerboard with 15 inlaid brass frets secured with ebony wedges;
gothic tracery 'rose window ' rosette in 2 layers of limewood, with
parchment trefoils behind; double purfling parallel to the edge of the
soundboard, resolving in a knot pattern at the bottom, below the bridge.
The ram's head on the instrument illustrated above - carved by Stephanie Whittington - was chosen by a Parisian customer; it has eyes from lapis lazuli, and the horns are gilded. The back of the instrument is made from highly-figured pearwood and walnut. Very similar to an instrument we built for Jakob Lindberg.
This instrument is basically an enlarged version of the Palmer orpharion, but with a vaulted back and slightly different outline and proportions, and 7 courses. Its very clear, full and resonant sound bear out the contemporary description of a good Bandora sounding like a small harpsichord.
As well as its rôle in broken consort and solo pieces, it is a
very useful continuo instrument, and indeed, it seems to have been used
thus in Germany until very late in the 17th Century.
Tablature for the Bandora
Twenty bandora solo pieces are listed and published in Anthony Holborne Music For Lute And Bandora (edited by Rainer aus dem Spring, published by The Lute Society). This excellent work is published in two volumes, Volume I comprising the tablature and Volume II Critical Notes. Rainer is to be congratulated for his splendid work on this great English composer, who was held in high regard by his contemporaries including John Dowland who dedicated one of his pieces to him (I Saw My Lady Weep, which is the first song in Dowland's THE SECOND BOOKE of Songs or Ayres, published in London in 1602). Holborne is lauded thus: 'To the most famous, Anthony Holborne'. Holborne also published a cittern tutor in 1597, The Cittharn Schoole. Holborne's date of birth is unknown, but thought likely to be around 1540; he died in 1602.
In his A New Booke of Tabliture (London, 1596) William Barley includes pieces for the orpharion, which he introduces thus:
Gentle Reader, I have not discontinued my purpose, to procure thy pleasure and delight, by acquainting thee with the Bandora in this booke, as I have done with the Lute and Orpharion, in the former two bookes: which labour and cost of mine, if thou take in good part, I will not cease my travill for thy further good, but I will likewise acquaint thee with the very ground worke, wherupon the whole frame of musique is built, which the matter well looked into, and practised at such convenient times, as they leasure will afford thee, thou mayest thereby be the better able to judge of the worthines and excellencie of this Arte, which hath beene imbraced, and highly commended, even from the first beginning therof. And although at the first it seeme unto thee very hard and difficult, yet by willing dilligence it will become easie and pleasant: for as it is said, the roote of science is verie bitter, but the fruite verie delectable and sweet. And as for the Instrument it selfe, it is easie to be played upon, and is an Instrument commendable and fit, either in consort or alone, and for the fingering of it, let that suffice to instruct thee that I have said in the preface of the Orpharion: Only this note, that the manner of tuning doth a little differ from the Lute and Orpharion:
(Here Barley gives a detailed explanation of the bandora's tuning).
Referring to the bandora, the Trichet MS., c.1640, tells us that: ". . . this instrument can be very useful in consorts where one uses various sorts of instruments, because it gives the effect of making them more harmonious by the communication and mingling of its sweet temperament".
6. Own design 4-course English Cittern (After various originals)
Based upon Italian design and construction techniques, this example built-up rather than carved from a solid block.
7-rib back in walnut striped with pear, or walnut / figured maple; walnut
sides (the back is within the sides) with semi-scrolls low-relief carved
carved at the neck joint; neck and pegbox in maple or pear - 2 styles
of neck available, either cutaway or complete (symmetrical); 2 styles
of pegbox also available, either with pegs inserted from the front,
or open, with pegs from the sides; walnut fingerboard with brass frets
(meantone chromatic fretting unless specified otherwise); limewood and
parchment gothic rosette; purfling around edge of soundboard; strings
attached to a 'comb' at the bottom; soundboard curved over 2 bars which
protrude, like many Italian citterns, through the ribs.
A general-purpose instrument on which solo pieces and broken consort are accessible; the English and French repertoire can be played on this model, which can also be built with any meantone, Pythagorean or diatonic fretting system the player chooses.
Jacob Herringman and Jakob Lindberg own examples of this model.
7. After an unsigned Italian cittern, c. 1550 (Florence, Museo Civico Bardini, Nr. 136)**
The 7-rib back of this instrument is of figured walnut striped with
figured maple; its figured walnut sides have a delicate 'bead' moulding
carved along their meridian, and semi-scrolls are low-relief carved
at the neck joint. The neck is a cutaway-type, and it and the pegbox
are carved from maple, the pegbox being carved with a delicate, open,
forward-turning scroll; the boxwood pegs are inserted from the front.
Its walnut fingerboard is diatonically fretted with 18 brass frets;
the soundboard is curved over 2 bars which protrude through the ribs,
and is fitted with a pearwood and parchment gothic rosette; the strings
are attached to a 'comb' at the bottom of the instrument, which also
forms its inner endblock. Available with 'purfling' painted around soundboard
edge or inlaid wooden purfling.
The original instrument has a ring of 'arabesques' delicately painted around the rosette; this is available as an option, at an extra cost of £600
This very interesting and beautiful instrument which has been attributed to the great violinmaker Andrea Amati came apart in floods which devastated the Bardini museum in 1966, thereby allowing unique access to and examination of the instrument, revealing its internal construction, including the method of fixing the neck to the top block a dovetail and a nail !
An example of the highly-developed Italian school of cittern making at this time. It is very similar in size to the famous 'Urbino' cittern, made by Augustus Citaraedus, Urbino 1582, which is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (392-1871). Documentary technical drawings of the 'Urbino' cittern, drawn by Stephen in 1981, are available from the V&A.
**We had started (late 2006 / early 2007) building a version of this 'Amati' instrument, which had initially started life following an inquiry and our having recently received a complete set of punches for its rosette from our toolmaker. It will be nice to have a wire-strung instrument around in the workshop to keep the lutes company, so we'll be working on it from time to time during 2007 (as our schedule permits) and images will appear here in due course.
Our copy of this very interesting and important cittern will probably be retained in our collection of instruments, rather than be offered for sale.
This instrument, effectively a large theorboed cittern, seems to have been used in continuo during the late 16th and throughout the 17th Centuries. It is mentioned by Agazzari (1607) as a useful instrument for a continuo ensemble, and Monteverdi lists 'duoi ceteroni ' among the instruments to be used in Orfeo.
This unique example survives in original condition, and is by the noted cittern maker Gironimo Canpi, and although undated, is probably from c.1600.
8. After Gironimo Canpi, c.1600 (Florence, Museo Civico Bardini Nr. 137)
constructed body; (back of slightly-arched form) back and sides in figured
maple; purfling 'panel-lines' around sides and back; purfling around
soundboard and back resolves at lower end in a large and elaborate 'knot';
lower and upper neck in one piece of maple, inlaid with purfling and
decorated with carved 'brackets' at the heel and upper pegbox , which
terminates in an elegant forward-turning scroll; heart-shaped tuning
pegs in boxwood; walnut fingerboard with 18 brass frets in a chromatic,
meantone arrangement; strings attached to a 'comb' at the bottom; elaborate,
floral-design rosette in pearwood backed with parchment.
Its fingerboard is only fretted under the stopped strings, rather than
the frets running across the whole width of the neck.
This remarkable instrument seems to have survived in original condition, which is very fortunate because it is the only convincing ceterone known; its maker, Canpi, was a prolific and famous cittern maker.
Although Mersenne, writing in 1636-7, tells us that the 'cisteron' had
14 single courses and a flat back, this instrument seems the most likely
candidate for a model for a Ceterone. Robinson writes in 1609 that the
ceterone had 14 courses, tuned: e' - d' - g - b flat - f - d - G / F
- E - D - C - B flat - A' - G' and illustrates an instrument with 7
double courses on the fingerboard and 7 diapasons.
An instrument with a unique bell-like shape, related to the cittern, probably invented by the famous Hamburg instrument maker Joachim Tielke. The earliest dated cithrinchen (1676) is by him.
These instruments retain several characteristic cittern features, including the cutaway neck design and a relatively shallow body, but they have full chromatic fretting, with typically 18 frets.
The music was written in 5-line French lute tablature, and in the surviving tablatures, the notes are arranged on consecutive strings with no 'gaps' in the chords, suggesting the use of a plectrum. However, it is known that it was an apparently common practice in the Netherlands to play 5-course guitar music on the cithrinchen, using fingers rather than a plectrum - Kremberg suggests this in 1689 - which gives us a clue as to how these instruments were used, in the absence of much surviving printed music.
9. After Joachim Tielke, Hamburg late 17th C (Nürnberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum MI67)
7-rib back in walnut, with broad ebony fillets, edged with narrow white/black
purfling lines, between; walnut sides with similar ebony fillets at
back and front edges (body tapers in depth from neck to bottom end);
cutaway neck veneered with ebony, with bone line inlays; cypress soundboard
curved and arched, with 3 soundholes - a main one and 2 smaller ones
in lower corners, each having rosettes in gilded parchment, and with
inlaid black-and-white chequerboard squares inlaid in a surrounding
ring; the strings pass over a 'floating' bridge and are fixed to 5 bone
buttons at the bottom; the open pegbox has its pegs inserted from the
sides, and is surmounted with a carved lion's head; trefoil-design pegs
in bone, each drilled with 3 holes, giving a delicate, 'open' effect;
ebony fingerboard with 18 brass frets, chromatically-arranged in a meantone
£4000 (carved head extra; typically £800-£1000)
This nice little instrument is an example of a 'wooden' Tielke - so many of the surviving instruments are lavishly decorated using precious materials, with ivory usually involved. Although undated, it seems to be quite definitely the work of the Hamburg master luthier, and in original condition.
The fingerboard of the original has a rosewood leaf-trail inlaid into
an ivory backgrounad - we offer a version of this using bone or mammoth
ivory instead of elephant ivory, to special order, along with copies
of the pretty bone pegs. £POA
A large number of these instruments - really more closely-related to the cittern family than to the guitar - were made in England and Ireland, principally London and Dublin, during the mid 18th Century. They were made with a bewildering choice of decoration, which presumably reflected the wealth of the player: ivory or tortoiseshell fingerboards, cast brass rosettes, gilded rosettes, carved ivory rosettes, carved ivory portrait-medallions on the pegbox finial, carved heads - anything, it seems, was possible.
The example chosen here is one by Preston, probably the most prolific maker, which has survived in perfect and playable condition - in fact, it looks like it was made last week !
10. After John Preston, c. 1750 (Rotherfield, East Sussex, Robin Jeffrey collection).
2-piece bookmatched back in figured sycamore; matching figured sycamore
ribs, maple neck & open pegbox, with pegs inserted from the sides; pegbox
finial inlaid with bone & ebony triangles; ebony pegs; rosette in a
'compass' design with 12 spokes, each in ebony & bone; 12 brass frets
in equal-temperament; painted purfling.
The original instrument has a watch-key tuning mechanism (Patented by Preston, who invented it, according to the engraved brass face) which is available to special order.
John Preston was active between 1734-1770.
Cittern heads and other insults . . .
Citterns were usually, it seems, adorned with a carved head atop the pegbox. On English instruments this was more often than not in the form of a human head, whereas many surviving Italian, French and German and Flemish instruments, and those depicted in, for example, Dutch genre paintings, had an animal head, often a lion. Cittern heads were often mentioned in late 16th and early 17th Century English plays, often used as an insulting reference to a character, as the following extracts illustrate:
|Shakespeare Love's Labour's Lost (1588) Act V Scene 2|
will not be put out of countenance
Because thou hast no face
What is this ?
Marston The Scourge of Villanie (1598)
brainless Cyterne heads, each iubernole
Pocket the very Genius of the soule
(A iubernole, or jobbernowl was taken to mean a stupid or blockish head).
Fletcher Love's Cure (1625)
You dog-skin-faced rogue, pilcher, you poor-John, Which I will beat to
You cittern-head, who have you talked to, ha ? You nasty, stinking, and ill-countenanced Cur.
Massinger Old Law (1599)
the heads of your instruments differ; yours are hogs-heads, theirs are
cittern and gittern-heads.
All wooden heads.
Elliptical insults and unfortunate references notwithstanding, we are able to offer virtually any type of carved head which might be desired; our carver is able to work from a photograph to produce a character head, for example.
We have, over the years, been commissioned to build instruments with everything from a portrait of the owner and player, a ram's head complete with gilded horns and lapis lazuli eyes, to a unicorn (which is Stephen's brandmark) complete with spiral-turned white horn (made of bone or mammoth ivory) .
You are welcome to choose or suggest whatever carved head takes your fancy.*
"The Fop it seems, was newly come to his Estate, though not to the years of Discretion, and was singing the Song, Happy is the Child whose Father is gone to the Devil; and a Barber all the while keeping time on his Cittern; for you know a Cittern and a Barber is as natural as Milk to a Calf, or the Bears to be attended by a Bagpiper."