Instruments of interest

These notes should be of some interest to the more specialised reader but hopefully they will kindle the interest of the curious player, too.

About Roman archlutes 

Already starting from the end of the 16th century, the corista di san Pietro (i.e. the pitch at which the singers performed in s. Peter in Rome) began to settle around A = 386 Hz, as can be inferred from organ pipes of the time. The consequence was a general adjustment of instruments of the lute family, theorbos included, to that pitch. And so archlutes, just as lutes before them, although nominally tuned in G, have a vibrating string length of 71-73 cm.
The instruments listed here are virtually in original condition (only the neck and extension part of the Edinburgh Harz was obviously tampered with, but it still allows to extrapolate with fair approximation the original data).
The measurements of the shells are surprisingly consistent, considering that they represent the work of  at  least five different makers (six if we include De Carnitis, who states having built his instrument in the house of Cinzio Rotondi) and the dates span about 100 years and confirm the existence of  a well consolidated tradition and a transition from lute to archlute without any noticeable breaking points, the addition of an extension being the only relevant structural feature. (A consistency which is even more striking if we consider extant Roman lutes in general, representing at least eight different makers and a time span of well over a century).
If an epochal tendency does exist, it lies perhaps in the usage of more exotic materials, the progressive reduction of the number of ribs building up the shell and a somewhat more solid construction.

Already starting from the end of the 16th century, the corista di san Pietro (i.e. the pitch at which the singers performed in s. Peter in Rome) began to settle around A = 386 Hz, as can be inferred from organ pipes of the time. The consequence was a general adjustment of instruments of the lute family, theorbos included, to that pitch. And so archlutes, just as lutes before them, although nominally tuned in G, have a vibrating string length of 71-73 cm.
The instruments listed here are virtually in original condition (only the neck and extension part of the Edinburgh Harz was obviously tampered with, but it still allows to extrapolate with fair approximation the original data).
The measurements of the shells are surprisingly consistent, considering that they represent the work of  at  least five different makers (six if we include De Carnitis, who states having built his instrument in the house of Cinzio Rotondi) and the dates span about 100 years and confirm the existence of  a well consolidated tradition and a transition from lute to archlute without any noticeable breaking points, the addition of an extension being the only relevant structural feature. (A consistency which is even more striking if we consider extant Roman lutes in general, representing at least eight different makers and a time span of well over a century).
If an epochal tendency does exist, it lies perhaps in the usage of more exotic materials, the progressive reduction of the number of ribs building up the shell and a somewhat more solid construction.

Identified Roman archlutes  

Magno Graill 
label: Magno Graill in Roma 1628
47 shaded yew ribs, 515 mm long, 363 mm wide
courses/strings and string lengths: 1×1, 5×2 + 8×1, 68.9*/144.1 cm
in Rome
*Owing to an obvious breakage at the neck-to-extension joint, the extension, probably the original one, was readapted and the joint to the neck again, in a functional, albeit anaesthetic manner; the readaptaion certainly caused a small reduction in string length(s)

Magno Graill 
label: Magno Graill in Roma 1634
39 shaded yew ribs, 515 mm long, 358 mm wide, ~170 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 1×1, 5×2 + 8×1, 70.3/148 cm
in Rome

Martinus Harz 
label: Martinus Harz / in Roma 1665
43 shaded yew ribs, 531 mm long, 360 mm wide, 170 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 6 x 2 + 8 x 1, 67.3* / 143.8 cm
musical instruments museum in Edinburg
*The alteration, whether due a breakage or to musical practice requiring a higher pitch, consisted of a shortening of the neck by at least one fret (on the neck there is not enough room for eight tied frets), and the addition of a new extension, clearly satisfying a later aesthetical style. The original fretted string length must have been at least 71 cm.

Martino Harz
label: MARTINUS HARZ / ROMÆ 1.6.6.5.
47 shaded yew ribs, 535 mm long, 364 mm wide, c. 190 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 1×1, 5×2 + 8×1, 72.9 / 156 cm
in Geneva

Antonio Giauna
label: Antonio Giauna Romano fecite (sic) 1704
27 cypress ribs, 550 mm long, 365 mm wide, c. 195 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 6×2 + 8×1, 71 / 159.5 cm
musical instruments museum in Rome

Cinzio Rotondi
label: Cinthius Rotundus Rome 1699
25 rosewood* ribs, 534 mm long, 362 mm wide, 170 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 6×2 + 8×1, 73 / 162 cm
musical instruments museum in Edinburgh
* I could not verify directly, but since it is a dark wood and the characteristics are pretty much the same as on the following instrument I assume it to be Brazilian rosewood.

Josef de Carnitis / Cinzio Rotondi
label: Josef de Carnitis fecit hoc instumentum in Domum Domini Cinthii de Rotundis Roma 1705
25 Brazilian Rosewood, 526 mm long, 368 mm wide, 166 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 6×2 + 8×1, 72.8 / 154.1 cm
museo del castello sforzesco, Milano

David Tecchler
label:  David Tecchler Fecit Rome Anno Dñi 1725
15 ebony ribs, 528 mm long, 366 mm wide, 187 mm deep
courses/strings and string lengths: 6×2 + 8×1, 71.1 / 155.5 cm
metropolitan museum New York

Examination reports on two little known Baroque lutes 

13 course lute by Andreas B Jauch 1734 – musical instruments museum in Copenhagen, 104 A

Label : handwritten in pencil, last name difficult to read: Andreas B Jauch 1734
Stringing: 2×1, 6×2  + 3×2 + 2×2
Stringlengths: 77.7 cm treble, 77.3 cm 8th course + 93 cm + 105.7 cm

General description : the lute is in very bad conditions, soundboard and shell presenting large cracks.
The soundboard has been repaired in the past, during the lute’s playing life, but it is impossible to single out individual interventions. The cypress shell has darkened with age and whatever the finish was it was light and transparent.
No traces of finish on the neck and the extended pegbox is simply stained black, except for the amorino head, which seems to have been stained purplish brown.

Shell : 15 ribs of  cypress of very ordinary quality, cut at random, 4 with a fairly large knot, separated by black/white/black spacers commonly used for bowed instrments purflings: the white  is natural maple and noticeably wider than the black-stained layers, presumably also of maple: the average width is ~1.25mm.
Maximum width of ribs is 34.5 to 36mm, plus spacers, the 1st and last have been cut down by some 8 mm, I reckon. Maximum depth ~160mm.
The 1st rib right of middle is badly cracked, and is ~1mm thick along the crack; otherwise the overall rib thicknesses vary from 1.3 to 1.7mm, the commonest being 1.5. The crack must be historically recent, since the edges show the lighter colour of recently opened cypress.

Capping strip : of same wood, 29.5mm wide, edged all around with the same b/w/b purfling as above. Two ebony binding strips of ~1×6 mm protect the edges of soundboard from capping strip points to neck-joint. A very synthetic looking plain black button is in the middle, whereas only a hole is left in the block where the other button was.

Neck : typical double camber of baroque lutes, core impossible to see, veneered with curly ebony. One fairly large crack runs nearly the full length from block to pegbox joint. A crescent-shaped black glue stucco fills in the neck veneer at body-joint almost the whole width of neck, maximum width ~3mm.
A thin crack at the middle of the neck runs almost full length along the wavy grained neck veneer.
Length: 350mm on treble side, 342 on bass side; width: 104mm at block, 82 at nut; thickness: 27.5mm at block,19 middle, 18.5 at nut.

Fingerboard : of same nice curly ebony as back veneer, two minor cracks where it meets the soundboard. Thickness impossible to assess, the top end of the fingerboard being covered by the not original pernambuco nut for ist length of 67mm and the remaining width with ebony; both seem to lie on the pegbox. Fingerboard and back veneer overlap along a somewhat irregular line along edges of neck; the edges of the fingerboard points would suggest a thickness shy of 2 mm, and the soundboard thickness in the block region is ~1.7 mm. The fingerboard camber is rather pronounced, ~2.5 mm at neck-joint and ~5 mm at nut.

Extension : triple pegbox construction, carved out of one solid piece of some sort of middle-hard wood with two small ‘wings’ at the corners where the boxes flow into one another. Stained black. Maximum width at nut, including treble mini-box: 82mm, length: 380 mm plus amorino head 43.8 (36 mm + wings) x 47 mm long, beautifully carved and stained purplish brown * . The extended nuts widths are: 2nd nut (courses 9 to 11) 24 mm, 3rd nut (courses 12-13) 30 mm. Both were carved out of the solid and both have a glued on top ‘plate’ (~3 and 9 mm) with grain running perpendicular to the strings and supporting the wedged-in bone nuts.
* this may be what is left of an original ground for gilding – the amorino head on the Yale Jauch pegbox is, indeed, gilt.

Pegs : pearwood, heads stained black, with ivory pips, shafts left natural. Must have been turned to a certain point – the collars are smooth round – and then finished by hand: the heads show cutting tool marks and the shafts were filed with a fairly rough tool to fit. 18 seem to be original, the rest are sundry replacements.
The distances between pegs are somewhat irregular, on average in the region of 27 mm.

Soundboard : the most intriguing part of the instrument, it is built up with 5 pieces of good quality spruce joined together in a loosely symmetrical way, i.e. a middle piece, one narrower replacement piece on either side, plus two wide side pieces that originally probably belonged together with the middle one: whether there are other minor ‘winglets’ added on is difficult to tell because of the many cracks and the ‘patina’ of history.
The best part, in some points 13 to 16 growth rings per cm, is the middle one and contains the whole rosette. The chip-carved rope motive around the rosette is neatly cut off along the grain on the bass side where the new piece of spruce was added; a new piece was added also on the treble side but the chip-carving is intact. These two pieces are also of good quality and definitely old and the thicknesses coherent with the rest, varying between 1.3 and 1.5 mm overall and increasing to 1.7 at the block area. At some point two triangular spruce patches were neatly set in to repair local damages. The grain of the outer pieces is a bit wider.
The soundboard edges are inlaid with the same b/w/b spacers found in the back, and the already mentioned ebony binding strips protect the whole length from capping strip points to neck-joint.
The maximum width is 350 mm (without bindings), length ~528-529 mm to neck-joint, plus 27 mm onto the neck between the fingerboard points.
Distances: from bottom to front of bridge 100 mm, to rosette center 315 mm.
Rosette diameters 82/92 mm (i.e. the open part 82 and the chip-carved rope 5 mm wide), nicely cut, not very common rose-and-tendril pattern with one rose in the middle surrounded by six other, based on a hexagon framework.

Barring : through a couple of large cracks in the soundboard it was possible to assess part of the barring layout: one bar runs from the curved side to under the treble tip of the bridge and no trace of a bass J bar could be detected (I assume there is another bar on the bass side, more or less symmetrical to the treble one –  a common variant at the time – but I can only speculate for the time being).
Bar positions: 1st bar ~32 mm in front of bridge (the following measurements are taken from middle of bar to middle of bar); 2nd bar ~76 mm from 1st;  3rd bar ~59 mm from 2nd; 4th bar ~50 mm from 3rd, and that takes us roughly to the centre of the rosette; 4 small strips of spruce, two on each side of bar, support the rosette. The bar under the rosette is 4.5 mm thick and ~11 mm deep, the 3rd ~16mm deep. It is not possible to see anything else above the rosette.

Bridge : natural pearwood with bone (ivory?) edged ebony plate. Overall length 215 mm, width at bass 18 mm, at treble 16 mm; plate length 170 mm, width at bass 9 mm, at treble 8 mm; height (from memory, somehow i failed to write it down) ~9 mm; string band 161.5 mm (the basic concept seems to be 13.5 mm between courses and 4.5 mm within course, plus 9mm between top single strings: again, a commom feature at the time).
Between bridge and bottom end there is a mother-of-pearl pike motive inlay: the base is edged with the usual b/w/b purfling, the heart-shaped part set in in what seems to be the same black glue stucco as in the back of the neck at the neck-to-body joint.
One curious feature is the clear mark of a previous bridge between the present one and the pike decoration on two of the pieces that build up the soundboard. The shape of the tip and width of the outline clearly point to a Renaissance type of bridge. Andreas B seems to have ‘cannibalised’ an older soundboard from a larger instrument, cut down to size and arranged so that the rosette would fall in the right position on the present lute. The two pieces of spruce on either side of the middle one are free from such mark – and the one on the bass side also lacks the chip-carved rope around the rosette – and are either
later additions or were assembled this way from the very beginning, and although one would expect that at least the chip-carving would have been completed in its missing part, this applies in both cases, so the question remains open about when the new pieces were added in. Be as it may, the soundboard thicknesses are coherent over the whole area, as already mentioned.

Coda with a fancy: this lute is very similar to the one built by Joannes Jauck in Graz in the same year 1734 and now in the Vienna collection; too similar, in fact, to be simple coincidence: size and measurements are very close, and the main reason why the Andreas is not quite as wide as the Joannes is that the sides have been cut down at some point by, I reckon, at least 8 mm, as can be inferred from the side ribs (and that is more or less the amount by which the Joannes is deeper) and, because of the angle at which the ribs join the soundboard, cutting down automatically reduces the width but hardly affects the length. Also longitudinal and cross sections are quite similar and so are the unsymmetrical (somewhat rounder on the bass side) neck cross-sections. Unmistakable is also the style of both triple pegboxes (as well as the one in the Yale collection, also by Joannes Jauck).
I would venture to say the two lutes may actually have been built on the same mould. I have the feeling that in 1734 the younger Andreas, probably already an accomplished fiddle maker, was trying his hand at lutemaking in the workshop of Joannes, thence the lower quality of the woods employed for the shell and the ‘recycled’ spruce for the soundboard. But everything else is obviously the product of an axperienced hand.
This is only speculation, of course, but quite possible, and although of no practical relevance for us, a bit of personal history could add some humanity to the dust of museal memorabilia.
Bremen, May/June 1999
SUMMARY TABLE
13c lute by Andreas B Jauch – 1734
Strings: 2×1+6×2, string lengths: 777 mm treble, 773 bass,  3×2  930 mm,  2×2 1057 mm.
Shell: 15 cypress ribs, max width 34.5 to 36 mm plus b/w/b spacers ~1.25 mm wide; max depth ~160 mm.
Soundboard: spruce, in 5 pieces; length ~528/529 mm; width 350 mm (without ebony bindings).
Rosette diameter: 82 mm, 92 mm with rope chip-carving, centre of rosette to bottom end: 315 mm.
Bridge: overall length 215 mm, width 18 mm at bass, 16 at treble; top plate 170 mm, width 9 mm at bass, 8 at treble; from front edge to bottom end: 100mm.
Neck: Length: ~350 mm treble, ~342 bass side; width: 104 mm at block, 82 at nut; thickness: 275 mm at block, 190 middle, 185 at nut; nut not original, 76 mm.
Extended pegbox: width at nut: 82 mm; length 380 mm plus amorino head, whose dimensions are 47 mm high by 43.8 wide.
Distance between pegs: somewhat irregular, in the region of 27 mm on average.
Extended nuts: 2nd (three courses) 24 mm, 3rd (two courses) 30 mm.
……………………..
11 course lute by Andreas Berr –  Pokrajinski Muzej, Ptuj – GL 46 S
The printed label, in Gothic type, reads:
Andreas Berr Lauten und Geigen =
Macher in Wien =  Anno 1694
(The last two digits hand-written in ink)
The lute is still kept in ints original case of wood, covered with leather and reinforced along all edges with thick-head brass tacks.

String length : 715 mm top string, 711.5 mm last bass.
The materials of the lute are as follows:

Soundboard : three pieces of spruce of ordinary quality, i.e. one middle strip 64-65 mm wide plus non-symmetrical wings.
No edgings. Black stained pearwood bridge.

Body : nine ribs of vey fine grained plain maple, quartersawn, no spacers. Endclasp of same wood. Ebony reinforcement on treble side, ~55 mm wide, running from tip of endclasp to neck joint. Plain boxwood button at bottom, hole in block, button missing.

Neck : spruce core, ebony fingerboard, points and veneer.

Pegbox :  pearwood sides, poplar block; top side veneered with ebony, back side of ebony with open fretwork floral pattern. Treble rider of black stained pearwood.

Pegs : at least 14 are original, of black stained pearwood; the others are later replacements of different origins.
CONDITION

Neck : the nut seems to be some sort of horn-like material, stained black, is glued firmly in place and may well be original: the shape and style are typical of the period and the curvature matches nicely the pronounced camber of the fingerboard, but many of the grooves are recent, probably dating back to 1989. (More to this later).
The pegbox is in good condition. The back is about 3 mm thick and seems to be built up with two layers of ebony veneer glued together. All other sides are decorated with a scratched line running parallel to the edges, including the treble rider.
The neck itself is in rather good condition, except for a couple of thin cracks running practically the whole length of both fingerboard and back veneer. Fingerboard and veneer blend into one another along the edges of the neck: seemingly the fingerboard was glued on first, then the veneer to overlap it, after which the edges were rounded off: a process often seen on guitars, too.
The fingerboard shows extensive signs of wear, especially on the treble side, sign of a long playing life.

Body : all nine ribs are full of cracks that have been filled in at some point, to a large extent buckled and warped and five of them plus the endclasp are more or less seriously damaged by woodworms. The seemingly original dark reddish varnish is rather crackled and in places completely worn out, especially where the lute was resting against the body of the player.

Soundboard : in very poor condition, it is the part of the instrument that has suffered the most from both restoration work carried out in 1989 (extensive woodwoorm damage on the bass side between rose and neck joint has been roughly filled in and stained, and a small wing – 12 mm at max. width x 160 mm – of ugly-looking spruce has been added on the bass side and stained to match the brownish patina of the original wood) and from an old major accident.
At some point during the lute’s active life the neck must have been completely broken off at the neck-to-body joint. The butt of the neck and the block surfaces must have been slightly retouched in order to refit the parts together, with the result that the block side enden up being slightly thicker than the neck, causing an overhang of block over neck, of 1 mm or so, that was filled in with what looks like black stained glue. The joint is reinforced by a single hand-wrought nail, some 102 mm long and 5-6 mm thich at the head end, and a rather flat, wide head.
In order to repair the broken soundboard, the piece left on the block was removed, the intact part trimmed about straight and splice-joined to a new piece of spruce and fitted back on, but in a new position, some 5 mm lower down. The evidence for this is: 1. the upper part of the belly became slightly too narrow for the body profile and had to be bridged-up to the treble side with a new support of very ordinary spruce a few mm wide and ~150 mm long; 2. the soundboard still shows the original cut-ins for the fingerboard points, the curved side perfectly parallel to the ebony points; 3. the J bar, as seen in the x-rays, is a bit too low, even allowing for the intention to keep it fairly low and far from the back of the bridge in order to obtain a more open and free response in the mid and low registers. The work was rather successfully done, since the alignment is remarkably good even today. Small parts of the rosette are missing (‘unfortunately’ not enough to slip a magnet inside, so no thicknesses could be measured), while some other parts have been filled in with what seem to be fragments from another rosette of completely different design.
The rosette is very well cut, an elegant version of what we generally refer to as the ‘Maler’ pattern.
The bridge is quite sound, but new holes were drilled into it in 1989, during the ‘restoration’, in order to accommodate thick modern harp gut strings. Three of the original holes were left untouched, two on the treble side plus the octave of the 9th course, whose diameter is 1.15 mm. The top side of the bridge is decorated with scratched lines, like the pegbox.
X-RAY ANALYSIS

A small amount of extrapolation was necessary to work exact positions and dimensions of inner details, since the x-rays are in two takes and do not align perfectly. The degree of inaccuracy is well within ± 1 mm.
The inside of the soundboard shows no traces of mishandling or structural reinforcements.
Layout and sizes of bars are consistent with common Baroque building practice: 3 bars between bridge and rosette, one across the rosette and two between rosette and neck block. Perhaps the most interesting feature is on the lower part, between bridge and bottom: two symmetrical bars, at rather low angle, on treble and bass side; the treble bar ends exactly under the treble string, the bass bar ends just in front of the last course. A slightly curved J bar runs all the way across the soundboard and meets the rib on the bass side about 10 mm from the tip of the bass bar.
Bar thicknesses range between 4.5 and 3.5 mm.

Bremen, April 1998