All things Guarneri

October 10, 2009 at 10:44 PM ·

My interest in violins is growing past the playing aspect, and moving into the realm of instruments.  I'm of the "dark" side, with an immense passion for Guarneri instruments.  I was wondering if any of you had any suggestions for things to read or look into.

Specifically, I've been trying to find a copy of:  The Violin Masterpieces of Guarneri del Gesù by Peter Biddulph.  It is the catalog of the 1994 exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art commemorating the 250th anniversary of his death.  Can't seem to find it anywhere.

Also, I was trying to show a friend the "unique"-ness of the Lord Wilton's scroll, but I can't seem to find any good pictures of that instrument.

Appreciate any help you all can provide.  :)

Replies (30)

October 10, 2009 at 11:53 PM ·

Public libraries carry some interesting books.  They also borrow from other libraries.

October 11, 2009 at 12:01 AM ·

You can get the catalog from Amati Books.

I highly recommend the 2 volume book also from Biddulph publications, "Giuseppe Guarneri Del Gesu", which includes a fabulous biographical essay with a lot of new information.   Roger Hargrave's exquisite essay for that book, on Cremonese working methods as probably applied by Del Gesu, is available at his site along with a treasure trove of other material:



October 11, 2009 at 12:52 AM ·

Yes, the entire technical article on Biddulph`s book is on Roger Hargrave`s site, as well as other interesting articles too.

October 11, 2009 at 03:25 AM ·

That's an awesome start thank you very much all.  The Roger Hargrave site is a treasure trove of detailed information.

Thanks for the link to Amati books - will likely be ordering the catalog from them.  As for the 2 volume book set, $700+ is well beyond my budget at the moment.  Wish they sold an e-book or PDF.  :)

 Will look into my public library.  Totally forgot about their inter-library loan.

October 11, 2009 at 03:16 PM ·

Have you watched James Ehnes's DVD Homage?  If you have a computer with a DVD drive, you can pop the DVD into the drive, cue up an image that you like, pause the disc, put the DVD into full-screen mode, press the PrtScrn (print screen, which doesn't really print the screen; it just copies it onto your computer's clipboard) button, open up Paint, go to Edit-Paste, and voila - or should I say "viola"? - heh, heh - you should have the image you're looking for.  Save it on your computer as a JPG if you want to print it out later or open it with another photo editing program.  It sounds complicated but once you do it a few times it gets progressively easier.  Or, alternatively, you can look up tutorials on how to use Irfanview or any other of the free screen capture programs available for download.  Hope that idea helps.  (And if you don't have Homage should buy it!)

October 11, 2009 at 04:28 PM ·

 I went to Google Books and did searches for Guarneri, Guarneri Violins, and Guarneri del Gesu, and found many interesting choices.  Try it!  If you sign in to Google, you can save selections to your library.  You can actually download many items on Google Books.

October 11, 2009 at 07:40 PM ·

Thanks for the idea about the Homage DVD.  I only have the CD part in my MP3 collection.  Will have to re-borrow the set to get the DVD out.

Never really used google books - but I will thanks for the suggestion.

Copy of Lord Wilton (scroll front view)

Copy of Lord Wilton Violin (rear view)

Copy of Lord Wilton Violin (front side)

And I finally found the kind of pics I was looking for.  To me, I think this is one of the coolest and most unique looking scrolls I've ever seen.  These are pics of a copy, not the original but I think you get the idea!  :)

October 11, 2009 at 10:04 PM ·

Biddulph`s book is a must...   it`s format (real size photos plus technical drawings of 25 important violins) should be copied by others, but unfortunatly it`s not the case...  there is a new book about Stradivari (with 50 instruments) that is more expensive but with no technical drawings, and I`m not going to buy it...

October 11, 2009 at 11:14 PM ·

Also, try College libraries/music libraries.

October 12, 2009 at 03:36 AM ·

Emily, many operating systems do not allow screen-capping of DVDs, so many people won't be able to without find programs to work around the copy protection mechanisms.

Be VERY wary of old violin books you find free on Google.  They will for the most part be full of misinformation and not really suitable reading for the unwary.

Unfortunately all the silly old violin myths are going to start spreading around again because these books are so widely available.  It will be as though the last 20 years of people trying to clear them up never happened.  lol

October 12, 2009 at 12:15 PM ·

See if this URL works. A lot of Guarneri pics with commentary in, I think Japanese. But the names of the instruments are in English.

Anybody selling that massive 2-volume Biddulph del-Gesu book at a bargain price??

BTW, the Ehnnes DVD is great! If you love seeing (with close-ups!) and hearing a lot of great instruments played, and commented upon by a top-notch player, you'll feel like a kid in a candy store with this DVD!

October 12, 2009 at 03:50 PM ·

Raphael, you can get it direct from for rather less depending on the exchange rate and shipping charges.

I got mine for a good price from a company that had had it in stock for a long time and was clearing out their books, so it's possible to get lucky if you look around and make some phone calls.


October 15, 2009 at 01:29 AM ·

Just picked up the Homage CD/DVD set and yes it is quite awesome!  :)

Thanks for the ideas on the music libraries.  I checked out my city's University Faculty of Music Library.  Unfortunately they don't have the 2 volume Guarneri books.  They do have the Guarneri exhibit catalog though, so I might check it out first before actually buying it.  Looks like inter-library loan is gonna be the only way to get it for now.

Does anyone else have any ideas for "cool" or "unique" things about another Guarneri instrument(s)?

October 15, 2009 at 01:56 AM ·


I know y'all are trying to be helpful...but the Hill's book on the Guarneri dynasty of makers is very informative, very scholarly, easy to find and purchase,  and at only $20 is only 2% the price of the Biddulph (about the cost of a pizza delivery :>) ...which IS very interesting reading-but unless you're made of money, like me the best you can hope for is Inter-Library-Loaning it for a few weeks (It IS a neat book, I'll admit).

October 15, 2009 at 02:20 AM ·

Thanks, Andres. In fact I know about the Bidulph site and I am waiting/hoping for a better exchage rate! The Hill book is certainly fine, ground-breaking and enjoyable - and quite reasonable in the Dover reprint. I've had it for a long time. But you can't compare the photography.

October 15, 2009 at 02:27 AM ·

True dat Raphael.  But any violin picture book is going to start at around $300 (US) dollars and go skywards in price from there...even the old B&W plate printed books still run $500/copy simply due to collector's item status.

Heck Biddulph's book wouldn't be so pricey if publishers would do more than incredibley limited printing runs to artificially keep prices insanely high.  Biddulph's work picks up where the Hills ran out of info and leads and builds off of it.

October 15, 2009 at 04:43 AM ·

"artificially keep prices insanely high"

That's a pretty raw accusation.  I'm sure the people who produce these books would be delighted to find the sweet spot at which they could actually make decent money on these projects instead of having to fund them privately, sometimes by subscription, and typically having many copies still on hand a decade later.  I very much doubt they could have sold 50 percent more than they have if the price was down to $200, and given the quality of the publication, to do that they would probably have had to print 10 times as many books.

I am forever grateful to the people involved in such projects for taking the trouble to make them happen, as the rewards are generally not much of anything at all from what I understand.

Oh and I figured Justin knew about the Hill book already.  ;-)

October 15, 2009 at 05:20 AM ·

I do now!  :D

As the old saying goes, "it's hard to judge a book by it's cover".  Hence, why I wanted all your experience.

October 15, 2009 at 11:00 AM ·

Andres Sender is correct. These books may  take decades to sell, even when published in small editions.

I think I  got my "Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari" in 1998, it was new, and the book was printed in ... ... 1972!!! 

I subscribed to Biddulph's book and waited 2 years to receive it. 


October 15, 2009 at 12:07 PM ·

Well Andres,

When books are rendered inaccessible to almost everyone, including libraries by a publisher wanting to make a collector's item I get grumpy.   The research in the book is great, but the bio information will never be common knowledge among violinists, unless it gets into a publication such as Grove where researchers can have access to it.  When even large lending libraries with endowments etc to match cannot afford the (good) books, something is screwed up.

October 15, 2009 at 03:04 PM ·

To read what is out there! 

"To the making of many books there is no end, and is so weirisome to the flesh..." Solomon, King of Israel son Of David.

October 15, 2009 at 03:15 PM ·

Marc, if they had to sell the books for what you're willing to pay, there wouldn't be any. The guys who are doing these aren't making money at it, they're doing it to contribute to the knowledge base. Most violin books involve huge costs for photography, and color printing, and sell very few copies, so there's none of the economy of scale that big publishers have. Dan Draley told me that when he did his Amati book, I personally put him over the line into making -$10 on every book, when I suggested he needed to bind it better (the proof was bound like a cheap paperback with glued pages). And that was a simple large-format book with minimal photos--most of his costs were in the printing.

The Hill books are great books, but you can bet that the Hills weren't selling them for $10 a copy; Dover benefits by being able to take all of the Hills' work, years of experience and years of writing and pre-publication prep for free, since it's out of copyright, and their only costs are copying costs in a cheap format in paperback.

October 15, 2009 at 05:04 PM ·


Last I checked no publisher of any print media for any audience was making money doing it, today.  

It isn't that surprising that printed media companies/industry alliances in Canada are wanting a tax on paper stock, due to the photocopies people make that they cannot get money for (similar to the federal  tax on blank CD/DVD media that the RIAA/MPAA gets).  Charging $1000 for books won't help them make headway with printing costs either.  I doubt that I'm alone in wanting to buy violin picture books, but being too poor to afford the $500/book costs.

October 15, 2009 at 06:20 PM ·

Iam with Michael Darnton here. Not only violin books but about everything concerning our trade is rather expensive, tools, wood, varnish material and books.

I would like to mention here, for instance, that the Italian version of Sacconi`s book is sold out, and it seems it`s not going to be published, as can be seen in this discussion (in Italian):

Eric Blot, the owner of the rights over the book said in that forum that the English version of Sacconi`s "I Segreti di Stradivari" sells well, but an Italian version would sell very little, making it impossible to be republished in Italian...

October 16, 2009 at 01:02 AM ·

Marc, just read my first sentence again, because that's the beginning and end of the whole issue. All of the other things are just side-fluff.

October 16, 2009 at 10:28 AM ·

Marc:   This is a very nice and reasonably priced book, worth putting on your Christmas or birthday list I think.

I can never resist passing by any 2nd hand bookshop and I have to say I've picked up some amazing bargains over the years, especially when some of the shops appeared clueless about the worth of some violin/music books.  The less well organised they look, the more chance of finding a treasure! ;-)  


October 27, 2009 at 01:13 AM ·

Finally, I found some pics worth sharing.  I present, the ORIGINAL Lord Wilton Guarneri Del Gesu:

Lord Wilton Scroll Front

Lord Wilton Scroll Back

Lord Wilton Front

Lord Wilton Back


October 27, 2009 at 01:36 AM ·

I don't have any suggested readings on Guarneri but I have an interesting story.  I went to a fiddlefest near Lanse, Michigan about fifteen years ago.  One old fella was fidding up a storm.  Afterward I walked up to him and he showed me his instrument.  He said it was a Guarneri.  It looked like that vintage.  He said he walked into a pawn shop after WWII and spotted a alligator violin case that the pawn dealer in Chicago sold him for fifty dollars, with the violin inside.  He was interested in the case, not the violin.  Later when he took the violin in for appraisal on a whim, the luthier told him it was a Guarneri worth over $20,000.  That was in the 1950's.  It was common for soldiers to bring things home with them when they returned from war.  Apparently this was a common occurance, soldiers bringing home things and then selling them or, in this case, bringing them to pawn shops for a few dollars.  I've long since forgotten the man's name.  He might even be deceased now.  He told me his daughter played in a major orchestra and she was to get the violin eventually.  I have no reason to doubt his story.  He was an old Finn who lived in that neck of the woods (literally, the woods of northern Michigan).  I suppose I could find out more by tracing the fiddlefest and asking a few of the organizers.   Lucky finds do happen but are rare especially now.  If interested, I could find out more for you.

October 27, 2009 at 06:45 AM ·

Justin at least some of those photos are elongated vertically FYI/FWIW.

October 27, 2009 at 06:50 AM ·

Yes, I see that now.  Not sure how to correct that.  They were screenshots from the Homage DVD.  At least people get the idea about how unique the scroll looks.

It looks like the aspect ratio has been altered slightly - the DVD is widescreen, and the pics seem more standard screen.

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