JTL vs Yamaha

Edited: October 27, 2020, 11:20 AM · JTL seem to have made 150,000 instruments a year, employing 1,000 "luthiers" (various sources, most quoting each other). But I'm not sure where to find the horse's mouth. And even if I could locate it, it raises more interesting questions about musical instrument output and consumption in, say, 1900.
Does that mean 150,000 string instruments a year or 150,000 INSTRUMENTS? They made tubas, flutes, pretty much everything Yamaha make except for the electronic stuff.
How many instruments do Yamaha make and sell each year?
If JTL alone made 150,000 instruments a year, what did all the world's producers make per year?
If JTL made 150,000 string instruments a year, what was their total instrument output, and what was the world's total consumption of musical instruments?

How long does it take a luthier to make a violin?
150,000 a year by 1,000 luthiers would represent 3 instruments per week. Is that feasible?

Replies (7)

October 27, 2020, 1:16 PM · The brochure says around 1000 "workers" -- not specifically luthiers. The word in the catalog is "ouvriers" which means worker.

With catalogs listing brasswinds, percussion, woodwinds, string instruments as well as strings, and "divers" things like music boxes, metronomes, phonographs, dictaphones and other things, it's easy to imagine 150,000 items being made each year.

Interesting that in one of the only English sections of the otherwise French brochure they exhort the customer to be very specific about 3 things:
1) Catalog number
2) The key the instrument should be in
3) Pitch - normal, old, English, American (I bet people who made instruments rejoiced when an international standard of A440 was agreed upon -- they're probably going crazy now that many lcalities are abandoning that standard!)

I think a total of 3 violins per week per worker would be possible if they were made in an assembly-line sort of fashion instead of one-person-makes-everything-for-his-own-instrument typical solo luthier type of shop. Some people only making necks can make a lot more in rapid succession than someone who works on a neck, then changes tooling to carve a top, then changes tooling to put in purfling, then changes tooling to plane fingerboards, etc.

But I also think that the number of 150,000 is most likely the total output, not just violins.

Fascinating catalogs! Thanks for the link!

Edited: October 27, 2020, 4:52 PM · Yes, I have to confess that, apart from looking up Bretons by all makers (http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/documentation.htm), I haven't read the JTL catalogues (under Thibouville) in detail yet. There's a hell of a lot of stuff to read!

This page isn't bad. The implication is that that JTL made about 14,000 violins a year over a 70 year period.

Otoh, it points to this page which cites 150,000 instruments made by "1,000 luthiers"

Edited: October 28, 2020, 6:57 AM · That 1911 catalogue on the penultimate page cites 150,000 instruments made by 450 employees (from memory)! Those brass instruments must have been made on tube bending machines or something! Or maybe they sold a shedload of penny whistles!

Sometimes people are surprised that mass production is not a new thing. I have a 1970s reprint of a French geography book for kids that was published in 1871/2 after the Franco-Prussian war, when the Alsace was ceded to Germany. The book features two Alsatian kids who have lost their father and they tour France looking for him, so it was politically motivated. By 1914 the print runs had totalled something like 17 million!

October 29, 2020, 5:02 AM · Gordon, I have just inherited a Breton Brevete! It has probably not been played since 1939. Right not it is getting a new soundpost, bridge etc.
You have twice quoted the same website that I have been searching! And it is really the best info I have found so far, let me know if you find anything else. Have you seen the following page? http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/marques_generiques.htm My label matches one of the labels there but the site does not mention which workshop made which label! Again, if it is convenient for you let me know if you find any more info. Thanks.
Edited: October 29, 2020, 7:03 AM · For some reason, the workshops don't put their names on the labels. Supposedly the JTL workshops put two stars on something or other, and mine doesn't have any, and the scroll is very slightly different, so I don't think mine is JTL.

Henley's (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Dictionary_of_Violin_%26_Bow_Makers) features 6 or 7 Breton Breveté labels, but not mine, nor is mine on that website. But my violin and label look identical to this one (although, dare I say it, my back is nicer and more flamed): -

The one-piece back seems to be an important part of the Breton design.
I suspect that the blogger is just guessing it's JTL. He's also one of the "150,000 instruments produced by more than 1,000 luthiers" merchants.

I said, "That 1911 catalogue on the penultimate page cites 150,000 instruments made by 450 employees". I meant the penultimate page of this part of the catalogue: -
where it says their string instruments are made by 450 people in their Mirecourt factory (usine), and their factories (fabriques) produce 155,000 instruments.

October 29, 2020, 6:48 AM · At their peak in the early 1900's I think there may have been half a dozen workshops in Mirecourt, all turning out similar products. I see the Laberte-Humbert catalogue of 1912 has 20-odd pages of violins with numerous options (wood, purfling, varnish, model including Breton Breveté etc) on every page, and at price points "to suit every pocket" from 12 to 250 francs. The "Grand prix" models went from 375 to 1250 francs but still not attributed to individual makers. Very roughly, that seems to be equivalent to about £50 to £5000 in today's money. I wouldn't have much idea how to discriminate between them.

Then there are 2 pages of violas...

November 24, 2020, 5:58 AM · Gordon, Thanks for the additional info and websites.

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