Is The Art of Violin Making as good a book as there is on the topic?

Edited: September 15, 2022, 6:16 PM · Looking at The Art of Violin Making by Chris Johnson & Roy Courtnall - is that as good a book as there is or is there one you feel is clearly better and if so, why?

Any "Yes, it's an excellent book but..." caveats you think are pertinent?

I have no immediate plans to delve into making one, at the moment I just find it interesting and would like to look at the minute details of how it's done. I've watched videos but I'm guessing there are details they might miss.


Replies (9)

September 16, 2022, 1:42 AM · It’s an excellent resource. Of course, without actually being there to see the whole process and having the opportunity to ask questions, there are details you may not pick up, but the book is widely recognized as one of the best.
Edited: September 16, 2022, 4:29 AM · If you're not going to make a violin, it sounds like a good enough book.
12 years ago when I picked up guitar, I bought 2 books on how to make one, but then the night-school fees trebled, so I gave up that idea (no talent at woodwork either). I'm glad those days are over. Youtube suits me at the moment.
September 16, 2022, 7:54 AM · The fact that the book has held it's value and even inflated in the used-book market is a pretty good indication that it delivers the goods. I don't have this book by I just ordered the recently reprinted (in paperback) "Violin Making: A Practical Guide" by Juliet Barker, who died a month ago. She was a well-respected British violin maker who also taught violin-making classes and workshops with hundreds of attendees. The new paperback sells for about $20 and change. I ordered my copy from Amazon lists it for availability in 2023. You can find other sources at

Juliet Barker was the third (and last) wife of Sir James Beament, a scientist, polymath and retired Cambridge professor who authored "The Violin Explained" and "How We Hear Music."

September 16, 2022, 9:04 AM · It is the only book I use for reference.

However, if you're looking for detailed plate thicknesses, outlines, etc., you'll need to find that elsewhere for the specific model you want to make. TheStrad posters are the ticket, although some of the earlier ones don't have all the detail you want.

Davide Sora has a series of videos on YouTube showing in great detail how an award-winning maker actually does the job... what tools, techniques, tricks. There are other questionable makers posting videos too, but Davide is one of the best makers alive today.

September 16, 2022, 12:36 PM · Don Noon
September 16, 2022, 9:04 AM · It is the only book I use for reference.


Thanks for the info!

September 16, 2022, 1:13 PM · I don't own the book, but upon a quick thumbing through, I do think that it's a very good book, better than most, and a heck-of-a-lot better than the majority of Youtube "how to make a violin" videos.
September 16, 2022, 2:12 PM · Hello Scott, if you wanted to add a book to your list I'd strongly recommend Scrollavezza and Zanre's book on the 'Tuscan' Stradivari. It won't replace a technical 'how to' manual, but it is one of the few publications that give a 3d impression of what the instruments actually look like. They also illustrate stylistic features that are difficult to appreciate at first. The book might serve more as a source of inspiration than a table of measurements. An alternative might be 'il DNA degli Amati'. A beautiful book with an overview of the family history, discussions of style, excellent photos and enough technical data. The later Strad posters are a useful (if more two dimensional) resource also. I'd suggest focusing on one model....the Vieuxtemps Guarneri would be a solid choice.
September 20, 2022, 7:54 PM · Brian Derber's book is worth a read. Or two...
September 20, 2022, 11:05 PM · It is a very good book, probably the best reference book together with Brian Derber's "The Manual of Violin Making" and Peter Paul Prier's DVD serries "When Trees Sing".

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