Review of ‘The Violin: Its Famous Makers and Their Imitators’ by George Hart

I thought this would be an interesting read, but sadly the style was very dry. The author clearly knew his subject inside out, having produced an exhaustive and scholarly history of violins and violin makers. He cast his beady eye over scroll work, f-holes, bridge, maker’s mark, wood grain and varnish quality. The majority of the book is a compendium of makers in alphabetical order, very useful if you’re in possession of a very old violin you wish to identify, but not exactly a gripping read.

engraving of a violin

Two characteristics of this book were very striking, at least to me. Firstly, the exclusively male world of violin makers, violin players, violin dealers and even violin appreciation, or at least that’s how it’s presented in the text. Secondly, the extremely cautious nature of the author, who declines to speculate on what ingredients the old masters used in their varnish and doesn’t even say what contemporary makers use. It could be made out of marmalade and shoe polish, for all I know.

Published in 1909 by Schott & Co.

Part of my Project Gutenberg random reads project.

3 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Violin: Its Famous Makers and Their Imitators’ by George Hart”

  1. I walk past a violin repair shop sometimes and think it looks very romantic. It sounds as if this book has removed all of the romance from the instrument.

    1. I definitely got a sense of the author’s passion for the subject, but the book wasn’t really for the casual reader, perhaps more useful for collectors or auctioneers. I have never seen a violin repair shop, I think it would be a nice setting for a novel.

      1. I walk past early in the morning before the shop opens. The light inside is lovely, very soft. You can see violins, violas and cellos along one side, and work tables and tools at the front of the shop in the window, with more tools lining the other side wall. It’s so unusual and interesting that I often stop to look inside.

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