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Violin by Thomas Howell, Bristol, England, 1836

Violin by Thomas Howell, Bristol, England, 1836. Side view of Howell violin Back view of Howell violin

NMM 10283.  Violin by Thomas Howell, Bristol, England, 1836. Engraved paper label with cut corners and double line border (with inward-curving corners), the year written in black ink: Made by T. Howell, / Inventor of the Improved / 18- PATENT [in scrolled lines] 36 / Violin, Tenor, Violoncello, / Double Baſs, & Spanish Guitar. / at his Manufactory and / Music Warehouse BRISTOL. Black ink inscription on inside of top, above label, in large scrolled letters (a monogram): TH / 4. Board of Trustees, 2002.

Cornerless violin with short body length, narrow upper bouts, inward-curving lower edge, C-shaped sound holes, long neck, ribs of graduated height, and tailpiece glued onto top rather than fastened with a tailgut. The long neck and short body were designed to facilitate fingering in the upper positions. The slightly graduated rib height (about 5 mm taller at lower edge) enabled the arching to be made flatter without hindering soundpost positioning.


Close-up view of Howell violin soundholes

Close-up view of Howell's C-shaped sound holes.

Technical Information

Top: two-piece, quarter-cut spruce, fine grain; maple, high-relief-carved, abstract, scrolled, foliate ornament, with separate, maple, central domed circle with compass mark at center, glued to top at center bottom edge; maple, high-relief-carved half-shell ornament glued to top under fingerboard, against lower edge of neck heel.
Back: two-piece, quarter-cut maple, with narrow-to-medium, horizontal curl.
Ribs: quarter-cut maple with narrow curl, angled to right on bass side, angled to left on treble side.
Head and neck: maple with faint, narrow curl, descending from treble to bass; long pegbox with minimal jutting at lower edge; very long neck.
Varnish: medium brown.
Fingerboard: ebony; thin; channel carved over neck position.
Nut: ebony; narrow.
Tailpiece: ebony; glued to top; wedge-shaped, with inward-curved inside edge between top and string holes; lower edge terminates in dome surrounding an ebony plug with three concentric incised lines; large mother-of-pearl eye inlaid on face; saddle carved rather than inlaid; narrower at upper edge than center, with beveled upper corners; two wooden dowels through tailpiece and top, visible from inside, the upper one about 5 mm, the lower one about 3 mm, spaced about 3 mm apart along the string axis.
Tailgut: none.
Pegs: ebony with large mother-of-pearl eyes; convex heads with narrow edges, not rounded; double collar with wider outside band; original.
Saddle: none.
Endpin: none.
Sound holes: C-holes.
Linings: slab-cut spruce.
Corner blocks: thin, slab-cut spruce blocks at same position of lower corner blocks on a violin with corners.
Top block: spruce; small; two slab-cut triangular spruce blocks at corners between top block and ribs; brass screw with domed head through top block into neck heel.
Bottom block: maple; small; wider at top; two slab-cut triangular spruce blocks at corners between top block and ribs.
Bassbar: long; wide; low height; rounded edges. Saw marks visible on outside of treble rib. Fine-toothed plane marks visible on inside of ribs.

Pegbox and Scroll

Front view of pegbox on Howell violin Side view of pegbox on Howell violin Back view of pegbox on Howell violin

Three views of Howell's pegbox and scroll.


Howell's brand below button

Brand on back button: [crown]. Brand on back, below button, each word a separate die: PATENT / T·HOWELL BRISTOL / INVENTOR (above). Brand on back, center lower edge: PATENT (below).

Patent brand on back of Howell's violin

Patent brand and ornate carving on belly of Howell's violin Close-up of patent brand on belly of Howell's violin

Brand on top, between tailpiece and lower-end carving, double-struck with a single die: HOWELL'S / PATENT / [crown].


Tailpiece on Howell's violin

Ebony tailpiece is glued to top. Two wooden dowels anchor the tailpiece in place, but are visible only inside the instrument. Saddle is carved, rather than inlaid.


Back length: 307 mm (at center), 314 mm (maximum)
Upper bout width: 131 mm
Center bout width: 110 mm
Lower bout width: 210 mm
Upper bout rib height: 31-32 mm
Center bout rib height: 32-33 mm
Lower bout rib height: 33-36 mm
Total violin length: 618 mm
Stop length: 126 mm
Vibrating string length: 321 mm
Original neck length (bottom of nut to ribs): 195 mm

Lit.:  André P. Larson, "Recent Acquisitions," National Music Museum Newsletter 30, No. 3 (August 2003), p. 6.

Go to Checklist of Violins Made Betwee 1800-1849

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Most recent update: March 7, 2014

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