Violin by Thomas Howell, Bristol, England, 1836
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's C-shaped sound holes.
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.
Pegs: ebony with large mother-of-pearl eyes; convex heads with narrow edges, not rounded; double collar with wider outside band; original.
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
Three views of Howell's pegbox and scroll.
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).
Brand on top, between tailpiece and lower-end carving, double-struck with a single die: HOWELL'S / PATENT / [crown].
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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