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English Bass Violin

 

Bass violins are the predecessors to the cello. Contrary to popular belief, these instruments varied wildly in size from instruments smaller than a modern cello, to much larger instruments with a back length about 10cm larger than a modern cello. One of the most important sources of information we have about what bass violins were like in England at the time of Purcell is the ‘Talbot’ manuscript of Oxford, which was collected by James Talbot at the end of the seventeenth century. In this manuscript he gives the tuning (a tone lower than a cello) and very detailed measurements of an instrument from that time, which is very similar to other examples of surviving instruments from that era. In 2015-16 I worked with luthier Drew Evans to build an instrument from these measurements in as historically informed a way as possible. We believe it is as close as possible to the type of instrument used by Henry Purcell.