As some of you know I spend a fair amount of time poking around the many flea markets we have here in southern New England. A few days ago I picked this one up which had features not commonly associated with a run of the mill late 19th/early 20th century German factory fiddle. First of all the mother of pearl/abalone floral fingerboard inlay. Then the light colored banding surrounding the entire front and back plates. The three piece inlayed purfling has a black/white/black pattern instead of the more common white/black/white. There are a couple of labels inside, one documenting repairs made by a Whitinsville, MA luthier in 1881. That label partially covers another one which mentions graduation and re-something else unlegible. Because the second label is partially covered by first one I assume whatever was done must have been done at at an earlier date. So the major question I have is - Could this be an American made fiddle?
Edited by - RichJ on 05/06/2023 06:04:14
Others will know much more than I do, but I can tell you that that inlay pattern was one you see on trade fiddles, especially on tailpieces. Doesn't tell much though, as the parts were available as replacements, and the inlays themselves were probably available too - precut and engraved from Germany.
Looks like a pretty standard trade fiddle to me. Purfling is traditionally made by putting a strip of uncolored or white wood in between two pieces of wood dyed black or ebony, not the other way around.
The “banding” is just the edge outside of the purfling line. The varnish was wiped off the edges when it was being applied to highlight the edge work and frame the instrument. This is fairly common practice.
The inlay in the fingerboard looks like a pattern typical of “fancy fittings” from the era of the old Sears catalogs. The board could be original, but it could easily be a part ordered through a catalog and put on later.
Although I can’t see the button because of the shadow over the upper portion of the back, the overall condition looks to be pretty good, so you’ve got some potential for a decent instrument with some good setup work, provided the previous repairman hasn’t done something bad and difficult to reverse to the inside.
Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 05/06/2023 10:57:11
Hey Rich - Thanks for that information. Pretty sure your idea of the fingerboard getting replaced is correct because on closer inspection I can see someone added a thin wedge under the fingerboard. The fancier fingerboard with inlay was likely installed at that time. I wonder if that was the "repair work" done by the MA luthier back in 1881? The finger board has been on the fiddle for a long time. As you probably noticed, It's made out of some black stained hard wood with lots of wear up in first position territory which indicates a lot of playing. Playing back in the day when strings were mostly made from gut.
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