Anonymous English baroque cello, c1780



The table is of two pieces, with an average 4 growth rings per cm. The F holes are wide cut and upright. The single black-white-black purfling is quite wide with three strips of equal thickness, the outer ones stained.

The back is two pieces of maple with wavy grain and irregular flame. The purfling is the same as that on the table. The ribs are six pieces of similar maple.

The neck and pegbox are of similar maple. The back of the pegbox does not taper, and only narrows over the scroll, with the narrowest point above the eye. The original pegholes, which have been bushed, were closer together than the present holes. The pegs are ebony with a pearl dot.

The ebony tailpiece is decorated with a pearl shield and dot.

The varnish is dark brown.

Body length 73.8
Body width
      upper bout 34.5
      center bout 25.2
      lower bout 43.5
String length 69.0
Rib height
      top block 11.5
      upper corners 11.5
      lower corners 11.5
      bottom block 11.5

There is no label.

Bought in July 1976 at Sotheby’s, London

This is another favorite story of Jim’s increasing sophistication in the string instrument world. We were looking through a Sotheby’s catalogue in the early 1970s and saw this cello listed. It was described as having its original neck, which interested us very much. After seeing a black-and-white picture, Jim declared, “This cello looks like it would sound good.” The estimate was not very high since it had no known maker or pedigree, so we decided to bid at the low end. We won the lot and sent the cello to Michael Heale for restoration of a few small cracks. He then shipped it to us and I remember playing the first notes on it. Indeed, it sounded good! We bought and sold several baroque cellos over the years, but I have always preferred this one for its responsiveness and ability to change colors and articulations, which is so important in continuo playing. I have spent most of my career playing the solo viola da gamba literature and have not played a lot of solo music for baroque cello, so this cello has suited my needs perfectly and is one of the nicest baroque cellos I have ever played.

Michael Heale put a very long fingerboard on the cello. Since it is a mid-18th-century instrument, he felt it was more suitable to set it up as a “classical” cello. The neck is definitely original, but at one point I had it slightly angled back so the strings would not be so high in the upper register when I was playing some Boccherini. We always liked the old, very warped bridge and didn’t want to risk losing the cello’s sound by correcting this problem with a new bridge.


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