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Title: The Bow, Its History, Manufacture and Use - 'The Strad' Library, No. III.
Author: Saint-George, Henry, 1866-1917
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Bow, Its History, Manufacture and Use - 'The Strad' Library, No. III." ***

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Printed in Great Britain by J. H. Lavender and Co.,
2, Duncan Terrace, City Road, London, N.I.

[Frontispiece: HENRY SAINT-GEORGE.]






HORACE MARSHALL & SON, 46, Farringdon Street, E.C.4.

New York:
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 597-599, Fifth Avenue.



It has always appeared to me a curious thing that the bow, without
which the fiddle could have no being, should have received so scant
attention, not alone from the community of fiddlers, but also from
writers on the subject. I only know of one book in which the subject
is adequately handled. Out of every twenty violinists who profess to
some knowledge of the various types of Cremonese and other fiddles of
repute and value, barely three will be met with who take a similar
interest in the bow beyond knowing a good one, or rather one that
suits their particular physique, when playing with it. They are all
familiar with the names of Dodd and Tourte, but it is seldom that
their knowledge extends beyond the names. As for a perception of the
characteristics of bows as works of art, which is the standard of the
fiddle connoisseur, it hardly has any existence outside the small
circle of bow makers. Of the large number of undoubted fiddle experts
now in London, but a small proportion profess to any similar
knowledge of bows, and of these there are but few who can be credited
with real authority in the matter.

It is, therefore, with the object of bringing the bow into more
general notice that this little book has been written, and, to drop
into the good old prefatory style, if I succeed in arousing the
interest of but one violinist in the bow for itself, and apart from
its work, my efforts will not have been in vain.

My most hearty thanks are due to those who have so kindly assisted me
in my work. To _Messrs. W. E. Hill and Sons, Mr. E. Withers, Mr. F.
W. Chanot, Mr. J. Chanot, and Messrs. Beare, Goodwin and Co._, for
the loan of valuable bows for the purpose of illustration, and _Mr.
A. Tubbs_, who, in addition to similar favours, most kindly placed
much of his valuable time at my disposal, and very patiently helped
me to a sufficient understanding of the bow maker's craft for the
purpose of collecting materials for the second part of the book.

The third part, in which I treat of the use of the bow, I have
purposely avoided making a systematic handbook of bowing technique,
for to handle that subject as exhaustively as I should wish would
require a separate volume. As stated in Chapter XIV., that portion of
the book is addressed almost exclusively to teachers, and in the few
cases where I have gone into questions of technique it has been
limited to those points that appear to be most neglected or
misunderstood by the generality of teachers.

"Anything that is worth doing is worth doing well" is a maxim that
teachers should hold up to themselves and their pupils, and this
reminds me of an exhortation to that effect in "Musick's Monument,"
that quaint and pathetic book of Thomas Mace (1676) with which I
cannot do better than end my already too extensive preamble.

"Now being Thus far _ready_ for _Exercise_, attempt the _Striking of
your Strings_; but before you do _That_, Arm yourself with
Preparative _Resolutions to gain a
Handsome--Smooth--Sweet--Smart--Clear--Stroak_; or else Play not at


_The History of the Bow_.

CHAPTER I.                                                       PAGE

BOWED INSTRUMENTS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    7





WOOLHOUSE'S CALCULATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   45

A LIST OF BOW MAKERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   51

_Bow Making_.


THE _Cambre_. THE FACES. THE TRENCHES. THE NUT . . . . . . . . .   64

RE-FACING  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   71

RE-LAPPING. RE-HAIRING. CHOICE OF ROSIN  . . . . . . . . . . . .   77

"KETTERIDGE BOW" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   81

_The Art of Bowing_.

INDIVIDUALITY IN TECHNIQUE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   85

THOSE OF VARIOUS MODERN MASTERS  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   91

SAUTILLÉ. THE LOOSE WRIST  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   97

BOWING STUDIES AND SOLOS. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  102


In this new impression of the late Mr. Saint-George's book
opportunity has been taken to correct a few obvious errors, such as
those occurring in the notices of the three bowmakers named Peccatte;
the deaths of those makers which have occurred since the publication
of the first edition have been noted, and a few fresh names have been
added to the list contained in Chapter VIII. In other respects the
text of the work remains practically as the author left it.



   I. Head and nut of inlaid bow probably by Stradivari
                                                      to face page 32

  II. Heads of three English bows showing evolution of design
                                                    to follow page 32

 III. Heads of two violin, two viola, and one 'cello bow, by
  IV.     J. Dodd  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  to follow page 32

   V. Heads of three violin bows and one 'cello bow, by
  VI.     François Tourte  . . . . . . . . . . . .    to face page 48

 VII. Heads of bows by Lupot . . . . . . . . . . .  to follow page 48

VIII. Two heads of bows by D. Peccatte and one by Panormo
                                                    to follow page 48


FIG.                                                             PAGE
 1. Locust, showing action of hind leg in producing note . . . .    3

 2. Assyrian Trigonon  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    5

 3. Crwth bow from the Golden Porch at Freiburg  . . . . . . . .    6

 4. Ravanastron and bow (Indian) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    7

 5. Uh-Ch'in and bow (Chinese) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    8

 6. Omerti and bow (Indian)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    8

 7. Kemangeh-a-gouz and bow (Arabian)  . . . . . . . . . . . . .    9

 8. Rebâb-esh-Sha'er and bow (Arabian) . . . . . . . . . . . . .    9

 9. Sitâra and bow (Persian) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   10

10. Sarìndâ and bow (Bengalese)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   11

11. Method of hairing some Egyptian bows . . . . . . . . . . . .   12

12. Saw-Tai and bow (Siamese)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   13

13. Bow of Nyckelharpa (Swedish) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   13

14. Bow of Saw-oo (Chinese)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   13

15. Bow of the eighth century  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   18

16. Bow of the ninth century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   18

17. Bow of the ninth century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   18

18. Bows of the eleventh century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   19

19. Bows of the twelfth century  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   20

20. Bows of the thirteenth century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   20

21. Bows of the fourteenth century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   21

23. Bows of the fifteenth century  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   21

24. Bows of the sixteenth century  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   22

25. Bows of the seventeenth century (drawn actual size from
    specimens now in existence)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   25

26. Bows of the eighteenth century (drawn actual size from
    specimens now in existence)  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   27

27. Showing detachable nut of some early bows  . . . . . . . . .   28

28. Heels of early bows  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   29

29. The Crémaillère  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   30

30. Head and nut of ornamented Cremonese bow (actual size) . . .   32

31. Head and nut of Dodd bow (reduced) . . . . . . . . . . . . .   33

32. Head of Dodd bow (actual size) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   34

33. Geometrical construction showing gradation of stick (Fétis)    43

34. Bow stick in the rough (greatly reduced) . . . . . . . . . .   65

35. Pattern of bow head (actual size)  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   65

36. Ivory face in the rough  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   68

37. Gauge for nuts (actual size) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   69

38. Parts of a bow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   72

39. Tip of bow showing "cups"  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   73

40. Head of bow showing trench . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   74

41. Nut of bow showing screw and method of hairing . . . . . . .   75

42. End view of nut showing bow with unequal facets  . . . . . .   76

43. Dr. Nicholson's bow  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   82

44. A fifteenth century violist  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   91

45. A seventeenth century gambist (from Sympson) . . . . . . . .   93

THE BOW: Its History, Manufacture and Use.




As has been observed by the most talented writer on this subject "the
history of the bow is practically that of the violin." It will
therefore be readily understood that in the earlier portions of this
_opusculum_ it will be impossible to separate them to any great
extent; also, I must crave my readers' indulgence for going over a
considerable tract of already well trodden ground. My excuse must be
my desire for completeness, for, as I propose to deal with the
evolution of the modern bow, I find it difficult to arbitrarily
select a starting point to the exclusion of all previous details,
whether of ascertained fact or conjecture. Therefore I will follow
the invariable custom of fiddle literature and go back to the regions
of speculative history for a commencement.

Speculative history is, I fear, more fascinating to the writer than
convincing to the reader, so I will be as brief as possible in this
particular, nor will I, like one John Gunn who wrote a treatise on
fingering the violoncello, fill up space with irrelevant matter such
as the modes and tunings of the ancient Greek lyres, etc., highly
interesting as these subjects may be, although it is a very tempting
method of getting over the "bald and unconvincing" nature of the
bow's early history.

We of the present generation, having the bow in its most perfect
form, are apt to take its existence for granted; we do not think that
there must have been a period when no such thing was known, and,
consequently, fail to appreciate the difficulties in the way of its
discovery or invention. With some other instruments it is different.
For wind instruments we have a prototype in the human voice, and one
may reasonably suppose that the trumpet class were evolved by slow
process from the simple action of placing the hands on either side of
the mouth to augment a shout. The harp may have been suggested by the
twanging of a bow-string as an arrow left the archer's hand, and a
seventeenth century play writer fancifully attributed the invention
of string instruments to the finding of a "dead horse head." Here, of
course, would be found a complete resonance-chamber and possibly some
dried and stretched sinews--quite sufficient to suggest lute-like
instruments to men of genius such as must have formed a much larger
proportion of the world's population in prehistoric times than is the
case to-day; for brilliant as our great men of art and science are,
there are few who can be called _originators_ in the simplest meaning
of the word.

Thus, then, we have wind instruments, harps and lutes; but the bow
eludes us. If we are determined to find a suggestion in nature we
must turn to certain insects of the cricket and grasshopper tribe.
Many of these, in particular the locusts, are thorough fiddlers,
using their long hind-leg as a bow across the edge of the hollow
wing-case to produce the familiar chirping sound.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.]

Naturally, the strings are absent, but here is to be found a perfect
example of the excitation of frictional vibration. Whether this was
actually what suggested the bow is another matter.

For my own part, while admitting that in close observation of nature
our early forefathers were probably supreme, I prefer to think that
the innate concept of the bow was latent in the human mind and only
waited some fortunate accident of observation to start it into being.

I am aware, however, that this is a highly unscientific position to
take up.

That there should be so little in the way of adequate record
concerning the development of this indispensable adjunct of the
violin is not a matter for great wonderment, for, as has elsewhere
been shown, the earlier bowed instruments were of such primitive
construction, and, consequently, so weak in tone that they were
totally unsuited to the purposes of ceremonial or pageantry; two
subjects which form prominent features in ancient pictorial
representations. And if we come to what we fondly term "more
civilized" times, we find such crude drawings of early viols and
kindred instruments that we must not be surprised if such an
apparently unimportant detail as the bow should receive still more
perfunctory treatment at the hands of the artist.

We must also remember that the word "fiddlesticks" is still applied
to anything that is beneath contempt in its utter lack of importance.

Undoubtedly the idea of exciting vibrations in a stretched string by
means of friction is one of great antiquity; so much so, indeed, that
the question of origin becomes merely one of conjecture. True, the
majority of writers look upon the bow as a development of the
_plectrum_, but this is a theory that I must confess does not strike
me as being satisfactorily probable. To paraphrase a popular
expression, "fingers were made before _plectra_," the latter being an
"improvement" on nature's contrivance. And I see no reasonable
objection to the supposition that friction may have been used as a
means of tone-production prior to the introduction of the _plectrum_.

The great dissimilarity between the producing of sound by plucking,
and that by friction is such that I see no occasion to evolve one
from the other and consider their introduction most probably coeval.

When we come to the direct percussion of a string, as in the
dulcimer, piano, etc., we at once perceive a possible connection
between the hammer of the one and the rod or bow of the other: the
accidental colliding of the bow with the strings of its accompanying
instrument would soon suggest experiments ending in the forming of
dulcimer-like instruments.[1] But if we grant that the art of
plucking a string had first advanced as far as the substitution of a
_plectrum_ for what Mace calls the "nibble end of the flesh," I fail
to see how such an implement could suggest the friction of a string,
as, if short enough for manipulation in its original use, it would
not be long enough to excite the continuous vibrations characteristic
of the bow.

[Footnote 1: The bow is frequently used now as a means of percussion
for certain effects.]

I do not accept the theory of a long _plectrum_ used for pizzicato
purposes, as I consider, with Engel, that such an implement would
have been unmanageably clumsy even for the primitive music of the
ancients. Whenever I see a rod, as in the accompanying drawing of the
Assyrian Trigonon, I maintain that its purpose was to excite
frictional vibrations.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.]

The method of performance readily suggests itself in this case as it
will be seen that it would be quite possible and convenient for the
player to pass his rod--probably a rough surfaced reed--_between_ the
strings. I do not think it could have been used for percussion as, in
that case, it would surely have had some hammer like projection at
its end; a salient feature hardly to be missed by the artist as were
the less obtrusive details of the true bow in later ages.

We are all familiar with the oft repeated anecdote of Paganini's
playing with a light reed-stem, and I remember having seen at
Christmas festivities in country homesteads, the village fiddler
playing a brisk old-time tune with the long stem of his clay pipe;
also, quite recently, I read an account of an "artiste" in the States
who charmed his enlightened audiences with his performances on the
violin by using a variety of heterogeneous objects in lieu of the
conventional bow, including a stick of sealing-wax and a candle!

Now I do not wish to prove that the implement held by the benign
Assyrian in Fig. 2, is either of the last named articles, but merely
to draw attention to the fact that friction-tone is producible
without the aid of a "bow" proper.

The use of plain reed stems or other suitable rods for the production
of continuous sounds would naturally soon give place to more
elaborately constructed implements; although Rühlmann gives a drawing
of a portion of the sculptured decorations that adorn the famous
"Golden Porch" at Freiburg which represents a crwth and bow of the
twelfth century, the bow being merely a straight rod ornamented at
either end with a simple knob (Fig. 3).

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

He also gives a drawing of a violist of the fourteenth century,
sculptured on the cathedral at Cologne, where the bow is even simpler
in form. It is, however, impossible to judge how far the sculptor's
imagination, or lack of observation, may have been responsible for
these representations, so that they can hardly be taken as reliable
evidence of the use of such primitive contrivances at so late a



In attempting to trace the use of the bow to its source we are
obliged to content ourselves with the generalized statement that it
is undoubtedly of oriental origin. Thus, that it _had_ an origin is
proved beyond "all possible, probable shadow of doubt."

But whether the first form of bowed instrument became extinct
prehistorically, or whether it still survives, as some suppose, in
the Ravanastron of India, is not easily determined.

My own personal belief in the extreme antiquity of the bow is such as
almost to justify the quaint statement of Jean Jacques Rousseau that
Adam played the viol in Paradise.

Of existing bowed instruments the Ravanastron (Fig. 4) most certainly
seems to be the oldest, as its structure is more primitive than any

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

Concerning this instrument legend runs to the effect that it was
invented by Ravana, who was king of Ceylon some 5,000 years prior to
the Christian era. How far this is accurate is impossible to say, for
the oldest names for the bow known to Sanskrit scholars only take us
back 1,500 to 2,000 years. Of these names it is interesting to note
that the Kôna was evidently no more than a "friction rod" as, judging
from the early descriptions, it would appear to have been without
hair. Whether the Gârikâ or Parivàdas approached more nearly to the
modern idea of a bow I am unfortunately not in a position to state
with any degree of certainty.

The Ravanastron was, like the violin in its earliest stages, played
only by the inferior classes of India; a fact that, as Engel clearly
points out, makes it seem highly improbable that it was a Mohammedan
importation, despite some writers' assertions to that effect.
Undoubtedly it was introduced with Buddhism, from India into China,
where it became modified in unimportant details into the Ur-heen.

A curious point in connection with some oriental fiddles, such as the
Ur-heen, Uh-Ch'in (Fig. 5), Koka, etc., is that the hair of the bow
passes between the strings.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

Whether this circumstance is at all confirmatory of the supposition
that the rod of the Trigonon was passed between the strings would be
difficult to establish irrefutably; doubtless a logician could do so,
but I prefer making a simple statement of facts rather than forcing
them into agreement with any special theory; although I have plenty
of worthy precedents for such a proceeding, for I have observed that
most doubtful or disputed questions--the Bacon-Shakespeare
controversy, for instance--are handled in this manner.

What strikes one very forcibly on looking into the use of the bow in
the East is the great number of bowed instruments one finds. Thus in
India we have the Ravanastron in various forms; the Omerti (Fig. 6),
the Bengalese Sarìndâ, etc.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

In China, the Ur-heen, Uh-Ch'in, Saw-oo and Sawduang. In Siam, the
Saw-tai, etc. In Turkey and Arabia, the Kemangeh-a-gouz (Fig. 7),
Kemangeh-roumy, Rebâb-esh-Sha'er (Fig. 8), and Rebâb-el-maghanny,
also the more modern Gunibry.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

In Persia there is also an instrument strongly resembling the Omerti
and Kemangeh in outline, called the Sitâra (Fig. 9). Then there is a
primitive bowed instrument with three strings, known to the peasants
of Russia as the Goudok, which is no doubt an immediate descendant of
the three-stringed Rebâb, and, more remotely, of the Ravanastron.
Abyssinia too, has its bowed instruments. In fact, the use of the bow
is universal in the "glorious Orient," from whence nearly all
products of western civilization are derived. In almost all cases
great antiquity is ascribed to these instruments. The very name
"Kemangeh-a-gouz," ancient in itself, can be roughly translated
"ancient-fiddle," thus showing that the Persians [the name is Persian
and bears out the Arab records that it came to them from Persia]
considered it then a relic of the past, and that it was a survival of
some still older instrument inherited, most likely from India. There
can be little doubt that Fétis was right in assuming this to have
been the Omerti, for, barring the long "tail-pin," the structure of
both is almost identical.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

The bows of all these instruments bear a strong resemblance to each
other, as is only to be expected where all are of the simplest
description. In the majority of cases the bow is merely a length of
cane with a bunch of horse-hair tied at each end in such a manner as
to pull the cane into a more or less pronounced curve. Those of the
Goudok and Sarìndâ (Fig. 10) are short, approach nearly to a
semi-circle, and are quite rigid.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

Those of the Ravanastron, Omerti, etc., are longer, and being more
slender, have a certain amount of flexibility, but it does not appear
that this latter qualification is sought for or considered
indispensable. On the other hand, the now nearly obsolete Kokiu of
Japan had a bow of about forty-five inches in length that was
extremely elastic. It was made in sections after the manner of a
fishing-rod, and the hair was tightened by the finger of the player,
as in some of the early viol bows of Europe.

The method of hairing in most cases amounts to the simplest way of
tying the hair on to the stick. Sometimes the hair is passed through
a slit and held in place by a knot. In other specimens it is attached
to a leather thong, and occasionally it is plugged into the open end
of a piece of bamboo (Fig. 11).

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

The bows of the Saw-tai (Fig. 12), Uh-Ch'in, Koka and a few others
show a distinct advance in point of curve and adjustment of hair, and
strongly resemble the bow of the quaint Swedish Nyckelharpa in
present use (Fig. 13).

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

[Illustration: FIG. 13.]

The bows of the Sitâra (Fig. 9) and Saw-oo (Fig. 14), approach more
nearly to the European form. The drawings of the latter, however,
were made from highly ornate and elaborate specimens that may have
been affected by Western influence. But against this must be set the
religious conservatism of eastern nations. In many cases it would
amount to gross sacrilege to alter in any way the construction of
certain objects in daily use, so that we may take it generally that
the east of to-day differs very little from what it was, even several
thousand years ago, in such matters.

[Illustration: FIG. 14.]



Perhaps the most interesting of the primitive bowed instruments is
the Welsh Crwth. Unlike the still more ancient forms yet surviving in
the East, it is now completely obsolete: unless we may count the
Norwegian and Icelandic langspiel and fidla as descendants thereof.

At one time it was considered an ancestor of the violin, but since
Mr. Heron-Allen brought his legal acumen and skill in sifting
evidence to bear on the subject, we find that it must unquestionably
be looked upon as the _last_ of its race, and not as a direct
forerunner of anything else. As to its origin, I should say it was
two-fold. The oft-quoted lines of that seventh century Bishop,
Venantius Fortunatus:--

  "Romanusque lyra, plaudat tibi Barbarus harpa
   Græcus Achilliaca, Chrotta Britanna canat"

prove, however translated, that the Crwth was essentially British.
The structure of the instrument strongly suggests its derivation from
the Roman and Greek lyres, and I have little doubt that the first
Crwth was in fact a lyre in the hands of one of our early British
ancestors, who thought he would try thereon the effect of a Rebab or
Kemangeh bow, and most probably got himself heartily laughed at for
his pains. This is a kind of experiment that has been tried in modern
times, as witness the "Streich-Guitarre" and more recent

That the Eastern fiddles should have come to Britain then is not a
very extravagant supposition. The distance is not great from northern
Africa, through Spain, where a form of Rebab is still played by the
Basque peasantry, on through Europe generally and across the Channel
to England. Also, it is very likely that there were a number of
Orientals in attendance on the Imperial Court of the Cæsars who would
naturally bring their customs, religions and arts with them.

I do not think the Greeks and Romans made any use of the bow
whatever, although, considering the enormous spread of the Roman
Empire, and, as I say, the diverse nationalities that surrounded the
court, many of the Indian, Persian and African bowed instruments must
have been fairly familiar objects in Rome and elsewhere. But being
instruments of conquered nations; primitive in construction and
strange in tonality; they were probably held in too light esteem ever
to be adopted and developed by people of such importance and
civilization as the Romans or Greeks.

I say all this with due respect to Mr. Fleming. This gentleman has
contributed sundry valuable works to the bibliography of the violin,
and in certain places mentions an Etruscan vase illustrated in a
catalogue published by Prince Lucien Napoleon of Canino. He describes
the decorations of this vase as follows: "The subject is a man seated
reading a volume to two youths, who, leaning on knotted sticks, are
listening attentively. On a little table or box in front of the
principal figure is inscribed the name 'Chironeis.' On each side of
the reader is an object which authorities in these matters term
'thecæ,' indicating the profession of this principal figure. One of
these has a neck or handle, an oval disc, or sounding plane, and a
tail piece extending below the disc rather more than half the length
of the neck. From the upper extremity of the neck to the lower
extremity of the disc are stretched strings, and across these strings
at the centre of the disc is placed a bow of as rational construction
as anything that has come down to us prior to the days of Corelli.
The instrument is indeed almost identical with the Ravanastron." Now
all this sounds very nice and extremely convincing, and whether or no
Mr. Fleming himself believes the Greeks used the bow, I have no doubt
that he is perfectly satisfied that he has proved such to be the

As I have seen neither the original vase or Prince Napoleon's
catalogue, I feel some diffidence in throwing my half-ounce of doubt
on this pound--good, thumping weight--of fact. However, I have seen
the reproduction of the drawing as given by Mr. Fleming in his book,
"Violins, Old and New," and, since he makes such a feature of this
Grecian Ravanastron, I feel safe in assuming that it is accurately

I distinctly remember first looking at that drawing. I gazed at it
long and earnestly. I then referred to the text; after which I
rapidly searched through the book to see if there was another drawing
of a Greek vase. I thought perchance the printers in a playful mood
might have transposed them; such things have happened. But it was not
so; the drawing on page 250 was the only one. So I returned to it.
There were the reader, the box, the inscription, the attentive youths
with their knotted sticks, and, lastly, the "thecæ." I was not _long_
in doubt as to which of these objects was the one Mr. Fleming
attached so much importance to.

Ods catgut and fiddlesticks! as Bob Acres would genteelly have
exclaimed. So this was the Etruscan Ravanastron I had dreamed about;
this was the Greek fiddle I had discoursed so learnedly of when my
pupils with childlike pertinacity questioned me as to the origin of
the violin.

That is a useful sort of vase. If ever I come across anyone anxious
to prove something, I shall advise him to use that drawing. That
Ravanastron would prove anything; in fact it proved too much for me.

The more I have searched for pictorial records of bow in old prints
and drawings, the more disappointed I have become. It is
extraordinary how artists of genius have literally "scamped" the poor
unfortunate "fiddle-stick" in such works. In the small room of prints
and drawings at the British Museum is a drawing of a violinist
attributed to Corregio. It is merely a slight sketch, but the violin
is beautifully drawn; the corners are well expressed and the
perspective is good, but the bow would be unrecognisable as such were
it not for the close proximity of the violin. Even in more
highly-finished productions the same thing obtains. I have found
drawings of crowders, violists and fiddlers where every little detail
of dimple, crease and nail has been almost photographically rendered
in a hand holding what one knows must be a bow, but if the other hand
held a shield, or a newspaper, or a child's whip-top would be
accepted with equal readiness by the judicious observer as a sword,
paper knife or whip respectively.

Occasionally one finds minute representations of bows, but these are
more often than not of such a nature as to be impossible of credence
as correct representations.

Another thing that stands in the way of a clear exposition of the
bow's development is that even the most reliable drawings and
sculptures do not show by any means a gradual improvement in the
shape of the bow, for it is no uncommon thing to find fourteenth and
fifteenth century representations of bows of quite eighth and ninth
century type. It is not likely that any of such primitive bows would
have remained in use unbroken for so many centuries, therefore I do
not think these later representations of early bows can have been
copied from actual specimens then in use, but, where not evolved from
the artist's inner consciousness, may have been taken from the
drawings, MSS., etc., handed down from the earlier periods. On this
point Mr. Heron-Allen makes the following very sensible
observations:--"The conclusion we are brought to is consequently
this: _either_ all representations of bows which have come down to us
are unreliable, _or_, the bow, instead of developing as the fiddle
undoubtedly did, remained in a state of primitive simplicity, and
bore till a comparatively recent date the same relation to its
companion the fiddle, as do the early specimens of Delft ware and the
exquisite Sèvres specimens, which recline side by side in the
cabinets of the delightfully incongruous nineteenth century drawing
room. If you ask me to which of these conclusions I incline, I think
the two deductions are to one another as three times two are to twice
three, and that a combination of the two would probably account for
the present misty aspect of the past history of the bow."

One should not lay too much stress on pictorial records; even our
contemporary artists are not free from error, and it would be
interesting to know what future writers on this subject will say of
the nineteenth century violins and bows as represented by popular
painters at the Royal Academy and other picture shows. They will find
the evidence just as conflicting.

Unconvincing and contradictory as the existing records are, they are
all we have, and, such as they are, I give a few selected examples.

A form of bow constantly occurring in drawings, etc., from the eighth
to the sixteenth centuries, is Fig. 15. It is only slightly
suggestive of the Oriental bows.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.]

In the ninth century we find a bow (Fig. 16) strongly resembling
those of the Saw-oo and Saw-Tai. And from the same century we find a
miniature representation of a Crwth player with a bow slightly more
distinctive in character (Fig. 17).

[Illustration: FIG. 16.]

[Illustration: FIG. 17.]

Similar bows to the above appear to have been pretty general in the
tenth century. In the eleventh century a little more variety is
apparent, as will be seen in Fig. 18.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.]

Here are to be found the survival of the ninth century form shown in
Fig. 17, and a remarkable advance in the form of the one at the
bottom, which is doubtless the pattern intended to be shown in the
sculptured bow, second from the top. The top one is merely given as
an example of the perfunctory work the historian has to examine and
yet retain his customary calm exterior.

Fig. 19 gives some examples of twelfth century bows as depicted by
the artists of that period. The first two are evidently intended to
represent the type shown in Fig. 17. The sculptor probably found the
straight line of the hair inelegant. The third (which is from a MS.
in the Bodleian Library) and last show a return to the ninth century
form in Fig. 16.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.]

This is a form that is found so continually through all the
centuries, down to the seventeenth and eighteenth, that I am inclined
to the belief that it is fairly accurate. It is very much like the
outline of the modern double bass bow. In Fig. 20 are given some
thirteenth century bows: the one with the curious sword-hilt is
remarkable. In the others we find a return to more primitive lines.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.]

The fourteenth century bows have very little to distinguish them from
those of preceding ages, and I give the most noticeable examples I
have found in Fig. 21. The second is a very advanced type. Against
these must be set those in Fig. 22.

[Illustration: FIG. 21.]

[Illustration: FIG. 22.]

These appear to me as being most probably conventional
representations, or copied from older works as suggested above.

Of fifteenth century bows, the pictorial and plastic arts record
those shown in Fig. 23, together with the usual atavism or return to
earlier types.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.]

This atavism, if credible, is most marked in the sixteenth century as
witness those in Fig. 24.

[Illustration: FIG. 24.]

Here are bows that take us back to before the Norman Conquest, drawn
by artists who were contemporary with Gasparo da Salo and Andreas
Amati. It is quite out of the question to suppose that such bows were
used at that time.

The drawings of seventeenth century bows are more convincing. We then
get a more definite idea of the nut, which was in most cases a
fixture. Also, the head begins to mould itself into something
approaching the form of the modern "hatchet."

Although there are cases of bows in drawings as far back as the
eleventh century (see Fig. 18, etc.) showing great advances, it is
not until reaching the seventeenth century, that one can say with any
degree of confidence that the perfect bow is on the horizon.



I find it a matter for extreme regret that there should be such a
large element of uncertainty in what I am able to bring forward of
the earlier historical aspect of the bow. Of its primitive use one
can do little more than examine contemporary evidence in the East,
and then assume, albeit with some show of reason, that the same forms
have survived from remote periods. Coming to the mediæval bow we
appear to tread on safer ground; bows are depicted in miniatures,
manuscripts, paintings, etc., from the eight and ninth centuries
onwards, and in nearly every case we can determine the date of the
production and frequently its author. So far nothing could be more
satisfactory, but as I have said above, there are very few examples
that impress one as being accurate representations.

Proceeding to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I am further
frustrated in my attempt to elucidate the obscure passages in the
bow's history by a reversal of those conditions. I can now lay before
my readers drawings and photographs of bows the accuracy of which I
can guarantee, but placing them in perfect chronology is,
unfortunately, little more than guess work. Such was the modesty of
their makers that the early bows were all sent into the world
nameless. Many of them are marvels of workmanship, and, though
utterly unscientific in construction and unfit for the requirements
of modern violinists, they are for the most part exquisite works of
art upon which no pains have been spared.

Some of the fluting and other ornamentation is little short of
marvellous in point of design and finish.

To a casual writer like myself the mass of conflicting detail found
on examining ancient bows and the records of their use is extremely
disconcerting. The practised scientist, however, surveys such things
with calmness, for his trained eye immediately selects those details
that support the theories he wishes to promulgate, and the rest are
quietly consigned to oblivion.

In this way the most charmingly satisfactory results are obtained.
Thus Fétis, in his article on Tourte, gives a brief outline of the
history of the bow, illustrating the same with what purports to be a
"_Display of the successive ameliorations of the bow in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries._" This consists of a series of
drawings of bows ranging from Mersenne in 1620 through those used by
Kircher, Castrovillari, Bassani, Corelli, Tartini and Cramer to that
of Viotti in 1790. Herein is shown how the arched bow gave place to
the straight: and this in its turn to that having the inward curve
known as the "spring" or _cambre_. The succession is perfect, and it
is only the final drawing of the series (the Viotti bow of 1790) that
shows this _cambre_.

Now, in the collection of ancient bows kindly lent me by Mr. A. Hill
for the purpose of illustrating these pages are several bows of a
much earlier date, yet having the _cambre_ most pronounced and, in
some examples, extremely elegant.

Not being a scientist, I do not know how to omit these evidences of
advance at such an early date from my writings on this subject,
although I feel that by not doing so I am rendering this section of
the work far from clear.

As a matter of fact clearness in what we can ascertain of the bow's
history is a quality conspicuous by its absence; a condition
doubtless due to the varying capacities of early bow makers, some of
whom may have continued to make antiquated types whilst others of
greater talent were anticipating in a measure the results of Tourte's
genius and observation. It has been observed in other branches of the
world's progress that many have groped in the right direction for a
space until there came one Genius who grasped, almost by intuition,
the various requirements and produced the perfect work beyond which
no man could go.

Entering upon the seventeenth century I now abandon the use of
pictorial records of bows in favour of drawings and photographs made
from actual specimens now in existence.

In Fig. 25 I give the heads of three remarkably interesting bows. I
have drawn them the exact size of the originals. The first is most
primitive throughout, though having an ingeniously contrived nut of
which I shall speak more fully further on. The length of this bow is
nearly 23 in.; the distance from the inside surface of the stick at
the heel to the hair is 3/4 in., and the width of the hair is 1/4 in.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.]

The second bow is extremely elegant, although useless as a bow: note
the grace of the long peak. It is seldom that one finds these peaks
so well preserved as many have been first broken and then cut down to
remove the unsightly jagged end. The dimensions of this bow
are:--Total length, 28-1/8 in.; length of hair, 23-1/4 in.; distance
of hair from stick at heel, 3/4 in.; breadth of hair 1/4 in. The nut
is on the same principle as the preceding one.

The third bow may be late seventeenth or early eighteenth century
work. It is beautifully fluted throughout its entire length, the
lower third having an extra raised line between the fluting. It is
remarkable inasmuch as it has a movable nut working with a screw as
in the modern bow and also a distinct _cambre_. The inward deviation
of the stick from a straight line is a full quarter of an inch in
25-1/2 in.; but this is too low down to give the bow a good spring.
Being made, like the others in this figure, of that unyielding
material snakewood, the experiment, though in the right direction,
cannot be said to have been successful. The full length of this bow
is 28-1/2 in.; the length of the hair, 23-1/2 in.

Plate I. is a photograph of an extremely interesting bow. Like the
preceding example it has the conventional nut and _cambre_. In the
matter of ornamentation it is probably unique. It is not only fluted
throughout, but is inlaid with a minute mosaic of red, yellow and
brown woods. In appearance it reminds one of the straw-work so
popular at one period. Inlaid on one side of the nut are seen the
Arms of Spain, and on the reverse is the Royal monogram. Mr. Alfred
Hill procured this bow with some difficulty in Madrid and was able to
trace its pedigree in so far as that it was originally with the
instruments made by Stradivarius for the Spanish Court. There is just
a shadow of possibility that it may be the actual work of that most
glorious craftsman of Cremona.

[Illustration: PLATE I.]

Its length over all is 27-1/2 in.; the playing length of the hair is
23-1/4 in.; the width of the hair barely 1/4 in. This bow has the
most scientific _cambre_ as yet found. Its deviation is 9/16 in. in
26-5/8 in. It is also of more flexible material than the others.

The centre bow in Fig. 26 is stamped by Thomas Smith (at last we have
a signed specimen), chiefly known for his 'cellos. It was most
probably made, however, by Edward Dodd. The head, while possessing a
certain elegance, is of a very early type. It is of yellow lance wood
and has a very pronounced _cambre_, the deviation being nearly 1/2
in. in 27-1/4 in. The total length is 28-3/4 in., and from the
mortices in the head and nut one would suppose that it was intended
to take somewhat broader hair than the preceding examples. The date
of the bow is somewhere between 1760 and 1780. The other bows in Fig.
26 are viola da gamba bows; the upper one I use frequently myself in
certain pieces for that instrument. It is very elegant and I should
say is of French make. It is extremely flexible and most adapted to
sustaining chords of three notes, as the great distance of the hair
from the stick prevents any "grinding" on the middle string. But like
all these early bows the hair is much too narrow. The other gamba bow
in Fig. 26 is very quaint and appears to be of much earlier date. It
is handsomely fluted through the upper two thirds: the lower third
being a simple octagonal. A curious feature is that the distance of
the hair from the stick gradually diminishes from 1 in. at the heel
to 1/2 in. at the point. It has a slight _cambre_, but being of snake
wood is quite poker-like in its rigidity.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.]

As is it impossible to determine the exact date of these bows, one
can arrive at no very safe conclusion as to when the movable nut was
first introduced. Fétis thinks this important modification came from
the East also, and he mentions a cherry wood bow in his possession,
made at Bagdad, which has a distinct head where the hair is inserted,
and a nut fitting into a dovetail notch in the stick.

The first and second of the bows shown in Fig. 25 have a curious
device. The hair is fixed into the stick at both ends, and the nut,
which is quite detached, slips into a slot with a snap, and is held
in place by the pressure of the hair. A glance at Fig. 27 will make
this arrangement clear. These two nuts are the second and third in
Fig. 28, which is reduced one-third below actual size. The ornamental
tip to the middle one looks as though it had a screw, but this is
merely a decoration to balance a finely fluted design on the stick
just above where the "lapping" is usually placed.

[Illustration: FIG. 27.]

[Illustration: FIG. 28.]

A great advance on this was the _crémaillère_ (Fig. 29), which served
to vary the tension of the hair in a more or less satisfactory
manner. This device is still in use in Sweden.

[Illustration: FIG. 29.]

The actual invention of the movable nut travelling on a propelling
and withdrawing screw is attributed to the elder Tourte, but some of
the bows in Mr. Hill's collection having this contrivance appear to
be too remote for this to be the case. It is a point that I fear will
always be shrouded in mystery.

In Plate II. we see a nearer approach to the outlines of the modern
bow. These I should say are the work of W. Tubbs, who worked for most
of the English fiddle makers and dealers. The first one bears the
stamp of Norris and Barnes. This bow is 27-7/8 in. in length, the
other two being exactly one inch longer. The hair in the first and
third is 1/4 in. in width; in the centre one it is full 5/16 in. The
handsome ivory nut of this bow is shown in Fig. 28. They are
extremely elegant, and have much of the character of the modern bow
in finish and _cambre_, though the deviation is again too low down.

[Illustration: PLATE II.]



Another example of bow, remarkable not only for its ornamentation,
but also as having a well defined _cambre_ together with a nut and
screw, is Fig. 30.

[Illustration: FIG. 30.]

This is a Cremonese bow of the seventeenth century. It is fluted in
alternate sections, or panels, the lower third having a slight extra
complication of the design "thrown in." Truly these grand old
craftsmen were not afraid of work. The screw-nut is as perfect as one
could wish, saving, only, in the meagre allowance of hair provided

These early bows with screw-nuts quite dispel the generally accepted
theory that this mechanical contrivance for regulating the tension
and preserving the elasticity of the stick was the invention of the
elder Tourte. The majority of writers on the history of the violin,
and, incidentally, the bow, are content to take their data from that
much quoted historian and scientist, Fétis. He appears to have made
most of his more important statements on the authority of Vuillaume.
How Vuillaume became so versed in the history of his craft does not
appear. His talent in the way of producing "genuine" Cremonese and
other masterpieces is well known, the most stupendous example being
the Duiffoprugcar instruments with which he imposed on the violin
world so successfully. May we infer that he had equal facility in the
fabrication of historical "facts"? _De mortuis nil nisi bonum_, but
at all cost our history must be made accurate. Better no facts at all
than spurious ones.

Having disposed of the screw attachment, the next important points in
the development of the bow is the ferrule, which preserves the
ribbon-like appearance of the hair, and the slide, which serves as an
ornamental cover for the mortice in which the hair is fixed. These
additions are commonly attributed to François Tourte, but in Fig. 31
I give a drawing of a typical nut by John Dodd, having both these

[Illustration: FIG. 31.]

Dodd and Tourte were contemporaries, Tourte's birth having taken
place only five years before that of Dodd in 1752. When I come to
speak more particularly of Tourte I shall show my reasons for
thinking it unlikely that Dodd copied Tourte in this respect. The
whole matter is shrouded in mystery. In other branches of science,
art, etc., we find brilliant thinkers arriving simultaneously at
identical results,[1] and I can quite believe that the idea of the
ferrule and slide (obvious contrivances when one considers the
requirements of a good bow) could have occurred to more than one of
the workers then striving after perfection.

[Footnote 1: As a noteworthy example, take the simultaneous discovery
by deduction of the invisible planet Neptune, by Adams and

The characteristic feature I wish to call attention to in the heel
shown above (Fig. 31) is the great size of the slide in proportion to
the whole lower surface of the nut. It leaves such a very small
margin compared with that of other makers. This will be found in
nearly every genuine specimen. Unfortunately nuts wear out and become
replaced with new ones, so that it is not always possible to obtain a
bow that is original in all its parts. Dodd occasionally decorated
the face of his bows with mother-of-pearl, as in the example shown in
Fig. 31. He invariably stamped the name DODD in large, plain letters
both on the side of the nut and on the stick. I have seen some that
are stamped J. Dodd, but not many. Fig. 32 shows (actual size) a very
early Dodd head, than which nothing, I think, could be more
distressingly ugly. It is remarkable that such a caricature should
have emanated from the same man who produced those shown in Plates
III. and IV. Plate III. consists of photographs (actual size) of two
violin bows, and one tenor bow, Plate IV. giving one tenor bow and
one 'cello bow by this maker. It would be quite impossible to give
representations of all Dodd's characteristics, as his work varies so
very much. I have therefore chosen a few only of the best types.
These are all exceptionally well finished. In the second and third is
to be seen the tendency to arch in the neck of the bow so frequent in
Dodds; in the others the sweep of the stick up to the head is
perfect. His 'cello bows are his best work, and compare favourably
with the greatest Continental makers. The one I have selected is of
the finest period. The first of the two tenor bows (third on Plate
III.) is the type of head most frequently seen, some have the head
drawn backward at a very ungainly angle, and others, again, slope
forwards, to an extent greater even than that of the 'cello bow in
Plate IV.

[Illustration: FIG. 32.]

[Illustration: PLATE III.]

[Illustration: PLATE IV.]

Owing to the extreme elegance of Dodd's bows, and the beautiful
workmanship of his finest specimens, he has been dubbed the "English
Tourte," and amongst the majority of English amateurs the name of
Dodd is held in the highest possible estimation. But as a matter of
fact very few Dodd bows are worthy of this regard. His best bows,
such as he sold for a pound or thirty shillings, are fine, although
few of the violin bows are such as an artist would make much use of.
The slenderness is frequently carried to excess, and the narrowness
of the head prevents a sufficient "spread" being given to the hair in
many cases, and a great number are much too short.

It must be remembered that Dodd worked before foreign importation
annihilated the English violin and bow making industries, and he
turned out a large number of bows at prices ranging from a few
shillings a dozen upwards. Thus it will be readily understood that
there are many genuine Dodds in existence that are not worth looking
at. His tenor bows are often excellent, and, as I said above, his
'cello bows represent him the best.



It has been my great good fortune to be favoured with an interview
with the veteran violinist, Doctor Sellè, of Richmond. This
gentleman, now well on in his eighties, knew John Dodd most
intimately, and gave me many interesting details about him. I have
endeavoured to obtain a portrait of Dodd, but there does not seem to
be anything of the sort in existence. However, Dr. Sellè gave me a
graphic description of his personal appearance. In stature he was
short and of a shuffling gait. As he affected nether garments of
extreme brevity, very broad-brimmed hats, and was excessively
negligent in the matter of clothing, etc., his habitual aspect was
quaint and eccentric to a degree.

He was unfortunately very illiterate, and, according to Dr. Sellè, it
is doubtful whether he could sign his own name.

In his work--the artistic excellence of which is remarkable under
these circumstances--he was very secretive, giving as his reason for
taking no apprentice, his desire that no one else should ever know or
perpetuate his methods.

It has been said, and, I believe, on good authority, that he was once
offered the sum of 1,000 pounds for his "secret," a temptation that,
despite his great poverty, he steadfastly resisted.

Doctor Sellè tells me that he distinctly remembers seeing Dodd cut
out a bow from the rough plank with a curiously constructed double

This is very remarkable as none of the bow makers now working know of
such a tool, or can conceive the possibility of using one. Whether
this may have any connexion with the much talked of "secret," it is
impossible to say. It is probably another of those points in the
history of the bow that seem doomed to remain shrouded in mystery.

Doctor Sellè remembers seeing Dodd walking home many times with his
pockets full of oyster shells begged from various stalls.

From these he used to cut out the pearl for the slides and
ornamentation on his bows. This accounts for the characteristic
plainness of these features of his work. He was often at a loss for
silver for the mountings, and the Doctor says it was highly diverting
to him when a boy to hear the old housekeeper soundly rating Dodd for
melting down _another_ of her metal spoons.

One great drawback to Dodd's success was his partiality for the
"flowing bowl." As the Doctor epigramatically expressed it in the
notes he supplied to A. Vidal, "he was very regular in his
irregularities." Vidal's translation at this point is worthy of note.
One is surprised to find that Dodd would pay four daily visits to
"les voitures et chevaux publics"--"the public carriages and horses."

The mind fails to grasp the Gallic conception of the eccentric
Englishman whose nationally characteristic love of horseflesh should
cause him so frequently to inspect the omnibus of the period.

One shudders to think what Vidal would have done if Dodd's favourite
house of call had been the Star and Garter instead of the _Coach and

His last years were spent in great poverty; in fact, he subsisted
almost entirely on the charity of a few violinists and amateurs who
appreciated his genius. He ultimately died of bronchitis in the
Infirmary of Richmond Workhouse, and was buried at Kew; not, as has
been elsewhere stated, at Richmond.

I do not think a man of such a taciturn, secretive disposition, would
have been likely readily to adopt the methods and copy the work of
another maker. As has been shown by the reproductions of bows I have
given so far, there has been apparent a converging tendency to the
modern design of head all through. The Tourte head is undoubtedly the
most beautiful, the most perfect in every way. His was the master
hand that _did_ what others had been trying to do. Dodd, working, as
I believe, quite independently, came very near it. A comparison of
the Dodd bows shown in Plates III. and IV., with the Tourtes in
Plates V. and VI., will make clear a very significant fact. Dodd's
work--fine as it is--is distinctly _earlier_ in spirit than that of
his great French rival. Yet they were contemporaries--in point of
fact Dodd was a few years later than Tourte.

[Illustration: PLATE V.]

[Illustration: PLATE VI.]

Then, as regards the _cambre_, Dodd followed on in the primitive
school and cut his bows at once to the required sweep: Tourte, in
addition to perfecting the dimensions and design, instituted an
entirely new principle based on scientific deductions. His bows were
all cut straight, and the "spring" was produced by judicious heating
of the fibres.

Another thing one has to consider in this connexion is the relations
that existed between England and France at this period. I think most
people will admit that they were "strained," and that there were many
obstacles in the way of free intercourse between the two countries.
The war with France commenced when Dodd was twenty-one years of age,
and though Tourte was five years older he had spent his youth firstly
in the pursuit of a vocation entirely removed from bow making, and
secondly in experiments lasting some considerable time before he
commenced producing the perfect work that has made his name one to be
extolled and reverenced by all wielders of that magic wand, the
"fiddle-stick." When one thinks of the roundabout way such a thing
would have to travel from Paris to London at this period, it seems
highly probable that Dodd may not have seen a specimen of Tourte's
work until he was about sixty.

What a marvellous thing a fine Tourte is! What a revelation the first
time a player handles one! When I have an opportunity of playing on a
Strad with a Tourte I can never decide which causes me the most
delight. There is an indefinable something about a Tourte that seems
to increase the player's dexterity of manipulation to an
extraordinary extent. No matter how used one may be to a certain bow:
no matter how expert one may be in the execution of staccato and
arpeggio passages, the first time a Tourte is tried one realizes that
hitherto there has been an effort necessary for the adequate
production of such effects, whereas now the bow seems endowed with a
consciousness quite _en rapport_ with that of the player, and
difficulties vanish magically. It seems voluntarily to carry into
effect the player's wishes without any physical interposition

It is like riding a thoroughbred in the "Row" after driving a donkey
across Hampstead Heath. Not that I or any of my readers would think
of indulging in any such distressingly vulgar exercise as the last
named. It may serve, however, to conjure up in the mind a
sufficiently forcible simile.

Apart from their many wonderful qualities as bows, they are quite
exceptional as works of art. Study the four heads shown in Plates V.
and VI., and note the tender sweep of the outer line; full of force
and delicacy combined. See, too, how it is supported by the
harmonious inner line, a thought more rigid, and yet full of grace.
To become an expert in bows requires years of continual observation,
for the slight differences in line are too subtle to be apparent to
those who are not constantly looking for and studying them. But I
think anyone, even "ye meanest capacitie in ye world"--to quote good
old Roger North--will be able to appreciate the contrast between the
bow heads in Plates III. and IV., and those in Plates V. and VI. It
is in the two 'cello bow heads that the greatest resemblance is seen.
But even here one can easily note the unwonted massiveness, almost
amounting to clumsiness, in that of Dodd; while the Tourte is full of
lightness, strength and vigour. There is more or less of sluggishness
observable in most of the preceding bows, but the Tourte is _awake_;
it lives!

It is at times of great interest to note by what slender threads of
chance great consequences may be suspended. Take the family of the
Tourtes for instance. We find the father a worthy craftsman making
bows as good, and possibly better, than those of his contemporaries.
He, obeying a natural law of custom, educated his eldest son in his
own craft, and probably looked to him to perpetuate those
excellencies in design and finish that had brought him fame.
François, the younger son, was not forgotten though, and the father
bethought him of some useful industry at which he might earn a
living, and decided on clockmaking as the most suitable. Now mark the
erratic workings of fate. The eldest son, from whom so much was
expected, proved a comparative failure, inasmuch as that, instead of
progressing, his work was distinctly inferior to that of his
father.[1] François, on the other hand, became tired of clockmaking
after eight years' ill-remunerated grind, and turned his attention to
the family trade.

[Footnote 1: The few fine bows by "Tourte-l'ainé," as he was called,
I should think were made after his brother's success in this

He, like Dodd, was totally uneducated, but had great gifts of
perception and judgment.

At this time violin playing was becoming every day more distinctive
and prominent. Great players were beginning to understand the _chiar
oscuro_ of music. They were learning expression.

There was in general amongst violinists an anticipation of the grand,
yet simple law set forth by De Beriot in his Violin School that the
human voice was the pure archetype upon which all _played_ music
should be modelled.

It was found that the violin was capable of simulating all the subtle
inflexions of song, whether of passion or tenderness, and players
sighed for an ideal bow that should be tongue-like in its response to
the performer's emotion. A bow that should at once be flexible to
"whisper soft nothings in my lady's ear"; strong--to sound a
clarion-blast of defiance; and, withal, be ready for any
_coquetterie_ or _badinage_ that might suit its owner's whim. This is
what François Tourte, the starving clockmaker, gave them.

We fiddlers have to be very thankful that the master clockmakers of
Paris were not more liberal to their employés!

Illiterate as he was he at once grasped all the points of art and
physics involved, and commenced diligently experimenting with a view
to solving the various problems that presented themselves to his

To gain facility in the manipulation of his tools, he made countless
bows from old barrel staves; he could not afford to make his first
attempts on anything better. When he had attained sufficient skill in
the actual workmanship, and had satisfied himself as to the most
suitable form, he set to work investigating the question of material.
He tried all kinds of wood, and at last decided that the red wood of
Pernambuco, then largely imported into Europe for dyeing purposes,
was the best. To obtain this in sufficient quantities was no easy
matter, for the Anglo-French wars were interfering seriously with
international commerce; a circumstance that rendered this material
unusually expensive. Then the nature of this wood is not by any means
a bow maker's ideal. Billets and logs amounting to several tons in
weight may be examined before a piece is found sufficiently free from
knots and cracks, and of straight enough grain to be suitable for the
purpose. However, genius _and_ a capacity for taking infinite pains
overcame all difficulties, and we now have bows worthy of the
greatest masterpieces of Cremona.

How little are the workings of genius understood by the "painstaking"
ones. They cannot conceive the suddenness of inspiration--the almost
instantaneous grasp of essentials that precedes the plodding
mechanical work necessary even to genius.

The results of "infinite pains," or of genius alone are equally
unsatisfactory. It is only where these qualities are combined in
perfect balance that true greatness can be achieved.

In the case of Tourte we have a remarkable example of this
combination. His genius made him grasp spontaneously the qualities
required, and his capacity for taking infinite pains helped him to
produce the perfect bow. He it was who determined finally the length
and weight of a bow, its equilibrium, the angle of the hair necessary
for a good "attack," the length and breadth of the hair and sundry
other points that, prior to 1775, had been quite undecided.

The mean length of a violin bow as fixed by Tourte is from 74 to 75
centimètres (29.134 to 29.528 inches English); that of a viola bow is
74 centimètres (29.134 inches), and a 'cello bow 72 to 73 centimètres
(28.347 to 28.740). Many people imagine that the plates of silver or
gold with which the nut of a bow is inlaid are nothing more than mere
ornamentation. But their first purpose is distinctly one of utility,
which is as it should be in a work of art; superfluous decoration has
no beauty for an artist. It is by means of these metal "loadings" at
the heel that the weight of the head is counteracted and the exact
point of equilibrium determined. The centre of gravity in a violin
bow should be at 19 centimètres (7.48 inches) from the nut; in a
'cello bow at 175 to 180 millimètres (6.89 to 7.087 inches) from the

Concerning the geometric proportions of the Tourte bows, I cannot do
better than quote Bishop's able translation of the explanation given
by Fétis in his notice of A. Stradivarius.

[Illustration: FIG. 33.]

"The medium length of a bow, to the head exclusively, is 0^m, 700
(27.56 inches).

"The bow comprises a cylindrical or prismatic part of uniform
dimensions, the length of which is 0^m, 110 (4.33 inches). When this
portion is cylindrical, its diameter is 0^m, 008-6/10 (.34 inch).

"From this cylindrical or prismatic portion the diameter of the bow
decreases up to the head, where it is reduced to 0^m, 005-3/10 (.21
inches). This gives a difference of 0^m, 003-3/10 of a millimètre
(.13 inch) between the diameters of the extremities; from whence it
follows that the stick comprises ten points where its diameter is
necessarily reduced by 3/10 of a millimètre (.012 inch) reckoning
from the cylindrical portion.

"After proving by a great number of Tourte's bows that these ten
points are not only found always at decreasing distances on the same
stick, but also that the distances are perceptibly the same, and that
the situations of the points are identical on different bows compared
together, M. Vuillaume sought to ascertain whether the positions of
the ten points could not be obtained by a geometrical construction,
by which they might be found with certainty; and by which,
consequently, bows might be made whose good condition should be
always settled _à priori_. This he attained in the following manner.
At the extremity of a right line A B, equal to 0^m, 700 (27.56
inches), that is to say the length of the bow, raise a perpendicular
A C, equal to the length of the cylindrical portion, namely 0^m, 110
(4.33 inches).

"At the extremity B of the same line, raise another perpendicular B
D, of the length 0^m, 022 (.866 inches) and unite the upper
extremities of these two perpendiculars, or ordinates by a right line
C D, so that the two lines A B and C D, may lie at a certain
inclination to each other.

"Take the length 0^m, 110 (4.33 inches) of the ordinate A C with the
compasses, and set it off on the line A B, from A to _e_: from the
point thus obtained, draw another ordinate (parallel to A C and
perpendicular to A B), until it meets the line C D.

"Between these two ordinates A C and _e f_--the latter of which is
necessarily less than the former--lies the cylindrical portion of the
bow, whose diameter, as before stated, is 0^m, 008-6/10 (.34 inch).

"Then take the length of the ordinate last obtained, _e f_, and set
it off, as before, on the line A B, from _f_ to _g_, and at the point
_g_ draw a third ordinate _g h_, the length of which must also be set
off on the line A B, to determine thereon a new point _i_, from which
to draw the fourth ordinate, _i j_: the length of which, likewise,
when set off on the line A B, determines the point where the fifth
ordinate _k l_ is to be drawn. The latter, in like manner, determines
the sixth _m n_, and so of the others, to the last but one _y z_.

"The points _g i k m o q s u w y_ so obtained, starting from the
point _e_, are those where the diameter of the bow is successively
reduced 3/10 of a millimètre (.012 inch). Now, these points have been
determined by the successively decreasing lengths of the ordinates
drawn from the same points, and their respective distances
progressively decrease from the point _e_ to the point B.

"If we subject these data to calculation, we shall find that the
profile of the bow is represented by a logarithmic curve, of which
the ordinates increase in arithmetical progression; while the
abscissæ increase in geometrical progression; and lastly, that the
curvature of the profile will be expressed by the equation

  y = - 3.11 + 2, 57 log. _x_;

and, in varying _x_ from 175 to 165 tenths of a millimètre, the
corresponding values of _y_ will be those of the radii (or
semi-diameters) of the transverse circular section of the bow at
corresponding points in the axis."



I have spoken at length of Dodd and Tourte--two names that stand out
in the history of the bow with remarkable prominence--and before
proceeding with the general list of bow makers, great and small, I
propose to speak of Peccatte and Lupot, whose genius was inferior
only to that of Tourte in that they were followers rather than

François Lupot was a brother of Nicolas Lupot the violin maker. He,
however, devoted all his energies to the manufacture of bows, and, in
his best work, is considered by many to nearly equal Tourte. But
unfortunately the standard of excellence in Lupot's bows varies to a
considerable extent, and, while some are truly magnificent others are
very inferior. This is a fact that cannot be too widely made known in
the interests of intending purchasers. The guarantee of genuineness
alone is not sufficient for anyone desiring a bow for use, and,
unless he has the requisite knowledge and experience himself he
should always first submit a bow to a professional man of repute for
his judgment as to its qualities for a player. Many of Lupot's sticks
are stamped "LUPOT," sometimes in two or three places, but it has
been doubted whether he did this himself or not. In general it is
thought that it was done afterwards by dealers. This is certainly the
case with the few Tourtes that are stamped with their maker's name,
for it is an ascertained fact that the Tourtes never stamped their
work. There are only two instances on record of Tourte marking a
stick, and in each case it consisted of a minute label glued into the
slot bearing the following inscription: "Cet archet a été fait par
Tourte en 1824, âge de soixante-dix-sept ans." (This bow was made by
Tourte in 1824, aged 77 years).

An important addition, said to have been instituted by Lupot, was the
metal plate which lines the groove in the nut and prevents the
wearing away of the nut by friction with the stick.

In Plate VII. I give two examples of Lupot's work. Here will be seen
all the tenderness of line characteristic of Tourte, albeit that they
lack somewhat of his force. The workmanship in these two bows is
superb, and they are also delightful to play with, being well
balanced and of controllable flexibility. This is a point in a bow
that is frequently overlooked. Many imagine that flexibility alone is
the chief desideratum, and bows have been shown to me almost
indiarubber-like in their pliancy; the owners expecting me to wax
enthusiastic over this--to my mind--serious defect. As a matter of
fact, flexibility and pliancy are not correct definitions of a bow's
chief quality, as they amount to weakness. What is really meant is
elasticity, by which is conveyed not only the property of yielding to
pressure but also that of speedily recovering its normal state. We
sometimes hear a player in testing bows say that such a one has too
much "life" in it; thereby implying that its action is largely out of
the performer's control, a condition usually attributable to an
excess of flexibility.

[Illustration: PLATE VII.]

As a contrast to the Lupot bows in Plate VII., I give two examples of
Dominique Peccatte, Plate VIII. Here we have forcibleness and energy
to a most marked extent, yet there is a certain grace withal, the
extreme squareness of the outer line does not offend the eye as in
those of Dodd.

[Illustration: PLATE VIII.]

Peccatte, like François Tourte, started life in an occupation far
removed from that which made him famous. His father was a barber at
Mirecourt, where Dominique was born 1810. Wielding the razor not
proving congenial, he adopted the prevailing industry of the town and
became a maker of violins and bows; in the latter he became
exceptionally expert. In the year 1826 J. B. Vuillaume was in want of
a talented workman and wrote to his brother, who was established in
Mirecourt, to find him one. The result of these enquiries was that
Dominique Peccatte came to Paris and remained for eleven years with
Vuillaume. In 1837 François Lupot died and Peccatte took over the
business. Ten years later he returned to his native place, though
retaining his business connexion with Paris until his death, which
took place in 1874. Many of his bows are unstamped, or bear the stamp
of Vuillaume, but great numbers of them are stamped "PECCATTE,"
occasionally with the word "PARIS" on the opposite side of the stick.

Much confusion has arisen from the fact that in some specimens the
stamp has only a single "T," the result, probably, of illiteracy on
the part of the maker.

The third in Plate VIII. is a bow by Panormo. His work is quite
distinct from that of any other maker; but one must not run away with
the idea that he affected an unjustifiable singularity, for the flat
sides and angular facets of the Panormo heads have a logical basis,
being in point of fact the natural continuation of the octagonal

Indebted as we are to the makers and scientists of France for
bringing the indispensable "fiddlestick" to such a degree of
perfection, we must not overlook the claims of certain of our own
countrymen for recognition in the same field of art.

The late mathematician and musical amateur, W. S. B. Woolhouse, no
less than Fétis, contributed greatly to a full understanding of the
essential properties of a bow on the part of those whose office it is
to produce the actual instrument. Woolhouse laid great stress on a
point overlooked by many other students of the subject, the same
being that the success of a bow depends quite as much on its purity
as a vibrating body as does the violin.

Unless the bow is so adjusted in its weight and proportions that it
vibrates with absolute uniformity throughout its entire length it is
useless to an artist.

Bows are "false" frequently in the same way that strings are.
Inequalities of finish, imperceptible to our ordinary senses, will
render a perfect "_staccato_" from end to end impossible, just as it
is impossible to obtain true fifths in every part of a violin's
compass if one of the strings be slightly wanting in absolute
cylindricity. I speak specially of "_staccato_," as that form of
bowing suffers perhaps more than any other from faulty bows; but any
form of bowing that calls for special dexterity will betray the
inefficiency of a bow.

It is of great interest to compare the calculations of Woolhouse with
those of Fétis, and I will here quote the results obtained by the

"If measurements be taken in inches, and parts of an inch, and _h_
denote the distance of any part of the bow from the head, the
diameter of the stick in that locality, supposing the bow to be
round, may be readily calculated from the following formula:--

  Diameter = .2 [log.(_h_ + 7.25) - 9.8100]

"From this formula the numbers given in the last column of the
following table were calculated."

|   _Distance from Head of Bow in Inches_.   |  Diameter   |
+--------------+--------------+--------------+ in parts of |
|    Violin    |     Viola    | Violoncello  |  an inch.   |
|       0      |              |              |     .210    |
|       2      |       0      |              |     .230    |
|       4      |       1-1/2  |       0      |     .247    |
|       6      |       3      |       1      |     .262    |
|       9      |       5      |       3      |     .280    |
|      13      |       8      |       5-1/2  |     .300    |
|      18      |      11-1/2  |       9      |     .318    |
|      23      |      15      |      12      |     .333    |
|              |      19      |      16      |     .348    |
|              |      23      |      20      |     .360    |
|              |              |      24      |     .370    |

These measurements, of course, only extend to the commencement of the
cylindrical portion.

Woolhouse made a small gauge of ivory, based on the above
measurements, which proved of great practical value in examining
bows. The measurements he obtained by the above calculation apply to
wood of medium density. He says, "For close and dense wood the
dimensions should be somewhat diminished, or, what amounts
practically to the same thing, the distance from the head should, for
dense wood, be increased by half an inch, or an inch, as the case may
be, before applying the gauge." He then gives a table of inclusive
weights of violin, viola and violoncello bows.

|                     _Weight of Bow for_           |
|         +-------------+-------------+-------------+
|         |   Violin    |    Viola    | Violoncello |
|         +-------------+-------------+-------------+
|         |   grains    |   grains    |   grains    |
| Light   |     850     |    1,000    |    1,150    |
| Medium  |     900     |    1,050    |    1,200    |
| Heavy   |     950     |    1,100    |    1,250    |

In speaking of the adjustment of the spring or _cambre_, Woolhouse
gives a means of obtaining the exact curve that does not strike me as
being sufficiently reliable for the purpose. He suggests that "an
auxiliary bow be made of the proper dimensions, but so as to be quite
straight; then, on being haired and screwed up in the ordinary way,
it will show, in an inverted position, the exact curve to which other
bows should be set." But "screwed up in the ordinary way" appears to
me to admit of too much latitude of application: it is not possible
to divine to what extent this auxiliary bow _is_ to be screwed, and
if _this_ is left to the judgment of the maker, why not set the
_cambre_ by judgment and save the trouble of the straight auxiliary

I will now proceed to give an alphabetical list of bow makers which I
trust is as complete as possible. I have endeavoured to leave out all
purely factory makers in favour of those who are personally engaged
in the manufacture of bows. There are some in the list who are not
actual makers, but who carefully supervise all the bows issued under
their name. Such work is always distinctive and differs greatly from
that issued by firms who order bows by the gross from foreign
factories, and then stamp their own name on the stick. This is a
class of bow that usually looks very pretty and tempting to the young
lady amateur, but is sadly lacking in balance and spring; what little
there may be of the latter at first soon disappears, for it is quite
impossible for any firm to turn out thoroughly efficient bows at the
extraordinarily low prices one sees quoted. One must remember that
for a bow to be of any real utility, the material, the workmanship,
and the fittings must be of the very best possible description.



A noticeable feature in the following list is the great preponderance
of French makers. Curiously enough the list of bow makers commences

ADAM, JEAN DOMINIQUE. He was born at Mirecourt in 1795, and died at
the age of sixty-nine. He is said by some to have been the son of one
Jean Adams, a bow maker of the eighteenth century. How far this may
be true is impossible to say. The difference in the spelling of the
name may not be a great matter, but there is no explanation
forthcoming. The majority of his bows are very commonplace, but
occasionally he "made an effort" and produced something out of his
ordinary run, and these he invariably stamped ADAM. Of these the
octagonal sticks are most highly prized.

ALLEN, SAMUEL. Born in Cornwall in 1858; was originally intended for
a schoolmaster. Worked at several mechanical trades and being
musical, he naturally turned his attention to fiddles, and
ultimately, bows. Messrs. W. E. Hill and Sons employed him as a bow
maker for several years. Although he held a high position in their
workshop his independent nature was not satisfied until 1891, when he
set up in business on his own account as a violin and bow maker and

BAROUX, Paris. Early half of the present century. Occasionally made
some very excellent bows, but the general average of his work is only

BAUSCH AND SON, Leipsic. Middle of present century. The bows issued
by this firm are valued highly in Germany. They are well made and, as
a rule, strong.

BAZIN, GUSTAVE, Mirecourt. A very capable workman, some of his 'cello
bows are excellent.

BETTS. Born 1755, died 1823. Worked in London as a violin maker and
dealer. The bows bearing his name were made by Edward Dodd and W.

BRAGLIA, ANTONIO, Modena. Beginning of this century. I have not seen
any of this maker's work.

BROWN, JAMES (Junior), London. Born 1786, died 1860. A clever maker,
worked much for the trade, but turned out some good sticks, stamped
with his name.

CHANOT, ADOLPH, Paris. Brother of the late Georges Chanot of Wardour
Street. Born about 1828. Worked with Henry of Paris and has turned
out some magnificent sticks. His death, which took place suddenly, at
the age of twenty-nine, was due to an aneurism. Had he lived he would
undoubtedly have taken a high position in the esteem of bow wielders.

DARBEY, GEORGE, Bristol. Died March, 1921.

DODD, EDWARD, London and Sheffield. Born 1705, died 1810. One seldom
finds a bow bearing his name as he was mostly employed by others,
such as Betts, Forster, Norris, etc.

DODD, JAMES. Worked in London in 1864; it is doubtful if any of his
work can be identified as he almost invariably worked for others.

DODD, JOHN. Born in 1752, died in 1839. This was _the_ English
bow-maker _par excellence_. For fuller details of his life and work
see Chapter VI.

DODD, THOMAS, London, 1786-1823. He differed from the others of this
name inasmuch as he did not make for others but employed others to
make for him.

EURY, Paris. Early part of the present century. His bows are
universally esteemed, some of them being exceptionally fine. He did
not always stamp his bows, but when he did it was generally under the
"lapping" or, as some say, the "whipping."

FONCLAUSE, JOSEPH. Born in 1800, died in 1865. He was an excellent
maker. He first learnt the art of bow-making from Pajeot at
Mirecourt, and ultimately worked for J. B. Vuillaume at Paris. Later
on he started on his own account. His bows from this period are
usually marked with his own name.

FORSTER, WILLIAM. A noted English violin maker who was born near the
middle of the last century. One now and then meets with a bow bearing
his name. These are all the work of E. Dodd, W. Tubbs, or some other
skilled workmen in his employ.

GAND AND BERNARDEL, Paris. A modern firm whose staff make some
remarkably fine bows. They are mostly stamped with the name of the
firm; but as they make bows to the order of various other firms there
are many examples of their work either unstamped or bearing
fictitious names.

HARMAND. Worked in Mirecourt about 1835. Made some fairly good bows.

HENRY. Born in 1812 at Mirecourt where he first learnt his craft. He
worked there till his twenty-fifth year, when he went to Paris. Here
he was employed by Chanot first, and later, by Peccatte. When
Peccatte left Paris, Henry entered into partnership with Simon,
another workman in Peccatte's employ who had succeeded to the
latter's Paris shop. This partnership lasted till 1851. He then
worked alone. He was a magnificent workman and has produced some
splendid bows. I have in mind a 'cello bow of his shown me by J.
Chanot that is a marvel of strength and elasticity. He died in 1870.
Sometimes his bows are stamped "Henry, Paris."

HILL, W. E., AND SONS, London. Contemporary. This firm issue some
very fine bows which are made in their own workshops by expert
workmen trained under the personal supervision of Mr. A. Hill.

JOSEPHS. American, contemporary. A very clever maker and repairer of
violins and bows. I have seen some of his work that was excellent.

KITTEL, St. Petersburg. Modern. I have never come across a specimen
of this maker's work. Fleming states that they "are about as nearly
equal to Tourte's as those of any maker that has lived since his
day." It is a pity they are not more plentiful if this is the case.

KNOPF, HEINRICH, and KNOPF, LUDWIG, Berlin, contemporary. Fairly good
bows made chiefly to the order of other firms.

LAFLEUR, JACQUES. Born at Nancy in 1760, died in Paris 1832. One of
the best of the old makers. Some continental authorities place him on
a par with Tourte. Those of his make that I have handled are
certainly very fine indeed.

LAFLEUR, JOSEPH RENÉ, Paris. Born in 1812, died in 1874. He was the
son of Jacques Lafleur and inherited much of his father's skill.

LAMY, ALFRED JOSEPH. Born in 1850 at Mirecourt. He was an excellent
maker. An interesting feature is that he learnt his craft at a
remarkably early age. He worked first with Gautrot at
Chateau-Fleurry. He went, like the rest, to Paris in 1877, and worked
for Voirin for some eight years. At Voirin's death he started in
business for himself.

LUPOT, FRANÇOIS. Born at Orleans 1774, died at Paris in 1837. For
fuller particulars of this maker see Chapter VII.

MAIRE, NICOLAS, Mirecourt and Paris. Was a pupil of Jacques Lafleur
but never did any work of great distinction.

MIQUEL, EMILE. A contemporary Mirecourt maker.

NÜRNBERGER, KARL ALBERT, Markneukirchen. Contemporary. A most
finished workman and a clever imitator of the styles of various
well-known makers. Has worked much for the trade. His best examples
are frequently stamped with his name, and amongst these will be found
bows which are fit to rank with some of the finest productions of the
French school. There are other makers of the same family engaged in
bow making.

PAJEOT. Worked in Mirecourt in the early part of the present century.
An excellent maker. He taught Joseph Fonclause who is known to have
made some of the finest bows bearing Vuillaume's stamp.

PANORMO. The quaint faceted bows of which I have given an example in
Plate VIII. were made, as far as I have been able to ascertain, by
George Louis Panormo, in the early part of this century. Details
concerning this family are neither plentiful nor clear, but it is
fairly certain that this bow maker was a son of Vincent Panormo of
Palermo, Paris, Ireland, etc., who first made the name famous in the
fiddle world. A description of the characteristics of his work will
be found in Chapter VII.

Fleming mentions a George Louis Panormo as a _modern_ maker in
London, but I do not know of such a maker. I am informed on excellent
authority that all the Panormo bows were made in Paris.

PECCATTE, DOMINIQUE. Born in 1810 and died in 1874 at Mirecourt.
Details of his life and work are given in Chapter VII.

PECCATTE, FRANÇOIS ("PECCATTE JEUNE"), Paris. Born Mirecourt, 1820,
died Paris, 1855. A good workman, whose best bows, though not well
known in this country, are of nearly equal merit with his brother
Dominique's. He worked for ten years with Vuillaume. Some of his bows
are stamped with his name, the lettering of the stamp differing
slightly from that employed by his more famous brother.

PECCATTE, CHARLES, Paris. Son of François. Born Mirecourt, 1850. A
good workman, but not equal to the other makers of the name.

PELLEGRI, Italian, modern; neat workmanship.

PERSOIT. Worked in Paris about 1828 to 1841. He was employed largely
by Vuillaume and most of his bows bear the latter's name, but he
occasionally worked on his own account and then his work was stamped

PRICE, London. Contemporary, excellent maker. Pupil of Tubbs.

PFRETSCHNER, Markneukirchen. Contemporary makers, whose best work is
of high merit and finish, though not quite equal to that of A.

POISON, Paris. A really magnificent workman. He was employed largely
by the firm of Gand and Bernardel, and the majority of his bows bear
their stamp. One occasionally meets with a bow by this maker bearing
his own name.

PUPINAT, Swiss. Middle of the present century.

RAKOWSCH, Paris. Modern.

RAU, AUGUST, Markneukirchen. Born 1866. A first-class workman. Worked
much for Weichold of Dresden.

RONCHINI, Italian. Modern.

SCHWARTZ, GEORG FRIEDRICH, Strasburg. Born 1785, died 1849. Made some
excellent bows marked "Swartz, Strasburg."

SIMON, P. Born at Mirecourt in 1808. Worked for D. Peccatte in Paris
in 1838. After this he worked for Vuillaume for seven years. He then
set up on his own account for some two years, and when D. Peccatte
left Paris he took over the business in partnership with Henry. Three
years later and he was again alone. His workmanship is always good
and betrays Peccatte's influence.

SIRJEAN. French. Early part of the present century.

SÜSS, JOHANN CHRISTIAN, Markneukirchen. Born 1829. Died 1900. One of
the best makers Germany has produced. Imitated the style of Tourte.

TADOLINI, IGNAZIO. Born at Bologna in 1791, died at Modena in 1873.
Was established with his brother at the last-named town. Made some
very fine bows but was not equal.

TOURNATORIS. French. Latter part of last century.

TOURTE. Eighteenth century, Paris. One of the best bow makers of the
older type, chiefly known as the father of François Tourte.

TOURTE, SAVÉRE. Eldest son of the preceding and called "Tourte
l'ainé," Paris.

TOURTE, FRANÇOIS, Paris. Brother of the above, the greatest of all
bow makers. Born 1747, died 1838. For fuller particulars of his life
and work see Chapter VI (Plates V. and VI.).

TUBBS, W., London. Early nineteenth century. Worked for Forster,
Betts, Norris and Barnes. He was taught bow making by Edward Dodd.

TUBBS, JAMES. Son of the preceding. Born 1835. Died April, 1921. Many
of his bows are graduated according to a system based on the
calculations of W. S. B. Woolhouse, the mathematician (see Chapter
VII). The Tubbs bows have qualities distinctly their own and when a
player becomes thoroughly used to a "Tubbs" he rarely feels
comfortable with even the finest bows of another make. Conversely, a
player in the habit of using constantly any other bow experiences a
slight feeling of strangeness on first trying a "Tubbs." The
workmanship in a Tubbs bow is almost unique in its perfection. And
there is a characteristic English solidity about the secure way in
which all the fittings are adjusted. I have been an eye witness of
the care and attention paid by his son, Mr. A. Tubbs to the work of
repairing a bow that to the casual observer would seem past all
treatment. His brother, C. E. Tubbs, was a good bow maker, but
somewhat erratic.

VIGNERON, A. A modern French maker who turns out some extremely high
class work.

VOIRIN, NICHOLAS FRANÇOIS. Another of the great Parisian bow makers.
Learnt the craft in his native town, Mirecourt, where he was born in
1833. At the age of twenty-two he was employed by Vuillaume, with
whom he worked for some fifteen years. It is believed that the finest
bows bearing Vuillaume's name were made by Voirin. Some of his bows
that were exhibited by Vuillaume in the Paris Exhibition in 1867
received honourable mention. I should say his work is more equal than
that of any other maker. Of course, as with other popular makers,
there are to be found plenty of worthless bows bearing the forged
stamp, "N. F. Voirin, à Paris." His death, which took place in Paris
in 1885, was very pathetic. He was walking along the Faubourg
Montmartre on his way to the abode of a customer to whom he was
taking a bow newly finished, when he suddenly fell down in an
apoplectic fit. Fortunately his name and address, "Bouloi 3," was on
the parcel containing the bow, and he was thus able to be taken home
without delay. But how sad a home-coming! brought home in a dying
condition to his wife whom he had left but a few minutes before in
apparently good health. He died the same night.

VUILLAUME, J. B., Paris. This strange mixture of cunning and ability
will be ever remembered as the craftiest of craftsmen. An undoubted
genius as a violin maker, yet with all the tricks and subterfuges of
the veriest charlatan. Concerning the real value of the historical
details furnished to Fétis by Vuillaume I have spoken in Chapter V.
Though it is possible that he had considerable practical knowledge of
bow making, I do not think he actually made any bows. He exercised
great judgment, however, in the employment of skilled workmen, whom
he kept as a rule for a number of years--a fact that is sufficient to
stamp him as a good and considerate employer. The most noted makers
who worked for him were Fonclause, Peccatte, Persoit, Simon and
Voirin. It will thus be seen that the majority of the bows bearing
Vuillaume's name are of the best possible workmanship and quality.
Unfortunately there are in this case also a number of forgeries on
the market. The most noteworthy features in connexion with Vuillaume,
as regards bows, are his curious inventions--the steel bow, the fixed
nut, the curved ferrule, and the self-hairing bow. Of the steel bow,
Mr. Heron-Allen says he has "never met with a specimen of so
ponderous an eccentricity" except the one in South Kensington Museum.
I have come across a number, and as they are tubular they are not at
all as ponderous as the name of the material suggests. In fact I
remember one that was very pleasant to play with. They are nearly
always lacking in balance. The fixed nut was the result of an idea
that the player should always have the same length of hair at his
service. The curved ferrule was also a mistake, the idea being that
it would be good to get a broad surface of hair on the string at the
heel. The self-hairing bow was ingenious but of no practical value.
These patents are detailed more fully in Part II. Vuillaume was born
at Mirecourt on October 7th, 1798, and was the son of the carrier
between that town and Nancy. He died at Paris in 1875.

WEICHOLD, Dresden. An excellent firm, who put their name on a
superior class of "trade bow."

WILSON, JOHN JAMES THOMPSON, London. Born March, 1864, worked in his
youth with James Tubbs, and later with C. E. Tubbs. Has worked much
for the trade.

With this list of bow makers ends the historical section of these
papers. As I have already explained, a perfect history of the bow is
quite impossible to obtain, and all I have attempted has been to lay
before my readers the facts I have accumulated. I have carefully
abstained from promulgating any theories of my own with regard to the
evolution of the bow (save in such cases where certain conclusions
have been forced upon me by the evidence found) as from the
conflicting nature of the records, I consider no one theory to be
sufficient. There seem to have been a number of separate influences
at work, the ultimate convergence thereof resulting in the production
of the perfect bow as we now know it. If I have been unable to make a
clear exposition of the bow's progress, I trust I have succeeded in
showing the unprincipled elimination of contradictory details
resorted to by earlier writers in order to achieve this desired end.
And I hope it will be understood that this has not been done in the
spirit of the small boy who, disappointed in his attempt to build a
sand castle, derives an alleviative gratification from the
destruction of the more imposing erections of his playmates.




It is curious to pass in review the strange events--the causes,
heterogeneous and improbable, that have produced many of the most
important results in the history of man. What fiddler, for instance,
when indulging in the customary smoke after an evening's "grind,"
realises his indebtedness for half his enjoyment to an unscrupulous
Genoese pirate of the fifteenth century? Yet, seeing that in addition
to wooden nutmegs, banjoes and other blessings of civilization
emanating from the New World, America gives us both tobacco and
Brazil wood (the only material of which it is possible to make a
thoroughly good bow), I think that, if I may liken the violinist's
mind to a temple of many shrines erected to all those who have
contributed to his welfare and enjoyment, there should be one niche
reserved for Christopher Columbus of egg-balancing fame.

It is also of interest to note how, as soon as violinists were ready
for a perfect bow, François Tourte appeared on the scene and provided
the much desired article. How he experimentalized on common
sugar-barrel wood I have already set down in its proper place. This
was, of course, to gain proficiency in the use of his new tools. In
his search after a wood that should contain the essential qualities
of strength, lightness and spring, he made bows of many kinds of
wood, but was not satisfied until he tried the red wood imported for
dyeing purposes from Pernambuco. I am afraid there are few who
reflect on the significance of the fact that the exact wood required
_did_ actually exist. Formerly the bow-maker had to buy the wood in
the rough state just as shipped over, and then would begin the weary
work of selecting those pieces suitable for his purpose. As a matter
of fact they are few and far between, for this wood is particularly
full of twists, knots and splits. Now this is done for him by firms
who buy the raw material, select that with the desired straight grain
and cut it into square rods ready for the craftsmen to work up into
bows. A few years ago bow makers demanded very dense wood under the
impression that it would be advantageous to have them as slender as
possible, for the denser the wood the thinner must be the stick to
preserve a normal weight. The fallacy of this method, however, soon
made itself apparent, for, though you may thin down a stick _ad
libitum_, the head _must_ be a certain height and breadth,
consequently these bows were all more or less top heavy. A much
lighter variety of wood therefore is now being used, and I must say
the appearance of some recent bows by our best English makers is
extremely fine; there is a greater sense of proportion apparent to
the eye as well as to the hand.

Some of the cheap German and French trade bows are made of what the
dealers call Brazilette wood, a wood somewhat allied to the true
Brazil wood, but totally lacking in spring or firmness. I wonder
whether violinists often realise when they take up a bow how many
remote parts of the earth have contributed to this little magic wand!
Wood from the West, ivory from the East, mother-of-pearl from the
sea, gold or silver from Eastern, Western, or, it may be, Antipodean
mines; and, when we add thereto the hair from the horse's tail, we
levy a tax upon the three kingdoms, vegetable, animal and mineral, to
minister to our enjoyment.

As much discrimination has to be exercised in selecting the hair as
in the case with the wood, for it is essential that every hair in the
bow be absolutely cylindrical and of equal thickness throughout.
These have to be sought for very carefully and are not so plentiful
as one would suppose, for the shape of a hair is regulated by that of
the pore from which it grows and these are seldom circular, many
being flat on one side, some, even, square or triangular. It has been
estimated that the proportion of suitable hairs is not more than ten
per cent. Tourte, according to Fétis, always preferred French hair
for his bows as he found it "larger and stronger than that of other
countries." I believe at present a quantity of Russian hair is used.

Tourte's daughter was of great assistance to him in selecting and
preparing the hair. His method was to thoroughly cleanse the hair
with ordinary soap, then to soak it in bran water and then, after
removing all foreign matter, to dip in "blue water." A few years ago
some misguided people tried bleaching the hair chemically. This,
however, made it quite dry and brittle, and it has happily been

The average number of hairs in a bow now-a-days is from 150 to 200.
In Tourte's day a similar number were used.

A few words on the structure and action of bow hair and the real part
played by rosin may not be amiss. As Mr. Heron-Allen truly observes
"it is astonishing how few violinists know anything about the
mechanical and scientific action of powdered rosin on tone
production." And for the laity he says again that many think, when
they see a bow being rosined, that it is being "greased to make it go

If we examine a hair microscopically we discover a surface covered
with minute scales. Ordinarily these scales lie close to the main
shaft, but when rosin is rubbed along the hair small particles get
fixed under the scales causing them to stand up somewhat like the
teeth of a saw. These erected scales act on the string like so many
infinitesimal _plectra_ and thus produce in perfection the sustained
sound attempted in a grosser manner by the tremolo of the mandoline.
It is simply a rapid series of shocks. A moment's consideration will
suffice to realize that continuous pressure on a string would act as
a deterrent rather than a promoter of vibration. In fact an unrosined
bow gives continuous pressure and therefore produces no sound.

The hair is usually inserted in a bow in the natural position of its
growth, _i.e._, the root end at the top, thus, as the scales point
downwards, giving the greatest attack to the down bow. Some have
tried placing half one way and half the other but I do not think a
very perceptible difference results from this proceeding.



The manufacture of the bow is an industry calling for rare qualities
of patience and concentration on the part of its followers. The skill
required is of quite a distinct kind. Strength and delicacy of hand
must both be exceptionally pronounced, and mathematical accuracy of
eye is essential. Delicacy of touch to readily appreciate the varying
degrees of elasticity found not only in different sticks but often in
the same piece of wood. Strength to work with precision in such hard
wood. And for this kind of work the strength required is not that of
the carpenter who can use the weight and swing of his body; it is,
rather, a self-contained strength in which opposing forces must
co-operate in order to ensure the absolute accuracy so indispensable
in a bow. Then the sight must be of unerring judgment, for nearly all
the work depends on the eye. Bow making is distinctly nervous work
for it keeps the mind constantly alert.

I am indebted for most of the details given in this chapter to the
late Alfred Tubbs, son of James, and a good workman, who died
comparatively young in 1909. He told me that he only made one bow at
a time for the reason that each stick has its own individuality, some
intrinsic feature that has to be borne in mind through all the
details of fitting, mounting and adjusting. The mind is apt to lose
its certainty of retention when exercised on as few, even, as three
sticks simultaneously. Therefore each bow is completed before the
next is commenced.

Taking the rough stick as shown in Fig. 34, the first operation is
that of "rounding the throat," in other words the square rod is made
round for a few inches just below the rough block left for the head
to be cut from, this portion being called by some the "throat," and
by others the "neck" of the bow. After this the corners of the
remaining square portion are planed away, thereby making the stick
octagonal in section. Should it be intended that the finished bow be
octagonal, naturally the throat is not rounded but the planing away
of the corners is carried out with extreme care right up to the head.
The next operation is to lay the pattern (Fig. 35) on the projecting
block and, with a fine pointed pencil, to mark out the outline of the
head. This is the only part of the work on the stick itself wherein
the eye is assisted by actual measurement or pattern. The shaping, or
modelling of the head, as also, later, the gradation in thickness of
the stick depending entirely upon optic precision. The absolute
accuracy of hand and eye required for such work is only to be
attained by long years of constant application.

[Illustration: FIG. 34.]

[Illustration: FIG. 35.]

After roughly shaping the head comes the delicate operation of
"setting." This is also known as putting in the "spring" or _cambre_.
The principle upon which the amount of curve is determined is that an
imaginary straight line drawn from the face of the head to the face
of the nut shall coincide with the stick at the point of its greatest
deviation from the horizontal. There is no fixed distance from either
end for this extreme point of deviation to occur. It is a matter that
rests entirely on the judgment of the maker, who, if thoroughly
experienced, regulates the curve by any variation in rigidity he may
discover in the stick. Thus should his observations point to the fact
that a certain portion of the stick is slightly weaker than the rest,
there will he put the greatest amount of "spring." It must be
understood, however, that a good maker never uses a stick that is
palpably unequal. He will only take this trouble to correct
infinitesimal weaknesses (discernible only to a hand of great
experience) in wood of exceptionally good grain. It is astonishing
how many violinists seem to think good bows are made by accident. Few
know that there are some men who can _make_ a fine bow.

The prime factor in the "setting" of a bow is heat, by the judicious
application of which the straight rod is made to assume and retain
the desired _cambre_. The heat used now-a-days is that produced by an
ordinary gas flame. Dry heat is absolutely essential, as the
slightest moisture draws all the pigmentary matter out of the cells
in the wood and leaves the bow as colourless and mean in appearance
as a stick of deal. As it is, with dry heat even, the amount of
colour exuded by a good stick during this process is quite enough to
stain the hands a deep purple.

The great point to be observed in "setting" a bow is to make sure
that the fibres are all heated equally right through to the centre of
the stick. If this does not receive sufficient attention the bow can
not possibly retain its curve, for the inner fibres that have not
been affected by the heat will always be trying to resume their
original straight position, and are bound ultimately to overcome the
resistance of the heated outer fibres, with the result that the bow
either becomes straight or warped and twisted, most probably the
latter. To understand that this must be so it is only necessary to
remember that any elastic rod, a walking stick for example, can be
held so as to form a curve but as soon as the pressure is released it
immediately recovers its normal state. This is what happens with the
unheated inner fibres in an inferior bow. The constant strife of
opposing forces _must_ result in victory for the active force of the
inner fibres over the passive resistance of the heated outer fibres.

For the operation of "setting" the bow is left about half as thick
again as the finished stick is intended to be: this to allow for
scorching or burning the outer surface. When the "setting" is
satisfactorily accomplished the stick is planed up round, after which
the bottom trench is cut. This is the slot in which the screw-eye of
the nut travels. Then the hole for the screw itself is drilled out in
a lathe fitted with a "Cushman chuck." The next thing is to put on
the "black face." This is a thin slab of ebony glued on to the under
surface of the head, which helps to strengthen the head and forms a
solid bed for the ivory or metal plate which forms the outer facing
of the head. The ivory faces are cut out of the solid tusk to the
shape shown in Fig. 36. They are glued on with the very best glue
procurable and tied down with strong twine. This is another matter of
extreme difficulty and delicacy, as ivory is a very stubborn material
to work in and it is easy to crack it in forcing it down to the curve
of the face, that is if it is sufficiently thick adequately to fulfil
its original purpose as a strengthener and protector of the head. One
often sees in cheap bows faces of ivory so thin as to show the ebony
face through in a bluish tint. Such a face is of as much value to the
bow as a piece of paper, but it was easy to put on!

[Illustration: FIG. 36.]

Metal faces are growing more and more into favour but, personally, I
prefer a substantial ivory face, for though the metal may be stronger
in itself I think an ivory face well glued on is more homogeneous.
The successive layers of ebony and ivory on the already hard wood
forms a more equal gradation of density.

After both the faces are adjusted a circular hole is drilled in the
head and then chiselled out square to form the top trench or box to
receive the hair. The nut is then fitted. Many people imagine that
even the best makers buy the nuts wholesale and fit the sticks to
them, but good makers always make the nut for each bow as it is
wanted. They can by this means better regulate the balance of the

[Illustration: FIG. 37.]

Fig. 37 shows a gauge to determine the various dimensions of the nuts
of violin, viola and 'cello bows. Before the bow is finally "cleaned
up" it is haired[1] and screwed to see if it is all true, for there
may be something faulty in the _cambre_ which can be corrected at
this stage. If all is satisfactory the bow is finished and polished,
the whole process, from the rough stick in Fig. 34 to the finished
bow ready for the artist to melt, delight and amuse his hearers,
being one day's work.

[Footnote 1: For details of bow hairing see Chapter XII.]



Bow repairing is a matter calling for almost more skill than the
actual manufacture of new bows, and it is one about which very hazy
ideas exist outside the trade itself. One can divide violinists
roughly into two sections. On the one hand there are those who
believe anything is possible in this way, and on the other there are
many who have no faith whatever in such repairs.

I recollect when only a lad meeting an elderly amateur violinist of
the pompous class who not only was kind enough to pay the most
embarrassing attention to my solos but further favoured me with his
conversation and advice. "Now," said he, "you must get a steel bow;
tell your father about it; absolutely necessary. You see this stick
of a thing you are playing with" (alas, my cherished Lupot!) "is all
very well _now_, but by-and-bye the hairs will come out and it will
be worthless." I ventured to suggest that it could be re-haired. "Ah
yes, yes, yes!" he replied, "I know it _can_ be done, and it _is_
done, very often, but it is never the same thing. No, once the hairs
begin to go, there is nothing to do but buy a new bow, but if you
have a steel bow the hairs cannot come out and you have an article
that will endure in its original state all your life." (!)

I may observe that this gentleman had not the slightest commercial
interest in steel bows.

I also came in contact once with an example of the opposite class.
This gentleman had a little son who was in the habit of borrowing his
father's violin bow surreptitiously for the purpose of perfecting
himself in the useful art of single stick practice. The inevitable
happened, and when I saw the bow it was proudly exhibited to me as an
example of what could be done with a little ingenuity. The two halves
of the broken bow had been well glued together, two steel pen nibs
had been placed so as to form a sort of metal tube to protect the
fracture, and the whole was bound securely with strong silk. In its
owner's estimation it was "as good as ever, sir, as good as ever."

I propose to state here briefly what can be done and what is
advisable to have done in the way of bow-repairing.

If a bow is broken in the upper part of the stick it is just possible
to splice on a new head and throat, but it is not worth doing, for
the _cambre_ and balance of the original can never be reproduced. In
the first place there is a different piece of wood which, however
well matched, is bound to be sufficiently strange to disturb such a
delicate instrument. And then the _cambre_ of the new piece has to be
set before it is joined on to the old stick and thus it becomes
impossible to make a satisfactory curve throughout.

To re-adjust the original head is not feasible, as the only joint
that will stand the strain to which a bow is subjected is a long
diagonal one extending for several inches.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.]

Splicing a new "handle" (Fig. 38_d_) is, however, frequently done,
and is often advisable. It occasionally happens that a valuable bow
becomes so worn by the pressure of the fingers or thumb, or by the
friction of the nut and screw, as to be beyond the reach of the more
usual repairs. It then becomes necessary to substitute a new handle,
and this can be done by skilful repairers as to make absolutely no
difference to the balance of the stick. The joint is in this case
also a diagonal one extending usually from near the upper extremity
of the "lapping" downwards for some four or five inches. It should be
seen that the surfaces brought in contact in such a joint are so
placed as to be perpendicular to the plane of the hair. Otherwise it
cannot endure for any length of time.

[Illustration: FIG. 39.]

Very often the original handle can be restored and made sound. Thus,
when the screw hole becomes worn and the "cup" (see Fig. 39, which
shows the two "cups," that at the extremity of the stick and that in
the "tip") broken, it is customary to drill out the hole, turn up a
piece of well-seasoned bow wood in the lathe to the exact diameter of
the enlarged hole, and glue it well in place. When thoroughly dry a
new screw hole of the original dimensions can be drilled just as in
making a new bow. Sometimes, when there are cracks in the handle, the
trench has to be filled up and re-cut, as is also done to the head if
it is cracked through the pressure of the plug (Fig. 40_a_). Repairs
to the nut are also done when the nut is original, _i.e._, when it
belongs to the bow and is of a distinguished maker. Old nuts
frequently get cracked down the sides where they come in contact with
the stick. In this case the worn part of the nut is cut away and new
wood glued on and worked up to the original shape. I have seen a nut
so restored by Mr. Tubbs in which it was absolutely impossible to
discover where the new piece was joined on.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.]

With regard to the screw hole, it often becomes worn to an oval shape
just above the trench owing to the screw being too short. This is
frequently found in old French bows, even by the best makers, and
causes the unsightly tilting of the tip. In Fig. 41 is shown a
section of the nut and handle showing the action of the screw and the
way the hair is inserted. The screw in this diagram is the exact
length necessary to prevent the wearing away of the hole described

[Illustration: FIG. 41.]

Bow repairers are often perplexed as to their customers' meaning when
sending instructions by post for the restoration of the "tip," as
many people use this word to denote the extremity of the head (Fig.

This, however, is known to experts as the "peak," and the word "tip"
is applied solely to the octagonal piece at the opposite end of the
bow, by means of which the screw is turned and the tension of the
hair regulated.

In some bows the octagonal portion, known as the handle (Fig. 38_d_)
on which the nut travels has the lower face rather larger than the
rest as in the section shown in Fig. 42. The object of this
enlargement is to give the nut a broader surface to travel on and
thus prevent the tendency to rock exhibited by some nuts. But, though
there is some merit in the idea it has been found that the rocking
can be avoided in a normal bow having the eight sides of the handle
equal by extra care in fitting. And though the other pattern may be
easier to fit in the first instance, the projecting sides of the nut
that travel on the adjacent faces of the handle are very small and
weak; consequently before long the nut shows longitudinal cracks at
this part and becomes extremely rocky, though from a different cause.

[Illustration: FIG. 42.]

One of the most frequent repairs is the operation of re-facing. The
handsome central gasalier of the modern room is a great enemy to the
violin and seems to lie in wait for the peak of an unwary violinist's
bow. Fortunately the damage is not very serious, and an experienced
bow repairer will not be long in restoring the head to its original
elegance of outline.



The lapping frequently wears out and becomes a source of great
irritation until one has an opportunity of having it newly done. For
this reason a lapping of leather is the most convenient and
economical, but nothing looks better than a good quality of silver
cord, and when it is bound with leather just where otherwise it would
suffer from the pressure and friction of the thumb nail it is really
very durable. Messrs. W. E. Hill and Sons have an extremely handsome
speciality in the way of lapping. This consists of whalebone,
sometimes bleached or dyed, and is practically indestructible. Bound
on in alternate strands of different colours it has a very effective
and neat appearance.

Sometimes the ordinary thread lapping gets cut through and interferes
with the player, and it is as well to know how to fasten it off at
once. I will assume that it is cut at the end nearest the nut (where
it usually happens). Take out the screw and wind the hair loosely but
securely round the upper part of the bow. Then unwind the lapping for
about an inch and a half. Take a piece of strong thread and double
it, then place it on the bow with the doubled end towards the handle.
Get a kind friend to hold the end of the lapping cord firmly and
commence winding it on again evenly and _over_ the doubled thread by
slowly rotating the bow. When within half an inch of the end of the
thread, take it all in your own hand and pass the end through the
loop of doubled thread and, taking the loose ends of the thread that
will hang out at the point where you started re-winding, pull the
doubled thread smartly out. This brings the end of the lapping right
through under the re-wound portion, where it will be held secure
until again cut through by the thumb-nail. This is the method
employed in fastening off new lappings. If you have not the time or
patience to do it this way a little sealing wax will hold the loose
end down during an evening's practice.

Considering that re-hairing is one of the most natural and most
frequent events in the life of a bow, it seems somewhat anomalous to
include it under the heading of "repairs." However, I will crave the
reader's kind indulgence for so doing.

At the outset I must emphatically assert that I do not advise
amateurs or artists to attempt to hair their own bows if any value
attaches to them, for it is astonishing how soon even a fine bow will
lose its _cambre_ if persistently haired in an unskilful manner. It
requires enormous experience to enable one to get the pull of the
hair equal in every case, and the slightest extra pull on one side or
the other gives the bow a twist that renders its action erratic and
extremely disturbing to a good violinist. The preceding operation to
re-hairing is that of unhairing. This is comparatively a simple
matter. The hair is first cut off short at each end, then hair at the
head is lifted up to disclose the plug (Fig. 40_a_). This is readily
lifted out with a pointed tool, and the curled up knot lying beneath
is pulled out. So much for the head. The nut is slightly more
complex. First the ferrule (Fig. 41_d_) is pulled off and the slide
(Fig. 41_f_) is pushed out. After this the hair is raised as with the
head, and the plug (Fig. 41_e_) picked out in the same manner. The
wedge in the nut (Fig. 41_c_) is used to spread the hair and keep it
firm at the heel, to give a good attack for heavy down strokes. This
is usually destroyed in unhairing, as it frequently has to be cut
away, owing to its being glued into position.

The process of re-hairing is now identical with that of hairing a new
bow in the first instance. Some keep the hair ready made up into
"hanks" of the right quantity for a bow, and others have it in large
bundles, pulling it out as required. One soon gets practice in this
to judge by the eye alone how much will be sufficient. At one end it
is tied securely with waxed silk or thread, and the short ends are
cut off to within about a sixteenth of an inch from the thread. To
prevent the thread being pulled off the end of the hair, the ends are
burnt with rosin so as to spread them out slightly (very slightly)
mushroom wise, over the thread binding. The usual way of doing this
is to fill the short end--which resembles a small stencil brush--with
finely powdered rosin and then, by pressing it against a red-hot
iron, to shape it into a firm, unyielding knot. This knot is laid in
the trench of the head, and the plug pressed firmly into position, so
that its upper surface is exactly level with that of the plate or
face. The hair, of course, must be brought over the wedge in an even
ribbon. The hair should now be well combed with a fine comb and then
steeped, coil fashion, in warm water for several minutes. It then
should be thoroughly combed again from top to bottom, holding it
firmly the while at the lower end. The nut is now placed in position
with the screw-eye rather above the centre of the slot in which it
travels, then a careful estimate is made of the length of hair
required to go just far enough round the plug (Fig. 41_e_) to be
secure, and a knot exactly like the one described for the head is
made at the point decided on. This requires considerable experience,
as it is very easy to make it too long or _vice versa_, both of which
faults hamper the nicety of adjustment of tension required for some
particular style of bowing technique. When this lower knot is made
the ferrule is slipped over the hair, the knot is laid in the trench
and the plug put in as before--the nut being completely detached from
the stick. The nut is then re-adjusted and slightly screwed up. The
hair is then combed again, the slide pushed in, and the ferrule
slipped over the extremity of the nut. After this a thin wedge is
driven in (behind the hair) usually with a spot of glue on the side
next the hair, as at _c_, in Fig. 41. The bow is now haired, and all
that remains to make it ready for use is to rosin it. As new hair
never bites on a block of rosin, it is necessary to spread a quantity
of powdered rosin on a card or sheet of stout paper and rub the hair
over it till it is quite full; after this it will take freely from
the block. A newly haired bow is always extremely rough and is apt to
produce a harsh, scratchy tone, but this defect wears off in a very
short time.

I must again repeat my opinion regarding the inadvisability of
violinists hairing their own bows, and I have only given the above
details to gratify the curiosity of those who like to know "how it's

It is extraordinary the number and variety of rosins in the market;
some in most wonderfully contrived boxes designed to keep the rosin
dust from making the fingers sticky, or--more probably--to _sell_! Of
all the different patents in this way, I find the ordinary book-shape
by far the most satisfactory. The first quality of rosin is prepared
by boiling down Venice turpentine. In a certain authority on violin
matters I read that many soloists of celebrity use common kitchen
rosin, but I cannot say I have much faith in the source from whence
he can have received such information. It is advisable never to
change the rosin used until the bow is re-haired, as in each there is
some slight difference in composition that may not harmonize with
what is already on the bow.



It is worthy of note, as a testimony to the simplicity and perfection
of the bow, that there have been so few attempts, since Tourte's day,
to alter or "improve" it in any particular. The few experiments that
have been made in this direction have in nearly every case proved
failures and have sunk into speedy oblivion.

One of the most remarkable productions in this way was the ponderous
monstrosity invented by one Dr. Nicholson (Fig. 43). This hideous and
unwieldy weapon was put forth by its inventor as the only correct
form for a violin bow! It had to be haired with precisely 150 horse
hairs dyed red. The reasons for this and the eccentric curve of the
stick are subtleties into which I dare not venture!

[Illustration: FIG. 43.]

Vuillaume's erratic genius was responsible for sundry attempts at
improving the bow, the most complex being the fixed nut. He was
struck by the fact that with the ordinary nut advancing and
retreating by the action of the screw it was possible for it to be
not always mathematically in the same place. Also that as the hair
gradually stretched by use, the length thereof increased as the same
tension was obtained each time it was screwed up for use. This, of
course, made a minute difference in the balance of the bow. He
apparently considered this a serious defect and set about inventing a
nut that should render the balance and the length of the hair
immutable. This was his patent "_hausse fixé_." As the name implies
the nut was a fixture externally but contained a smaller metal nut
that travelled inside it. These nuts were very unsightly as they were
much more bulky than the ordinary nut. It is curious that it never
occurred to him that the movement of the internal nut would similarly
affect the balance. A sort of windlass in the nut would have been
more exact, but, as a matter of fact the difference is more
theoretical than practical, and is imperceptible to the player, so
the fixed nut, like many other examples of wasted ingenuity, died a
natural death.

Another of Vuillaume's patents was the steel bow. This was often a
handsome looking instrument. Some were "got up" to look like Brazil
wood and others were of a bright blue. As this was the natural colour
of the metal it was more commendable but had a very odd appearance.
These bows were not much heavier, if at all, than the average bow as
they were hollow throughout. They were deficient in balance and had
one great drawback. Though stronger and tougher in one sense than the
wooden bow they would not stand so much knocking about. A bow, even
in the hands of those accustomed to handling them, is liable to have
an occasional fall, and if not broken, is as good as ever; in fact a
bow rarely breaks unless it falls peak downwards. On the other hand
the steel bow would generally "kink" or get dinted and bent if it
came in contact with anything in a fall and would then be entirely
useless. A third mistake of Vuillaume's was the curved ferrule.
Thinking it would be advantageous to give the player a good spread of
hair at the heel he made a ferrule that gave the ribbon of hair as it
left the nut something the appearance of the hair in the primitive
Egyptian bow illustrated in Fig. 11. This is still to be met with in
some cheap foreign bows. A further notion of his was calculated to be
of great benefit to such players as might find themselves in
out-of-the-way places with a bow in need of new hair and no _luthier_
or bow-repairer within reach. This was the "patent self-hairing bow."
Its principles were sometimes used in conjunction with the "fixed
nut" and steel bows. The hair for this bow was sold ready made into
ribbons of the exact length by having a small brass rod placed
transversely at either end; these rods slipped into appropriately
shaped notches in the head and nut and the bow was haired. It does
not appear to have been satisfactory and has gone the way of the
other innovations of this and other makers. One other thing in
connexion with Vuillaume's bows I will mention here though it is not
in the nature of an "improvement" properly so-called, albeit I have
no doubt Vuillaume thought it a great embellishment. In the nuts of
some of his bows, just where the mother-o'-pearl "eye" is usually
placed, he had inserted a minute and powerful lens with a microscopic
transparent portrait of himself that could be seen therein on holding
the nut to the light. It was just like the views one sometimes sees
in penholders brought as presents from popular seaside resorts.

I have recently heard of another variety of self-hairing bow patented
in America, but have not yet seen one. From that country, where, so I
have heard, the bows drawn are of quite exceptional length, emanated
a patent bow wherein fine cords are substituted for hair and also a
contrivance, whereby, when the hair becomes smooth and useless on the
one side, it can be taken out, turned round and then enters on a
rejuvenated existence the other way about.

To return to Vuillaume's patent bows. All of these, excepting the
steel bows, are splendid sticks, for they were made by Simon,
Fonclouse, and other noted workmen. It is therefore a profitable
thing to have them altered into normal bows. This can be done by
skilful workmen so that the bow is as good as any other ordinary bow
by the same maker, and is free from the encumbrance of the patent.

G. Chanot, of Manchester, I am told, has a patent bow that is made to
fold in two for convenience in packing for travelling purposes. The
idea is not as original as its inventor may think, for the Japanese
kokiu which is fast becoming obsolete had an extremely long and
flexible bow that was jointed together like a fishing rod.

The "improved bow," patented by Chas. Ketteridge, is distinctly novel
and has much to commend it. The hair in this bow is placed at such an
angle that, though the player holds his hand in the usual position,
the full width of the hair lies evenly on the string from end to end.
It has been well spoken of by the press and several noted artists.
For chord playing it possesses distinct advantages, and I should
think it would be very useful for certain orchestral players; it does
not, however, seem to have attracted more than passing attention.

Truly the "fiddlestick" is a magic wand in more senses than one. As
mentioned above it is significant that so little has been attempted
in the way of alteration or improvement, and it is still more so that
of that little such a small proportion is worthy of a second thought.
As Bach stands in relation to the fugue, as Beethoven to the symphony
and Stradivari to the violin, so is Tourte to the bow. Superior alike
to his predecessors and successors, he stands high poised upon the
pedestal of his incomparable genius.




In treating of the somewhat complex and, in many details,
highly-disputed subject of the functions of the bow, I shall prefer
to handle the question in the abstract rather than to launch myself
on the choppy sea of "technique"; a sea abounding in shoals, reefs,
undercurrents and whirlpools; extremely difficult to navigate
inasmuch as that no two charts agree. Consequently when the mariner
launches his boat the danger to himself and his passengers is
considerable. In plain English the difficulty of explaining all the
well-nigh imperceptible differences of movement in bone and muscle
required for the various styles of bowing is so enormous that he who
attempts to do so on paper lies under the grave danger of being
misunderstood, and the student under the scarcely less grave one of
misunderstanding. The danger is reciprocative, just as, to return to
my nautical simile, the peril of the helmsman is shared by each
passenger if he by mischance steers upon a submerged rock.

Therefore, dear reader, I will survey the whole prospect from a
secure coign of vantage upon the mainland, and trust my impressions
thereof may prove of some slight service to you. As I have disclaimed
all intention of making this portion of my work a handbook of bowing
technique it seems superfluous to add that my observations are
addressed more to the teacher than the student. I use these words in
their accepted and arbitrary meanings for the sake of distinguishing
between two separate classes. Of course, from the higher standpoint,
a good teacher is always a student. If it were not so the following
pages would be written to no purpose.

Some years ago a certain eminent M.D. collaborated with a more or
less well known singing master in a work on the Larynx. The musical
world talked of little else but vocal chords and soft palates for
many months, and the musical press was teeming with correspondence in
which the pros and cons of such studies were hotly discussed, many of
the antagonistic writers opining that the knowledge of the anatomy of
the throat would be of as much service to a vocalist as that of the
hand to a violinist. Which reasoning sounds at first glance quite
complete, yet, on examination, it will be observed that there is no
such close analogy as these writers appeared to think. To begin with,
in singing the mind only occupies itself with the sound produced. To
learn singing is to practise mimicry. We cannot determine the
position of the vocal chords before producing the note. Our
consciousness begins at the other end; the mind conjures up a certain
ideal sound which we attempt to realize vocally; if the desired
_timbre_ is produced the laryngeal action is correct. With the violin
thought commences with the means. The hand is trained; we say set the
fingers so, and the thumb so. Now practice; when the action is
perfect the tone will be right. Briefly in singing we strive for the
tone and the action follows, in the violin we strive for the action
and the tone follows. Thus it is clear that a knowledge of the
structure of the hand is of distinct value to a violinist--in
particular, a teacher--while, on the other hand, the knowledge of the
anatomy of the throat can be little more than interesting to the

A knowledge of the structure and functions of the various parts of
the hand on the part of a teacher would smooth over many
disheartening experiences of his pupils. Just as it is of value to
study the mental characteristics of a pupil so, also, is it of value
to thoroughly examine his physical peculiarities. I wonder how many
violin teachers have noticed, or have profited by so noticing, that
no two hands are alike, or that thumbs are of different lengths and
set on in various degrees of opposition to the fingers. It is seldom
that such apparently unimportant details are observed by teachers,
the majority of whom make all their pupils hold the bow alike, long
thumbs or short thumbs it makes no difference. I remember having for
a pupil a young lady who had been taught to hold her bow at the
extreme tips of her fingers. Naturally she gained no facility and
every attempt at semiquavers sent the bow flying across the room to
the imminent danger of the teacher's optics. I surmised the cause of
this eccentricity and was ultimately able to verify my conjectures.
The master who had been so conscientious in making her hold the bow
in this strained and ungainly position was blessed with an abnormally
long thumb; the pupil's thumb was short. What came natural to the one
was a strain on the other.

The function of the thumb is that of a pivot; a fulcrum. The bow is a
lever resting thereon, and its pressure on the string is regulated by
the first and second fingers on the one side and by the third and
fourth on the other. It would thus appear that the best place for the
thumb would be exactly between the second and third fingers. But it
is not given to every thumb to drop _naturally_ into this position.
And here is to be noted the germ of facility in bowing. Every thumb
closes naturally on a certain spot; it may be on the second finger,
or on the third. If the former it can be made to rest on the third or
even the fourth without apparent effort, but minute observation will
detect an infinitesimal strain when the thumb is taken beyond its
natural resting place. Therefore I maintain that the best position
for the thumb is to be determined by examination of the hand and
thumb, and will differ slightly in each individual player. It is
curious to note how many teachers, some of extreme eminence, take
such pains to perpetuate their own bad habits in their pupils under
the impression that they are teaching a perfect and superior
technique. I am afraid that it sounds somewhat of a heresy to speak
of great players and teachers having "bad habits"; the expression is,
perhaps, rather strong, but what I refer to is the "personal
equation." Such a player has a tendency to part his fingers, another
elevates the fourth finger in certain passages, this one has a
peculiar movement of the elbow, etc., etc. All these divergencies
from rigid and pedantic technique being the result of their several
physical differences. When these men prove themselves great artists
and attain high positions as teachers their advice is sought on
matters of technique. Finding themselves oracles they first consult
the oracle by aid of looking glasses, analyse in this way their own
actions, and then the one who parts his fingers lays it down as a law
that the fingers should be parted, and the one with the peculiar
movement of the elbow will not rest until all his pupils have
acquired the same eccentricity. I will quote another example of this
sort of thing that came under my own observation some years ago. It
deals with the left hand, but displays the spirit so well that I feel
it is not out of place in this connexion. A thin, delicate lad, with
fingers "like needles"--as a brother violinist described them to
me--was sent to a German professor whose digits resembled nothing so
much as the handles of table knives. This was an excellent violinist,
or rather "geiger," for the Germans make this distinction, but owing
to the size of his fingertips he could only play semitones in the
third position by removing the finger stopping the lower note while
putting down the higher one. If he retained the second finger on E on
the A string, third position, the third finger would fall too sharp
for F natural. This seemed to him such an unalterable law of nature
that he made the lad do the same, notwithstanding that the boy could
have stopped quarter tones with ease had they been wanted!

Had this man made even a superficial study of the hand he would have
been spared much profanity and the pupil much heartache and
disappointment. Tuition is twofold. There is direct teaching and
there is development. The seed is sown and then the soil is watered
and tended in the manner calculated to nourish and develop the
particular plant to the best advantage. Again, the gardener does not
plant his roses in damp shady corners or his ferns in sand.

Teachers require to use more of the gardener's judgment. They must
cease to look upon their pupils as defective copies of themselves and
must not fit them out with technique as soldiers are with clothing.
The technique should be made for the particular player. A violinist
with an ill-fitting technique is about as elegant as a short man in
clothes intended for a tall one, or vice versa. Many cases of bad or
defective technique are directly attributable to the teacher's want
of perception of "fit."

Thus we see players whose natural movements are bold and free trussed
up in a small and finicking technique, and others whose bent is
towards neatness, struggling manfully with a cumbersome "large
style." I have heard a "gentleman" defined as "a man who wears
clothes that belong to him." Similarly we may say that a good
violinist is one whose technique belongs to him. Every movement
should come naturally, it should be as much a part of his personality
as his tone of voice or the glance of his eye, and it should be the
teacher's aim to develop this personality and not to stifle it as is
too often the case. Of course great judgment is required in this
development, or the personality will become marked mannerism, than
which nothing could be worse. True art always displays a certain
reticence; excess at either end of the gamut of emotion is avoided.
Calmness is not coldness, and passion carried too far becomes
caricature. Tone must be developed also, but it should always be
borne in mind that exertion is not power; a mistake too frequently
made. How often do we see a well meaning but physically weak player
trying to tear the tone out of a violin by "main strength." Such
efforts are useless, particularly when practised on a fine violin. A
really good instrument is of too sensitive an organisation to respond
to bullying. Teachers cry out to their pupils sometimes "lay it on!"
"pull it out!" and other contradictory sounding phrases with the same
meaning, and occasionally such admonitions and encouragements bear
good fruit, but there is always the danger of "effort" being
engendered thereby. There should be no effort in art. Effort, too,
defeats its own ends. It weakens; exercise strengthens. Therefore let
the strength with which to "lay it on" or "pull it out" be gradually
and naturally developed by constant and gentle practice. The muscles
will gain strength thus, and the result will be a full round tone,
capable of every inflection and free from everything like harshness.

Power should be implied rather than displayed. The instrument will
then respond freely and fully as a woman to the caress of a strong
manly arm.



If the history of the bow's development _per se_ presented a misty
aspect we must not be surprised to find that of bowing similarly

Just as the violin arrived at its state of greatest perfection long
before the bow developed into a fitting companion.

When we consider the enormous progress in left hand technique
accomplished by the earlier violinists and 'cellists, such as
Corelli, Tartini, Bach, and a host of others, it seems
incomprehensible that the bow should have so long remained in such a
comparatively crude and primitive condition, and its mode of use so
limited and undecided.

The best drawing I have seen of the manner of holding the bow in
playing a higher pitched viol is in a miniature representation of a
state banquet in the fifteenth century, from which I extract the
player shown in Fig. 44.

[Illustration: FIG. 44.]

The evidence of drawings, sculptures, etc., in the earliest days of
rebecs and viols, if not reliable in the representation of the bow
itself, are still less so when it comes to the question of handling
the same. With the smaller viols, the thumb (such an important
member) is naturally invisible, and the effect is usually that of a
clenched fist. It seems to have been the general rule with all the
viols of lower pitch that were held perpendicularly, to hold the bow
underhand as described by Sympson in 1759 (Fig. 45). But the third
drawing in Fig. 18 is remarkable alike for the modernness both of the
bow and the posture of the hand holding it. This is on a par with the
early bows with screw-nut and _cambre_ described in the first section
of this work. I cannot think it likely that the sculptor saw anyone
playing a bass viol in this manner. Whether this representation was
the result of gross ignorance or prophetic inspiration I leave to the
reader to decide.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.]

Of course the manner of holding the bow for the smaller viols would
have approximated more nearly to that which obtains on the violin at
the present day, as the underhand position would have been extremely
inconvenient, and even impossible.

The earliest English method for the violin known is that contained in
the second book of "An Introduction to the Skill of Musick, in Three
Books," published in 1654 by John Playford.

Here the violin is just tolerated in a sort of appendix to the more
important subject of the "Treble, Tenor, and Bass Viols." It consists
chiefly of various methods of ensuring accuracy in tuning the fifths,
and the question of bowing is summarily treated as follows:--

"The _Bow_ is held in the right Hand, between the ends of the Thumb
and the 3 Fingers, the Thumb being stay'd upon the Hair at the Nut,
and the 3 Fingers resting upon the Wood. Your _Bow_ being thus fix'd,
you are first to draw an _even Stroak_ over each _String_ severally,
making each _String_ yield a clear and distinct sound."

Of the Treble Viols very little is said on the subject of bowing, the
most complete instructions on that head being given for _the_ viol
_par excellence_, the viola da gamba. In treating of this glorious
instrument the older writers spared no pains to make their directions
as complete as possible. Thus Sympson in his "Division Viol"--first
published in 1659--says:--

"Hold the Bow betwixt the ends of your Thumb and two foremost
fingers, near to the Nut. The Thumb and first finger fastened on the
Stalk; and the second finger's end turned _in_ shorter, against the
Hairs thereof; by which you may poize and keep up the point of the
Bow. If the second finger have not strength enough, you may joyn the
third finger in assistance to it; but in Playing Swift Division, two
fingers and the Thumb is best.... When you see an even Number of
Quavers or Semiquavers, as 2, 4, 6, 8, you must begin with your Bow
forward; yea, though the Bow were imployed forward in the next Note
before them. But if the number be odd, as 3, 5, 7 (which always
happens by reason of some Prick-Note or odd Rest) the first of that
odd number must be played with the Bow backward. This is the most
proper motion of the Bow, though not absolutely without some
exception; for sometimes the quickness of the Notes may force the
contrary. Also quick Notes skipping from the Treble to the Bass, and
so persued, are best express'd with contrary Bows."

All of which is very clear and logical. The way he balances up the
relative claims of a stiff or loose elbow is, however, distinctly
amusing, as witness the following:

"----you must stretch out your Arm streight, in which posture
(playing long Notes) you will necessarily move your shoulder Joint;
but if you stir that Joint in Quick Notes, it will cause the whole
body to shake; which (by all means) must be avoyded; as also any
other indecent Gesture. Quick Notes, therefore, must be expressed by
moving some Joint near the Hand;[1] which is generally agreed upon to
be the Wrist. The question then arising is about the menage of the
Elbow Joint; concerning which there are two different opinions. Some
will have it kept stiff; insomuch, that I have heard a judicious
violist positively affirm, that if a Scholar can but attain to the
playing of Quavers with his Wrist, keeping his Arm streight and stiff
in the Elbow-Joint, he hath got the mastery of the Bow-Hand. Others
contend that the motion of the Wrist must be strengthened and
assisted by a compliance or yielding of the Elbow-Joint unto it; and
they, to back their Argument, produce for instance a person famous
for the excellency of his Bow-Hand using a free and loose Arm. To
deliver my own opinion: I do much approve the streightness of the
Arm, especially in Beginners, because it is a means to keep the Body
upright, which is a commendable posture. I can also admit the
stiffness of the Elbow, in smooth and Swift Division; for which it is
most properly apt; but Cross and Skipping Divisions cannot (I think)
be so well express'd without some consent or yielding of the
Elbow-Joint unto the motion of the Wrist.... This motion or looseness
of the Wrist I mention, is chiefly in _Demi-semiquavers_; for, in
_Quavers_, and _Semiquavers_ too, we must allow so much stiffness to
the wrist as may command the Bow _on_ and _off_ the String, at every
Note, if occasion so require."

[Footnote 1: "_Some_ joint" is very good; it gives such liberty in
the way of choice.]

This must have been rather a crude form of _spiccato_. It is,
however, plainly evident that with heavy bows, destitute of
elasticity, and held underhand, it was quite impossible to allow the
bow to rebound naturally from the string for this effect.

Mace, whose book, "Musick's Monument," is one of the most amusing
works extant, in speaking of the bowing of the viol, _i.e._, viola da
gamba, or, as he calls it, "the generous viol," quotes Sympson's
direction for holding the bow and then adds:--

"Yet I must confess, that for _my own Part_, I could never _Use it so
well_ as when I held it 2 or 3 _Inches off the Nut_ (more or less)
according to the _Length or Weight of the Bow_, for _Good Poyzing of
It_: But 'tis possible, that by _Vse_ I might have made It _as
Familiar to_ Myself, as It was to _Him_."

He, also, was greatly exercised in his mind as to the stiffness or
the reverse of the elbow, and delivered himself thuswise thereon:--

"So likewise, for the _Exact Straitness of the Bow-Arm_, which some
do _Contend for_, I could _never do so well_, as with my _Arm_
(_straight enough, yet_) _something Plying, or Yielding to an Agile
Bending_: and which I do conceive most _Familiarly Natural_. (For I
would have no _Posture, Vrged, Disputed_, or _Contended for_; that
should _Cross_, or _Force Nature_.")

There is much to commend in the spirit of this last sentence. The
hand and arm should never be made to do anything that is unnatural.
But herein must be exercised the greatest possible judgment that the
unfamiliar be not mistaken for the unnatural.

Returning to the position of the thumb in violin playing we find
nearly every teacher insisting on a different posture. In the
"Méthode de Violon," by Baillot, Rode and Kreutzer, it is set down as
being correct to have the thumb opposite the middle finger. David, in
his "Violin School," says that the thumb should be opposite the
_first_ finger. This is to my mind most extraordinary, and I can
hardly conceive it possible that so great a violinist and teacher
could have maintained such an unscientific method to be correct. The
loss of leverage resulting from the thumb being so far forward would
be almost certain to cause the elbow to rise and give, by the dead
weight of the arm, the pressure that should come from the sentient
elasticity of the first and second fingers. De Beriot says the thumb
should be between the second and third fingers, which is naturally
the best position. Papini, with greater perception of the fact of
anatomical difference in hands, says the thumb should be as near the
centre of the four fingers as possible.

In all questions of technique it is possible to determine the exact
best mode of procedure. But unless the hand be perfectly fitted
thereto, the rule should be relaxed, for insisting on positions that
are even slightly strained (though possibly, quite comfortable to a
differently constructed hand) can only do harm.



The functions of the right hand fingers are twofold. At times they
act in conjunction with each other and at others, in opposition. Some
writers say that the two outer fingers are the holding fingers, and
others contend that the two inner fingers are alone concerned in this
service. This difference of opinion is to me just as absurd as the
arguments anent the wrist and elbow of the old violists. As a matter
of fact both theories are right. The difference being that, in the
question of holding, the action of the outer fingers is passive while
that of the inner fingers is active. To go more into detail, in soft
passages the bow simply rests supported by the three points of
contact with the thumb, first and fourth fingers. The inner fingers
then taking little or no part in the matter. This action of the outer
fingers I say is passive as the bow is not actually _held_ but simply
rests on the thumb, the two outer fingers merely preventing it from
falling to one side or the other. Occasionally these two fingers will
act in concert or opposition, according to the requirements of
expression and phrasing. When playing loudly it becomes necessary
that a more decided purchase of the bow be maintained, especially in
rapid _forte_ passages. Then the inner fingers come into play and
hold the bow firmly against the thumb. The two outer fingers then are
solely concerned with regulating the pressure and preserving the
elasticity of the stroke, which is lost in a firm grip only.

These slight differences of action in my opinion can not be
_practised_. They are the outcome of years of grind. They come, and
when they are firmly established we can analyse them. To gain the
mastery of the bow one must begin at the bottom and be content to
work gradually up to the topmost rung (or thereabouts!) of the
ladder. I often meet with amateur violinists who try to begin at the
top. The consequences of this proceeding are distinctly more certain,
for when starting at the bottom it is not always assured that much
upward progress will be made, whereas, by the opposite method the
descent will be certain and considerable!

Nothing is more hopeless than the attempts some amateur violinists
make to acquire certain styles of bowing simply by mentally mastering
the various actions by which it is produced.

_Sautillé_, one of the easiest forms of bowing, suffers most from
this sort of thing. It is no uncommon thing to see an amateur
diligently practising the action of lifting the bow off the string
and putting it on again after each note, thinking that if he keeps on
long enough--say ten minutes a day for a fortnight--that he will
acquire a perfect mastery of this much desired effect. To practice
_Sautillé_ in this manner is the way _not_ to gain it. It is the
outcome of the perfect action of the entire arm. When that is
attained you will have the _Sautillé_. Then, and then only, will a
little specialized practice help to perfect the movement. Some pupils
I have had who possessed the _Sautillé_ by nature and never
understood the difficulty experienced by others who had to wait for
it. The best way to acquire this as the result of a perfect bow arm
is to practise the following:

[Illustration: Musical notes, etc.]

Try it first on the D string. Use whole bows, freely and firmly, for
the semibreves, slightly less for the minims, the middle third for
the crotchets, and an inch or two for the quavers, reducing it still
further as the pace increases. The pupil must abandon all thought of
_making_ the bow jump, also he must avoid pressing it on the string.
The whole action must be free and bold and the tempo for this
exercise should be not slower than M.M. crotchet = 100. At first it
will be found impossible to get as far as the semiquavers without
some confusion. At the first sign of irregularity the pupil should
stop, pause a moment, and then recommence with the semibreves. It
should be seen that the bow is not gripped too tightly through
over-anxiety or excitement. It will need patience on the part of
teacher and pupil alike, but both will be gratified when suddenly the
bow is seen to jump naturally and the _Sautillé_ is won.

There is one phrase in connexion with bowing that irritates me
greatly, and that is a "loose wrist." As a technicality it is of
course all right, but the insisting on the literal application of the
term has been a stumbling block to many violinists. Ladies have come
to me saying, "Do you think my wrist loose enough for me to play the
violin?" Accompanying the query with a violent flapping of the hand
that would almost make one think they were desirous of emulating the
lobster's ability to cast away a claw at will. Upon making such
persons hold a pencil or penholder (I dared not let them handle a
bow!) it was found that the wrist became stiff and unyielding. The
wrist that was loose when all the muscles were flaccid became rigid
when a few were exerted sufficiently to hold a light object.

Thus it will be seen that the apparent looseness of a violinist's
wrist is not really such, but is the dominating of one set of muscles
by another. Many teachers say that one should have the thumb tight
and the wrist loose. A manifest absurdity when one considers that a
most important thumb muscle extends right across the wrist. It should
therefore be well understood that what is implied by the technical
expression "loose," is, in reality, "control." If it were really
looseness, it would present no difficulty to any one not afflicted
with an ossification. It is to gain this extreme independence of each
set of muscles that long years are taken up in monotonous exercises.
The arm of a violinist has to be trained in a manner directly
opposite to that of an athlete. In the latter we find an
exemplification of the saying, "Unity is Strength." All the muscles
act in perfect accord to the same end. With the violinist, on the
other hand, there is a constant opposition of forces; the larger
muscles are kept down and many smaller muscles are developed that
have lost all use in the arm of an athlete.

Concerning the fingers of the right hand I advocate holding them
close together--not cramped, but just lightly touching. Some players
recommend the parting of the first finger from the others as giving
greater leverage over the bow. It certainly has that effect, but I
advise it to be used very sparingly and in fortissimo passages only.
It is a license one may admit in an artist, but to my pupils who are
in the earlier stages I entirely forbid it. I should only permit it
in the case of a thumb so short as not to reach far enough into the
centre of the hand to give the right amount of control. If a pupil is
taught from the first to use this extreme leverage he is likely to
develop a rough tone. When he has attained the mastery of the bow he
can use his own judgment as to the occasional employment of this
reserve force. These remarks I apply also to violoncello bowing.
Unless the pupil's hand be weak the first finger should be held back
until the whole art of bowing is mastered. All these observations are
addressed to soloists: in orchestral work such retention of force is
unnecessary. I notice that where players use up all the available
leverage of the hand from the outset, they are compelled to employ
the weight of the arm to reinforce it for special effects. Another
reason--and an important one--for keeping the fingers together, is
that of appearance. Nothing is more unsightly than to see the fingers
of the right hand spread out claw fashion, and I quite concur with
Sympson that no posture or movement should offend the eye.



Returning for a moment to the anxiety of the average fiddler to
acquire a good _Sautillé_, it seems to me absurd that such importance
should be attached to it when, in reality, the test of a violinist's
ability lies in his command of "slow bows." Too much attention cannot
be paid to the study of sustained bowing which can be practised in a
variety of ways. Firstly, long drawn semibreves--at one of the
Continental Conservatoires they make the violin students play scales
of two octaves, taking one bow to each note, the same to last _two
minutes_, thus the whole scale, ascending and descending, occupies
one hour! The command obtained by this sort of work is enormous. To
vary the monotony of semibreves the student can then play scales in
semiquavers, making one bow last out ten, twelve, or more scales in
two octaves. Another useful variety of the same thing is to practise
some succession of notes in which the bow requires to continually
pass from one string to the next, such as:

[Illustration: Musical notes, _D.C. ad infinitum_.]

These should be played as many times as possible in one bow. Here the
command of the bow on the string is not only greatly increased, but
the wrist is well exercised at the same time.

The same thing should be carried out on the third and fourth strings

[Illustration: Musical notes.]

It is a good thing to make the pupil (if endowed with sufficient
intelligence) work out a series of such mechanical exercises, he will
this way take a much greater interest in the work, a point to which I
attach great importance, for I consider physical exercises, however
conscientiously carried out, do little good if the mind is fatigued
or absent.

Of scarcely less importance is the study of rapid whole bows. The
pupil should be made to draw the bow from end to end as rapidly as he
can without _losing control of the bow_, and it must be seen that the
pressure does not vary in any way. The bow should be set on firmly at
the heel, held there for, say, a crotchet, then drawn, without any
swelling of the tone in the centre of the bow, smartly to the point
where it must stop suddenly without any change of pressure. This is
not found an easy thing to accomplish, but "perseverance overcometh
all difficulties." The teacher must not be satisfied until the pupil
can draw a rapid up or down stroke stopping so suddenly and firmly as
to make the note sound as though cut off. In practising this, the bow
should remain firmly on the string between each stroke; whether the
bow travels or is stationary the pressure must be unchanged.

Staccato bowing is a much misunderstood branch of technics; I do not
mean the detached staccato, but that form in which a series of notes
is played in one bow yet have a detached effect on the ear. It is a
pity that one word should have to stand for two totally different
forms of bowing. I have heard and read many varying descriptions of
the "bowed-staccato" and its method of production. Of course it is
highly probable that some players attain it differently to others,
but as I see no anatomical reason for such differences of action it
seems a waste of energy to mechanically produce what already exists
in nature. I have no doubt a great deal of this gratuitous
variegation of staccato technique comes from teachers not fully
understanding their own movements, or perceiving a portion of the
action required and laying all stress on that one feature alone. But
unless one goes to the prime source of the matter a perfect staccato
cannot be attained.

This most important factor, as I should have thought everyone of
common sense would at once perceive, is nothing less than the wrist.
Yet I have known some teachers who confine their attention to the
action of the fingers, letting the wrist follow as best it can. It is
from such teachers, usually, that we receive the preposterous
statement that the upper half of the bow only should be used for this
bowing; some, even, limiting it still further to the up-bow. Now if
the wrist be first well exercised the co-operation of the fingers
will come naturally, and a perfect staccato from end to end in either
up or down stroke will be attained.

It should be practised slowly and firmly at first on one note thus:

[Illustration: Musical notes, etc.]

The bow remaining on the string between each note. The action is
really no different to ordinary bowing; it is simply a short crisp
stroke of about an inch in length, a short interval of silence
(without lifting the bow) and then another similar stroke in the same
direction, this being continued to the end of the hair. The part
played by the forefinger is to impart a certain "attack" to each
note, and is best produced by a slight turn of the wrist instead of
an independent pressure of the finger itself. This "attack" is what
the Germans call "ansatz," and consists in making a slight sound at
the initial impulse of each note somewhat resembling the hard
pronunciation of the letter "K." This is a most important sound, and
one that adds greatly to the crispness of one's playing. It should be
produced in the hand, however, as if the arm is called on for this
purpose the tone will become gritty and harsh. In commencing the
study of staccato bowing it is well to confine oneself to the up-bow
form at first. Great care must be exercised when reaching the lower
half of the bow that the notes remain of equal duration and loudness.
Just below the centre of the bow there is found a curious turning
point, a sort of corner that is very difficult to get round. It is
even more noticeable in down bow staccato.

This turning point is in the wrist, for at that part of the stroke
the most important change in the position of this joint takes place.
Therefore, as the muscles are so occupied in their internal
movements, they are not so ready to control the tendency to vibrate
in the bow. Thus, then, as a bad bow is nowhere so easily controlled
as a good one, some inferior bows become quite unmanageable when the
attention of the wrist muscles is so divided. Consequently it is
useless to attempt the attainment of staccato without first being
provided with a thoroughly well-balanced bow. In commencing the down
bow staccato, all tendency to lean on the string and so drag the bow
along in a series of jerks must be checked at once. The bow should be
lightly carried at the heel. This will seem difficult, but practice
will be well repaid.

It may not be out of place to give here a short list of studies and
solos that are concerned chiefly with the art of bowing. Of course
bowing studies are also to be found in all good schools and books of

CASORTI, "The Technic of the Bow."

DANCLA, "L'Art de l'Archet" (quite easy).

HAAKMAN, "Steadiness and flexibility of the Bow."

MEERTZ, "Twelve Etudes Elementaires" (giving the six fundamental

PAPINI, "L'Archet" (the most complete work on the subject).

POZNANSKI, "The Violin and Bow" (contains excellent photographs of

_Sautillé_ can be studied in a pleasing manner by practising pieces
of the "Moto Perpetuo" type. Of these the best are those by Paganini,
Ries, Moszkowski, Papini, G. Saint-George and E. German.

Of solos devoted to particular forms of bowing, the most notable are:

DE BERIOT, "Le Tremolo."

KONTSKI, "La Cascade" (tremolo).

PANOFKA, "Le Staccato."

PRUME, "Les Arpèges."

VIEUXTEMPS, "Les Arpèges."

VIEUXTEMPS, 1st Concerto in E (staccato).

BAZZINI, "Ronde de Lutins" (saltando staccato).

In an earlier section of this work I alluded to the bow as being
"tongue-like"; it is something more, for it is also the breath of the
violin. As breathing is to a vocalist so is bowing to a violinist. It
governs the phrasing, or, rather, is governed by it in the first
instance and then controls its delivery to the listener. Thus it will
be seen that too much attention cannot be paid to the real Art of
Bowing. By which I do not mean the brilliant technical feats of
_arpeggio_, _staccato_, _tremolo_, _etc._, but the pure legato bowing
of cantabile passages. It is in such song-like movements that the
true artist reveals himself by the nearness with which he approaches
that highest of all musical instruments, the human voice. Pure liquid
tone, the inflexions suggested rather than insisted on, clear
phrasing and an avoidance of all extravagance are the hall marks of
an artist, and not the possession of brilliant technique alone. To
those who are content with superficial glitter electro plate is as
good as sterling metal. But critics of discernment (by which I do not
mean _all_ those who write concert notices for the daily papers)
require something of more lasting value.


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