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Rare Musical Instruments in September Scientific & Musical Instruments Sale

24th August 2021.

A host or rare musical instruments are to be sold in Tennants Auctioneers’ Scientific and Musical Instruments Sale on 29th September, with antique stringed instruments by some of the finest English makers being joined by a fine selection of contemporary Guitars.

The top lot of the sale is a fine Late 18th Century Cello made by Benjamin Banks of Salisbury in 1786, which is to be sold with an estimate of £50,000-80,000 (plus buyer’s premium). Benjamin Banks, known as the ‘English Amati’, was one of the finest English instrument makers of his age with his cellos being particularly sought-after. The cello bears the original maker’s label, which is adhered to the inside of the back pieces and reads ‘BENJAMIN BANKS,/Salisbury, Fecit 17’ with the last two digits of the date ’86’ written in by hand.

A Violin by John Frederick Lott II (1804- 1870) is offered with an estimate of £15,000-20,000 and is part of a small collection of instruments in the sale that were The Property of a Musician. John Lott, known as Jack, was the most in demand English violin maker of the 19th century making fine models after the Cremonese masters Guarneri del Gesù and Antonio Stradivari. He also led a rather colourful life. Born the son of respected luthier John Frederick Lott I, he was first apprenticed to William Davies for four years and then spent a brief period making instruments for Edward Dodd. In 1823, however, he gave up making instruments to travel the world, which culminated in the young John becoming an elephant trainer for a travelling circus in Europe and the United States. His extraordinary adventures became the basis for the novelette ‘Jack of All Trades’ by Charles Reade (1814-1884). During his time away he worked as a wood grainer, where he mastered techniques to make wood show age and wear. He returned to London circa 1843 and set up his own workshop at 60 Wardour Street, London, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Known for their exceptional tone, Lott’s violins were in great demand during his lifetime. He was particularly skilled in imitating aged works after Guarneri models – a technique pioneered by the Fendt family in London and J.B. Vuillaume in France, who was a close acquaintance. Lott’s violins shared the eccentricities of style and dramatic tone of Guarneri’s instrument but didn’t follow the Cremonese methods of construction.

Also of note in the stringed section of the sale is a well-made Violin Bow by W. E. Hill & Son, one of the finest makers in the UK (estimate: £1,500-2,000), and further Violin labelled ‘Pierre Hel Luthier du Conservatoire a Lille en l’an 1910 (estimate: £8,000-10,000).

Juxtaposed against the fine antique instruments, five first-edition guitars by Robson Guitars are also on offer. Robson Guitars, based in the Northeast of England, is a new company that combines traditional hands-on craft with state of art technology to produce fine instruments. Robson Guitars feature fine hand engraved artwork by Greg Goodwillie, who was a senior hand engraver with Purdey Shotguns for 20 years and was freeman of the City of London for services to his craft. Highlights of the guitars include a Dream 17 Archtop, made with spruce, maple and ebony and offered with an estimate of £6,000-8,000.

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