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Review: Lutes, Viols and Temperaments

Review: Lutes, Viols and Temperaments

Mark Lindley

Cambridge University Press, 1984

Out of print (1999)

Originally published in American Lutherie #2, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



This book represents a landmark of scholarship that cannot be ignored by those who deal with fretted string instruments, whether scholar, maker, or player. Mark Lindley, one of the world’s experts on this complex subject, summarizes everything that can at present be said about the ways in which theorists and performers viewed the problem of temperament on fretted string instruments between ca. 1520 and ca. 1740. He does a brilliant job of sorting out the writers. He explains how some of them misunderstood the mathematical principles involved in reckoning temperament, and he shows how many of them, in turn, have been misinterpreted by modern scholars.

The information is laid out clearly. Quotations from original sources have the English translation in parallel columns: thus, if Lindley draws an inference from the primary material, you are free to disagree and draw your own. The mathematics of temperament are presented clearly and, in many cases, masterfully, as in his explication of the distinction between the ratio of 18:17 and 12th root of 2.

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