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Review: The Early History of the Viol by Ian Woodfield

Review: The Early History of the Viol by Ian Woodfield

Reviewed by Christopher Allworth

Originally published in American Lutherie #5, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

The Early History of the Viol
Ian Woodfield
Cambridge University Press, 1984
Out of print (1999)

This is for the instrument maker or prospective instrument maker with an historical bent who wants to be inspired into making viols. While this book will not tell him or her how to make a viol (see Bottenberg, Building a Treble Viola da Gamba, 1980, Concordia University) it will provide the historical information necessary for an understanding of the instrument’s evolution up to 1700. Thus, it will encourage the discerning maker especially.

This book is a very significant one, for not only is it the first major volume on viols in twenty years, it is the first book to address the “new wave” of viol making; when, with Ian Harwood’s article “An Introduction to Renaissance Viols,” Early Music, October 1974, and the articles contributed by Pringle, Harwood/Edmunds, and Hadaway in Early Music’s second viol issue, October 1978, we became aware of the many faces of the viol as distinct from the rather all-purpose one to which we had become accustomed. In other words, the wave of fresh insights into the harpsichord field initiated by Frank Hubbard in his Three Centuries of Harpsichord Making, 1965, is now being repeated here in the field of viols and therefore Woodfield’s contribution is an exceedingly important and useful one.

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