The Entire New and Compleat Tutor for the Violin

Posted By on December 2, 2010

violin tutor

This lovely thing, published by John Preston, was found inside an 18th Century violin case containing a violin labelled Preston and two baroque bows, neither of which was stamped and both of which were broken. That excellent book The British Violin notes that John Barton made instruments for Preston, and indeed the violin was inscribed underneath the table with Barton’s name. All the violin textbooks refer to a music business run by James Preston – it is known that his initial was “J” – but it should be John. The scholarly Langwill Index mentions only John Preston (and his son Thomas) at the address given on the title page. All the Preston stringed instruments I have seen have been labelled Preston, Maker, No. 97, Strand, London, which is the same address as the one in this tutor.

violin tutor

Of course Preston, like Cahusac, was involved in the retail of wind instruments as well, and boxwood flutes stamped Preston, London are not uncommon. Also he was one of the principal dealers of the charming but obsolete instrument called, correctly, the English Guittar, commonly and incorrectly called the cittern. Again, survivors of these seem to outnumber violins – Sotheby’s once had three in the same sale (March 1980).

Germiniani’s original work, The Art of Playing on the Violin was published in London in 1740. There were numerous imitations and partial reprints afterwards, so I suppose there was very little in the way of a workable copyright law. This one must date from between 1778 and 1787, because that’s when Preston was at this address. Furthermore, the knowledgeable Van Der Straeten, in his The Romance of the Fiddle (pub. 1911) dates this particular edition as “about 1780”, and notes that the text is absolutely identical with another plagiarist’s work, Prelleur’s The Art of Playing on the Violin. Furthermore it didn’t stop there, as next Longman & Broderip, and then Cahusac, both produced copies without bothering to change a single syllable.

Despite the large numbers published, survivors are rare because of their use by children. This primer is tatty but complete (or perhaps compleat).

It is thirty pages long, and starts with a few pages of music theory, and how to hold the violin.

18th century violin tutor

Then there is a fold-out page with life size fingerboard diagrams,

18th century violin tutor

then an explanation of time signatures, then bowing and finally key signatures.

18th century violin tutor

That’s all in the first twelve pages, then sixteen pages of music of increasing complexity, starting with God Save the King (which meant George III) and ending with Lost, lost is my quiet. One of the pieces is Mozart’s Waltz. Mozart had lived in London between 23rd April 1764 (aged eight) and 30th July 1765, performing regularly. Plenty of time to become famous. He should’ve stayed in London . . .

18th century violin tutor

18th century violin tutor

18th century violin tutor

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