GUITAR by LOUIS PANORMO, LONDON, 1833; Serial No: 20030


A highly unusual and important experimental guitar by Louis Panormo.

The Body Size

This instrument is unusually large in the body, being of a size only found from the 1860’s in the guitars of Antonio de Torres. It is in every way a fully developed Spanish-style guitar, being of rosewood, fully fan-barred, with the Spanish heel and body construction employed by Panormo from 1816 onwards.


·         Body length: 450mm;

·         Max. width: 320mm;

·         Depth: 88-105mm;

·         Stringlength: 631-636mm.

In addition, this guitar bears a number of close similarities, both to the enharmonic Panormo guitar depicted in Perronett Thompson’s book on the enharmonic guitar of 1829 and to the surviving Panormo enharmonic guitar of 1829 in the Musical Instrument Museum of Leipzig University.

The Bridge

In terms of the fretting scheme employed by Panormo, this guitar retains the most frequently encountered stringlength of 634mm (25 English inches). The original bridge is very unusual and experimental, somewhat similar in concept to the Leipzig Panormo. The pin-bridge is of ebony with a glued, compensating saddle also of ebony. The shortest stringlength is e’ = 631mm and the longest E – 636m. This proportion accords accurately with the formula given by Perronett Thompson in his book for the compensation of the bridge. This is the earliest guitar known with an original compensating bridge saddle.

This invention of Perronett Thompson appears to have passed through a number of permutations before reaching the form found on this guitar of 1833. In Perronett Thompson’s drawings of the enharmonic guitar bridge, we see a bridge not unlike those of Joseph Panormo, but set at an angle across the soundboard so that the straight saddle is oriented to provide the ¼ inch compensation described in the text.

If one examines the marks of earlier bridges on the Leipzig enharmonic guitar, one finds a broad footprint of an earlier bridge, very similar in outline to that of this 1833 guitar, but also set at an angle inferring compensation of a straight-set saddle. The visual effect of both these bridges is disturbing to the eye and the final version of this bridge, found on the present 1833 guitar resolves the symmetry issue by orienting the bridge at right angles and then angling the saddle to achieve the compensation. (see images below)


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  1. From Thompson’s book.
(bridge resembling  J. Panormo)
2. Leipzig enharmonic guitar.
(current bridge not original)
3. 1833 Louis Panormo 
(original bridge)



Joseph Panormo-Tanton 005A.jpg   Panormo - 5A.jpg
4. Bridge of Joseph Panormo 1827.
  (compare – Thompson drawing 1 above) 
  5. Leipzig enharmonic guitar – marks of earlier bridge
(note outline and lower set of pin holes.)
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6. Bridge of 1833 Panormo – note the angled ebony  saddle and very low-set bridge pin holes.   7. Internal marking-out and bar cutaways for the bridge.


As with many Panormo guitars, the original marking out for the bridge shows the bridge pin holes, drawn as circles. The fan bars at this point were trimmed with a gouge to allow clearance for the bridge pins. This has been done during the building of this guitar, despite the position of the experimental bridge (an original feature) leading to pin holes below the normal position. (above - right-hand photo)


The One-Piece Belly

This guitar has a single-piece belly of quarter sawn pine, which is graduated from very fine on the treble to medium to broad grain on the bass side. This unusual feature is particularly notable on a guitar of such large dimensions. The belly has 7 fan-bars, oriented in the customary way for a fan-braced Panormo guitar


Woods and Varnish

This guitar is made of very fine Brasilian rosewood for the back and sides. The neck is cedar and the head, maple. The tentelone blocks are cedar ad the back liner is pine, as are all the bars in the instrument. The light golden, somewhat thick varnish is very good for its age and has not been re-polished or substantially re-touched.


The Neck

The nut, fingerboard and frets (19 in all, instead of the usual 18 frets) all appear to be original and in good order. The neck is excellent and the guitar is fully playable following restoration in my workshop.


The Tuning Machines

The Baker machine heads are larger than usual and very finely made and decorated. The tuning is finer than normal Baker heads, due to the use of a 16-tooth cog, rather than the usual 12 teeth.

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As a Playing Instrument

Tonally, this guitar is as large as it looks. The sound is, nonetheless, very well focused, clean, mellow and powerful, with strong projection. Whilst this guitar would clearly be a very interesting instrument for a collector who specialises in Panormo, it would also be an ideal instrument for a modern classical player who would like to play repertoire of the period on an original instrument, but with minimum disruption to technique.

The tone of this guitar rivals in volume and clarity most modern classical guitars and has the characteristic “Spanish” qualities derived from finely balanced fan barring. It is interesting to find a guitar of the early 1830’s that is comparable not only in its dimensions, but also in its tone, with the instruments of Antonio de Torres, 30 years later.

It is a mark of Panormo’s capacity as a gifted maker, that he was able to create such a powerful and yet well balanced instrument, whilst working with dimensions well outside his normal parameters.

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The photos above were taken during restoration.

The 2 pine reinforcements, seen in the upper left-hand photo of the inside of the belly, have been removed and replaced with small pine studs. The fan barring is typical of Panormo’s rosewood models of this period.

The damage to the centre strip of the back has been repaired with matching wood. The barring of the back is typical.

The ribs are set into the neck without wedges (lower right - hand photo). It is more common to find the sides set with wedges.

The nut is original as is the screw-on strap button. The construction of this feature is shown in the photos above.

On several instruments made between 1827 and 1833, Panormo experimented with a strongly curved or radiused fretboard. A similarly strong radius is found on the fretboard of the enharmonic guitar in Leipzig MIM and a guitar of 1829 (serial No. 1746), previously restored in my workshop. (see photos of nut, above).

Due to its historical importance, experimental nature, its state of preservation and excellent tonal characteristics, this instrument is of museum quality and would be a valuable addition to any public or private collection.


Price: $AUD 15,000.00