IAN WATCHORN HISTORICAL INSTRUMENTS                          136 Hawdon St

                                                                                                                                Heidelberg, Victoria 3084

                                                                                                                                T: +61 3 9455 1793

                                                                                                                                E: ian@ianwatchorn.com.au



Ms. Toni Johnson

A/ Manager, School of Music

The University of Western Australia

Mailbag M413, 35 Stirling Highway Crawley, WA 6009


Restoration Report - Guitar D’Amore, Tomasz Zach, Prague, 1850 or 56.


This instrument is a guitar in the Legnani style, with raised fretboard, the upper range of which is free-standing above the belly. The outline is reminiscent of the violin, having pointed lower bouts.

The string length is 640mm and the instrument carries the usual 6 strings of the guitar (a combination of plain gut and silk-wound strings originally) on the fretboard.

The back and sides are of walnut, with an interesting figure, book-matched on the back, which is then veneered on pine.

The belly is of 2 pieces of book matched pine with ladder barring and the bars, liners and blocks are all of pine.

The body is extensively decorated with broad fruitwood purfling. The outer dark bands are of pear wood stained black (logwood stain) and the inner bands may be plum, cherry or apple.

Like the viola d’amore on whose musical principle the guitar is based, the neck is hollow to allow passage of a further 6 metal strings which are intended to vibrate sympathetically as the guitar is played.

Regarding documentation and literature concerning the Guitar d’amore, colleagues at the Grassi Museum in Leipzig tell me that this is an unique instrument, the first of its kind that they have actually seen, though its existence is mentioned in period literature.

Details regarding the Maker:

A pencil inscription written in Czech was found inside the belly of the guitar (see photos) Below is an e-mail from colleagues in Leipzig and Prague who have identified the most likely maker of the guitar. His name is Tomáš Zach, a highly respected violin maker of the mid 19th century working in Prague. He was a pupil of the famous Prague violin maker J. B. Dvořák.

Jan Tulacek from Prague, writing to Dr. Andreas Michel of Leipzig:

Dear Mr. Michel,

very interesting! It is definitely in Czech. The third line last word is "nástrojů" and the word in front of that is or should be "hudebních". It may be the end of typical sentence "hotovitel hudebních nástrojů" or "výrobce hudebních nástrojů" which means "maker of musical instruments" or simply luthier.

The last word of the second line seems like "umělec" which means "artist", which is a bit mysterious in this context. I'm not completely sure about the first letter of this word - there seems to be some diacritics above it which doesn't make sense or it may be part of another letter? Anyway this is my best guess.

Jan Tulek from Prague has another hypothesis about the name from the guitar:

"The capital letter "Z" must stand for some name otherwise it doesn't make sense. The only possible first name would be Zdeněk but there is really no relevant violin maker with this first name.

Then it occurred to me that "Tomáš Z." could stand for Tomáš (Thomas) Zach. And it is indeed a possible name (lived 1812-1892) and an excellent violin maker working in Prague, Pest, Wien etc. According to Jalovec's book "Czech Violinmakers" he worked also for J. B. Dvořák.

Indeed the style and wide stripes in purflings are reminiscent of Dvořák's guitars at least to my eyes. Also the material of the body seems like walnut (I have no good picture of the body) which Dvorak used too. Could it be a guitar made by Zach in Dvořák's workshop perhaps?

In any case, at the present moment, this is the only guitar by this maker and the only guitar d’amore that we are aware of.

Condition on Arrival:

The instrument was unplayable, due to deterioration of the glue joints over time. The belly was cracked in several places above and below the bass side of the bridge.

The instrument is historically intact, with most parts appearing to ne original. For its age most parts are in good stable condition.

The ebony bridge has a series of small woodscrews set into it, attaching the bridge to the bridge plate below it under the belly. These appear to be a later repair. There is a non original screw in the heel of the neck. The original tuners are present but inoperative.

The nuts for both sets of strings are missing. The bridge has been re-glued with a synthetic glue at some point. This joint has failed and is held only by the screws. The belly has been coarsely sanded and re-finished with a lacquer. The varnish on the back, sides, neck and head appears to be original and unaltered.

Work undertaken:

·         Removal of the back, stabilisation of all purflings and inlays in the back, sides and belly.

·         Removal, repair and re-gluing of the original bridge.

·         Stabilisation of all internal glue joints.

·         Removal of a screw in an old repair to the heel and filling of the screw hole.

·         Removal and re-gluing of fretboard.

·         Calculation and manufacture of an appropriate set of strings.

·         Reglueing of the back, reassembly of the guitar

·         Cleaning of all parts and disassembly and cleaning of both machine tuners.

·         Removal of non-original lacquer from the belly.

·         Reconstruction of the bridge saddle, nuts and end button.

·         Stringing, setting up and adjustment of the nuts and saddle.

·         Full documentation of the internal and external construction.

·         Supply of a fully fitted case from Kingham MTM, England.




Condition after Restoration:

The instrument is now fully conserved and the missing parts reconstructed. Renewal of the animal glue joints has resulted in the guitar being playable and stable at playing tension.

The historical importance of this instrument is extremely high and, due to this, its age and the large amount of tension on the bridge, the playing use of this guitar needs to be carefully controlled and monitored.

Recommendations for care, maintenance and use:

·         The idiosyncratic construction and tuning, as well as the historical importance of this instrument render it, in my opinion, unsuitable for general student use.

·         The guitar d’amore is an instrument with no known specific repertoire. Whilst it can be tuned as a normal guitar, its playability is limited by several factors. It is very likely that the intended tuning for this guitar is an A or D major chord. This tuning is like that of the viola d’amore and promotes a much greater sympathetic resonance than does the usual guitar tuning in 4ths.

·         The upper fret board (14th fret and above) is rather thin, due to the sympathetic strings which pass beneath. If this guitar is played above the 14th fret, a very real possibility exists of snapping off the fretboard extension. Due to the flexibility of this part of the fretboard, it does not play in tune.

·         The bridge is designed to carry all 12 strings and is thus, under quite high tension. It has been repeatedly repaired in the past due to failure of the glue joint and the result is wear and damage to the belly under the bridge area. The stability of the bridge will require regular (weekly) monitoring whilst under playing tension.

·         The construction of the guitar is complex and fragile. Humidity needs to be controlled at all times and should fall in the range 45 – 65% RH. This is a particularly important consideration during the hot dry Perth summers.

·         The set of strings designed for this guitar (see attached packs supplied by Pyramid Strings in Germany) are of light gauge and should be tuned no higher than a’ = 415 Hz.

·         The tension on the guitar should be lowered by 1 octave if it is to be stored for any length of time (periods of 1 month or more).

In terms of ongoing care and maintenance, the conservation of all the existing original material of this instrument is paramount, as this may well be the only surviving example of a guitar d’amore.

The following points are fundamental:

·         Due to the unique historical content, the guitar would be best protected within a museum environment, where the matter of usage can be carefully controlled.

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·         The instrument as it is following conservation, is very stable, but has certain inherent idiosyncrasies and weaknesses, outlined in this documentation. The guitar can certainly be strung and played under restricted conditions (concerts, recordings, etc.), but is of limited use for general playing by students and staff, due to its condition and historical importance.

·         Due to its historical importance, a well researched performance and recording presentation of the instrument by a recognised early performance practitioner could be of considerable value to the guitar community. This may also assist in raising funds for the on-going preservation of this interesting instrument.

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