In Focus: A 1669 Richard Meares bass viol

Meares de Sayas (Soriano) head side

Shem Mackey takes a look at a Meares bass viol with distinctive carved head

This article appeared in the December 2018 issue

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This instrument features in the book In Focus 2: click here to buy a copy

During his lifetime Arnold Dolmetsch (1858–1940) built up a considerable collection of early musical instruments and a musical library containing many works of the 17th and 18th centuries. This entire collection was sold in a bankruptcy auction on 29–30 October 1901 by Puttick and Simpson of London. Among the instruments listed was this Richard Meares bass viol, which sold for the comparatively small price of £5. In the same sale an Amati violin and a Vuillaume sold for £51 and £33 respectively. The Meares bass viol was bought by a friend of Dolmetsch and immediately handed back to him. It subsequently appeared in published sources in 1904 and 1905, and in 1929 it underwent extensive restoration in the Dolmetsch workshop. It was finally sold in the mid-1930s to the present owner’s mother, a musician and close friend of Dolmetsch…

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