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The old Cremonese luthiers’ method of designing violin archings has been lost in the mists of time. Andrew Dipper uses evidence from 18th-century manuals to propose how they might have done it, through a system encompassing string lengths, internal forms… and a lot of mathematics
How did the Cremonese makers of the 17th and 18th centuries calculate and design their violin archings? This mystery has long remained unsolved, partly because none of the documentary evidence we have gives a complete formula or method – and following the demise of the Stradivari family, the Cremonese violin making tradition began to be lost to posterity. This article aims to piece together the Cremonese method of calculating an instrument’s arching, and show how it fits into the complex geometrical system governing its design – from the top and back plates to the placement of the f-holes, soundpost, C-bouts and so on. It relies heavily on two contemporaneous sources: Antonio Bagatella’s treatise Regole per la costruzione de’ violini, viole, violoncelli e violoni (‘Rules for the construction of violins, violas, cellos and double basses’) and the anonymous Librum Segreti de Buttegha (‘Book of workshop secrets’)…
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