The English Double Bass Book
A unique limited-edition book exploring the fine double basses made in England
The pre-eminent orchestral animal, the English double bass provides power and depth of sound amid great clarity and immediacy. The English makers of the 18th and 19th Century produced instruments which set a benchmark still looked up to today.
Published in 2018, it chronicles the rise and fall of the English double bass makers, providing compiled information on their work, instruments and lives in a level of detail not seen before.
Some 766 stunning photographs of double basses are printed on high-quality fine art paper and are enshrined in a single leather-bound volume. This is a valuable contribution to the history of the double bass, and as such is an essential addition to the libraries of researchers, players, museum curators, luthiers, restorers and valuers.
The combined effort of friends and colleagues
Co-authors Tom Martin, George Martin and Martin Lawrence first conceived The English Double Bass through a shared fascination and admiration for the English double basses of the 18th and 19th Century. All three are world-renowned respected double bass makers, repairers and restorers.
As string-instrument family professionals, all three have been privileged to see and hold many fine double basses as they have passed through their hands over the years. In addition, Tom has played fine English double basses throughout his career as a musician.
Following a series of articles commissioned by The Strad, and inspired by the BVMA’s seminal work The British Violin, Tom, George and Martin conceived a fine-art book. The trio’s collective vision was to showcase high quality pictures of the best examples of each maker’s work with a biography to set the context. This is the first in a series of books that the authors are intending on producing, their vision is for a full set of double bass books covering the instruments made in different regions.
With 526 pages containing astonishing photographs, this book is the definitive work on the English double bass
With 766 images across the 526 pages of The English Double Bass, high quality photography was paramount. Many instrument pictures were acquired over time, with some on large-format 5×4 transparencies. These had to be digitised and colour-corrected by the authors before printing.
The photography production process was a significant aspect of the work involved in producing The English Double Bass. Even with modern digital photography, careful colour retouching was essential to ensure the colour of each instrument was as true to the original as possible. The end result now enables off-the-page comparison of different instruments by researchers, museum curators, auctioneers, luthiers and valuers who will be able to use the work for future study.
Valuable research was completed on England’s double bass makers
Central to the work are the double basses made by the English artisans of the 18th, 19th and 20th Century. Some 40 double bass makers are portrayed in detail, and much of the work reveals information about their lives never previously researched or revealed.
The economic, political and musical backdrop to the rise and fall of the double bass makers is set out in detail in the introduction. The Restoration of the monarchy; the Glorious Revolution; and the accession of the Hanoverian Prince George to the British throne all played their part in setting the backdrop for the rise of the double bass makers. George Frederick Handel’s arrival in London, and, later, the double bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti had a major impact, firstly on the appearance and later the popularity of the double bass.