Decorative Romantic Guitar, labeled Alday & Co., Dublin , c. 1850

Decorative Romantic Guitar, labeled Alday & Co., Dublin ,  c. 1850

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Item # 3293
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Decorative Model Romantic Guitar, labeled Alday & Co., Dublin, c. 1850, probably Spain, natural varnish finish, laminated over maple back & sides, spruce top, mahogany neck with ebony fretboard, top and pegbox with mother of pearl inlay set in mastick.

One of the loveliest Romantic era guitars we have seen in a while, a showpiece of engraved pearl and fine wood inlay. The entire borders of the top and sound hole are decorated with engraved pearl pieces in a floral pattern set in mastic and edged with thin wood strips, with a similar but daintier leaf-pattern inlay around the headstock edges and sides. The bridge is an elaborately scrolled-end moustache shape, with a large pearl inset to the top, pins with pearl dots, and wire saddle.

The novel and exceptionally elegant tuning pegs are built into the headstock with the gears concealed under the sides and the small metal buttons projecting to the rear -- amazingly, they still work well over 150 years on. The neck is fairly slim and rounded in profile with a Viennese-style grafted "ice cream cone" heel.

While this guitar's actual origins are not absolutely evident -- there are no visible maker's marks -- its sales history is literally written inside. There are two paper labels under the sound hole from the original importer and seller, in a style consistent with the first half of the 19th century. Farther inside the guitar is from the firm of J. Gowan in Dublin, Ireland, noted as an importer of a wide range of musical goods of "Every description kept in stock ... Much under prices usually charged". A second label is from Alday & Co of the same city, noted as "Music sellers to his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant". Alday's firm is known to have operated at the address listed (10 Dame Street) from 1815 through 1835, but the mention of "banjoes" on the importer's label would appear to date this guitar slightly past that year.

However long the instrument stayed in Ireland, it was in New York City in the 1930s, as it also carries a repair label from R.A. Mango of 22nd street, who was active in the period as a builder and restorer. The Mango label likely points to ownership by Vladmir Bobri, who had a numbed of instruments repaired at the shop and actually designed the luthier's label. The instrument likely passed into the Augustine collection from Bobri, as did many pieces. This is not only a fascinating historical piece but a lovely-playing instrument, in a style we rarely encounter other than on museum display.
Overall length is 35 1/2 in. (90.2 cm.), 11 13/16 in. (30 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 5/8 in. (625 mm.). Width of nut is 1 13/16 in. (46 mm.).

Considering its age and fragility, this guitar is in extremely well-preserved condition and is quite playable. There are several repaired top cracks coming off the bridge and around the fingerboard, all neatly sealed with some light touch-up. It is likely that the fingerboard was replaced at some point, possibly by Mango in the 1930s.

Everything else appears original, and playing this guitar is simply a wonderful trip back to a long-ago era. The sound is surprisingly deep for the size of the guitar and very pretty, perfect for serenading in the parlor or garden. From the old world to the new, this guitar has likely had a long and interesting journey, and is still continuing it today! Very Good + Condition.