Complete Description of Fields in
the Online Database of Historical Viols

Field NameComments
SizeFor the complete database, choices include Pardessus, Quinton, Treble, Tenor, Bass, and Violone; among English viols only treble, tenor, and bass are found, and for those made in France only pardessus, quinton, treble, and bass. Six-string pardessus normally have a body length of less than 34 cm, trebles less than 44 cm, tenors less than 60 cm, and basses less than 80 cm.
Maker nameSeparate fields for surname and given name; the spelling of both may be standardized
Place madeListed with the country first (using internationally-recognized abbreviations; England is represented by "GB"), followed by the city (or, for most American private owners, the state)
DateA capital letter C for "circa" may follow the date; periods may replace the final two digits if these are illegible or estimated/unknown (e.g., "16.." means some time during the 17th century).
LabelTranscribes the text of any interior label (or exterior brand stamp) not obviously associated with a repair, using the exact spelling and punctuation found there but with no attempt to accurately reproduce typography. However, diagonal slashes indicate line breaks when these are known, and printed labels are distinguished from handwritten ones whenever possible.
LocationCurrent location of instrument, using same system as Place Made
CollectionCurrent owner, whether an institution or a private individual; in the latter case names are here replaced with "Private Collection" (whether or not the owner has requested anonymity), except for a few well-known performer/collectors who have themselves publicized the instruments they own
Catalog numberGenerally applies only to institutionally-owned viols
Previous ownerListed in reverse chronological order (most recent first), with dates if possible
Body shapeChoices include Viol, Violin/Cello (i.e., with pointed corners and square shoulders), Guitar (cornerless), and Festoon (highly variable, but usually having both exterior and interior corners)
Sound hole shapeMost often C, followed by F and Flame (the latter covering many variations)
HeadDecoration at the top of the pegbox, which may be a Scroll, Open scroll, or a carved Head of some type: Male/Female, Lion, Cupid, etc.; "Head" means unclear but not a scroll
Number of stringsDescribes the instrument's current state, even if obviously modified from the original; 6+6 means 6 bowed plus 6 sympathetic (the latter almost always being later additions), while 4 usually indicates an unreversed cello or viola conversion
[Dimensions]Given in centimeters (to the nearest millimeter), with length and widths usually taken on the front, over the arching
Total lengthRetained for some instruments listed by Tourin but not used for those seen or otherwise updated by MacCracken, since length of the neck is often not original
Body lengthFrom the joint between neck and body to the bottom block, usually taken over the table arching unless otherwise noted
Width, upperMaximum width of upper bouts, usually taken over the table arching
Width, middleMinimum with of center bouts, usually taken over the table arching
Width, lowerMaximum width of lower bouts, usually taken over the table arching
Rib depth Taken at bottom block, or maximum if greater elsewhere; preferably not including thickness of front and back plates, but often it is uncertain which method has been used by other researchers
String lengthFrom the top nut to the fingerboard side of the bridge (whose position may of course vary depending on the setup)
Tourin IDIdentifying siglum used in Peter Tourin's Viollist (1979); if blank, instrument is an addition since 1991
DHV no.A unique serial number that, if desired, can be used to identify a particular instrument listed in this database, more efficiently than by naming its size, maker, year, location, etc., especially for repeated references.
Info. sourceSource(s) on which the data record is based, which may be a first-hand visit (by Peter Tourin = PT, or Thomas MacCracken = TGM, with a month/year date) or a publication (here identified by author's surname plus date of publication, with full details in the accompanying bibliography), or information provided privately
LiteratureImportant published descriptions of, or references to, this instrument, cited as above
PhotosPublished photographs, cited as above (for books) or as below (for recordings), plus unpublished photos taken by Tourin or MacCracken, or obtained from other sources. In each case, the view of instrument is indicated as front, back, side (often abbreviated F, B, S), head, label, etc.; color photos are so marked, while others may be assumed to be black-and-white.
RecordingsCited by the performer's surname and date, with fuller details in the bibliography (where manufacturer's catalog numbers are generally those of the initial release only and are often now out of print, especially for vinyl LPs). This list is not comprehensive, favoring solo recordings when known, though continuo and consort use is also noted as possible.
CommentsContains various additional information as available, including (but not systematically):
  • further description of structure (e.g. arched or striped back, overhanging edges) or decoration (e.g. purfling, other decorative inlay work, rosette), and current condition
  • types of wood used, if known to be unusual (i.e., not spruce and maple), and number of pieces in the table and back, if known to be other than two
  • known non-original parts of the instrument, as well as restoration or repair work, including labels or inscriptions associated with the latter
  • dimensions from other sources, if different from main "Info. source" (may begin with total length before body length; dashes indicate missing data)
  • opinions of various people or publications, with attributions (sometimes direct quotes)
Private ownerChoices are either "Yes" or blank
AuctionFor instruments that have been offered for sale at auctions, especially by Sotheby's and Christie's, gives the firm's name, date (in the format YYYY/MM/DD), and lot number