Sunday, 17 November 2013

"Inventing The American Guitar" - A Complete Martin Guitar History

Inventing The American Guitar is the first and only book to describe the early history of American guitar design in detail. It tells the story of how a European instrument was transformed into one with all of the design and construction features that define the iconic American "flat-top" guitar. This transformation happened within a mere 20 years, a remarkably brief period.

The person who dominates this history is Christian Frederick Martin, Sr., America's first major guitar maker and the founder of the Martin Guitar Company, which continues to produce outstanding flat-top steel string guitars. 

Born in 1792, C.F. Martin, Sr. emigrated from his native Saxony (Germany) to New York in 1833. He quickly established a guitar making business producing instruments modeled after those of his mentor Johann Stauffer of Vienna, Austria. By the time he moved his family and business to Pennsylvania, USA in 1839, Martin had absorbed and integrated the influence of Spanish guitars he had seen and heard in New York. In Pennsylvania he evolved further inventing a uniquely American guitar that was fully developed shortly before 1863.

C.F. Martin
ca. 1837
'Inventing The American Guitar' traces C. F. Martin's evolution as a craftsman and entrepreneur. It explores the influences and experiments that led to his creation of the American guitar that is recognized and played around the world today. The book also introduces various stringed instruments which played important roles in C.F. Martin's guitar history.

Christian "Chris" Martin IV contributed personal family history as well as Martin Guitar Company history to this publication. Various scholars, guitar collectors and noted historians were invited to contribute essays for this book's historic content. In all, there are 5 authors and 2 editors -- all at the 
top of their individual fields in music and guitars.

J.G. Stauffer
The book is rather large. It is approximately the size of an LP record jacket (a size often referred to as a 'coffee table' style). It includes amazing high resolution photos of prominent instruments in guitar history, including rare guitars never photographed until now. There is an easy-to-read timeline of the early history of guitar making. Accompanying each instrument photo is a valuable reference for the reader, complete with a column of specifications for the prominently historic guitars. 

This unprecedented history book is simply a fascinating read -- both for the scholar and the average music fan. if you own a Martin guitar, or if you play an instrument, or if you are a lover of vintage instruments in general... this book will serve you well for years to come. There are few, if any, music publications as detailed and as well researched as 'Inventing the American Guitar'

A real bonus for the general public is the low purchasing price (see prices below). I have no idea how the publisher Hal Leonard Books manufactured such a beautiful piece of work for such a low price. I have seen countless similar art and wilderness 'coffee table' books sell for $150 - $200 USD.

I would argue that an "encyclopedia" such as this may come along but once-in-a-lifetime. Until now, nothing has come close to the meticulous work done in this finest of music history publications. A pure masterpiece by any standard.

A full review/article will appear in a future issue of Bluegrass Europe Magazine.

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Prices online:  €35, - €45, / $40.00 - 50.00 USD
Publisher: Hal Leonard Books
Publishing Date: October 2013
Inventory #HL 00333271
ISBN: 9781458405760
UPC: 884088578350
Width: 10.75"
Length: 11.25"
Hardcover, 310 pages