The Bookshelf

This is a list of useful books for makers and enthusiasts.  These are common references.  Some of these books cost in the hundreds, so I’ve included WorldCat links.  WorldCat will help you locate these books in libraries near you; many of these books are in reference sections or can be checked out or brought in from other libraries.  I’ve included a synopsis for books I’ve reviewed/read or own.

Cost Guide
$  = <$50; $$ < $100;  $$$ < $200;  $$$$ < $500; $$$$$ > $500.00

“Antonio Stradivari: His life and Work”, William Henry Hill, Arthur F Hill and Alfred Ebsworth Hill

Categories: Historical, Bibliographical

Summary: Hardcover, 303 Pages, $.  Printed by Hazell, Watson and Viney 1902 (reprinted 1909, 1963, 1969, 1980)

Synopsis:  Arguably the most famous treatise on Stradivari.  One of a series on violin makers and making families produced by the Hill firm.   Includes plates of five violins, a viola and a cello.  Followed up most notably by Simone F. Sacconi’ s “I segreti di Stradivari” (“The Secrets of Stradivari”) in 1979 and Stewart Pollens’ “Stradivari” in 2010.

WorldCat (1902 ed) WorldCat (1963 ed)

Available online at Cornell University Library

“The Art of violin Making”, Chris Johnson and Roy Courtnall

Categories: Making

Summary: Hardcover, 256 Pages. $$, Published by R. Hale, 1999. ISBN 0709058764

Synopsis:  The go-to reference for beginners.  This book is used as a text by some schools.  Detailed and well illustrated, it follows a traditional method with reliance on hand tools over any machinery.


“The Chi-Mei Collection of Fine Violins”, Jen-wu Chen and  Tim T H Ku

Categories: Photographic

Summary: Hardcover with case, 115 Pages. $$$, published by Chi-Mei Culture Foundation, 1997. ISBN-10: 9579720886

Synopsis: In Chinese and English, this book has full size color photographs of 15 violins and cellos by Amati, Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesu, Stainer, the brother Amati, Rogeri, Guarneri filius Andrea, Seraphin, gagliano, and Guadagnini.  Brief summaries accompany the photographs.


“Classic Italian Violin Varnish”, Geary L Baese

Categories: Making

Summary: Hardcover, 99 Pages. $$$, 1985. ISBN 0961551003


“The Complete Luthier’s Library”, Roberto Regazzi

Categories: Reference

Summary: Hardcover, 556 Pages, Unillustrated. $$$$$, published by Florenus Edizioni, 1990. ISBN 8885250017

Synopsis:  A reference book containing a bibliographical index of violin-related printed material.  Comprehensive to 1990.


“The Conservation, Restoration, and Repair of Stringed Instruments and Their Bows”, Edited by Tom Wilder

Categories: Restoration

Summary: Approx. 1600 Pages in three volumes. $$$$$, published by IPIC Canada, 2010 ISBN: 978-1-904982-41-8

Notes: V. 1. General issues concerning stringed instruments and their bows, v. 2. Stringed instruments and techniques for their conservative restoration and repair. v. 3. Bows and techniques for their conservative restoration and repair.


Cremona Violins: A Physicist’s Quest for the Secrets of Stradivari”, K. C. Wali

Cermona ViolinsCategories: Technical

Summary: 157  Pages, illustrations and a DVD. $, published by World Scientific, 2010 ISBN: 9789812791115 & 9812791116

Notes: This book contains several sections, including a brief history of Stradivarius and his violins, a physics-based description of the violin, and a review of the acoustical research of William F. Fry.  Fry purports to have found a method for tuning an assembled violin through adjustments to plate thicknesses.

WorldCat Publisher’s Website (ebook)

“Four Centuries of violin Making: Fine Instruments from the Sotheby’s Archive”, Tim Ingles, Introduction by John Dilworth

Categories: Historical, Photographic

Summary: Hardcover, 640 Pages, 621 Illustrations. $$$$, published by Cozio, 2006 ISBN:0-9764431-0-4

Synopsis:  This is an amazing book for violin lovers.  Page after page of full color photos of instruments.  Not all, but quite a few include images of the scroll from front and side angles as well.  Includes brief and concise write ups of the 75 makers to introduce their instruments.  There is a mammoth (4.7kg) well made tomb that could easily be passed on in a family or from maker to maker.   If you love books and love violins, this is for you.  A review by The Strad magazine is linked from the book’s website here.

Notes: Standard Edition Limited to 3,920 editions,available online here. The Deluxe Edition with protective sleeve is limited to 320 editions, here.


“Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù” (2-volume) by Peter Biddulph

Categories: Photographic, biographical and technical

Summary:  339 pages, $$$$$, 1998

Synopsis:  Considered the definitive reference for Guarneri del Gesu. Volume 1 contains color photographs of 25 violins, Volume 2 contains biographical information, technical descriptions, measurements and drawings, as well as a review of his working methods and dendrochronology analysis of the violins.

WorldCat vol1, WorldCat Vol2

“J.B.Vuillaume-Sa Vie et Son Oeuvre” by Roger Millant

Categories: Biographical

Summary:  207 pages, $$$$, 1972

Synopsis:  Contains French, English and German sections.  A detailed and engaging biography of Vuillaume.  No plates or pictures.


“The making of stringed instruments : a workshop guide”, George Buchanan

Categories: Making

Summary:  207 Pages, $$, published by B. T. Batsford, 2000. ISBN 0713481404


“Masterpieces of Italian Violin Making”, David Rattray

Categories: Historical, Photographic

Summary: Hardcover, 192 Pages, $$$, published by The Scarecrow Press, 2000 ISBN 0-8108-3976-8

Synopsis: A nicely laid out book with large pictures and detailed write ups.  Not as many instruments as the ‘Four Centureies’ but does contain more actual measurements.


“Research papers in violin acoustics, 1975-1993”, Catgut Acoustical Society, Edited by Carleen Maley Hutchins

Categories: Making, Research

Summary:  1312 Pages in Two Volumes, $$$,  Acoustical Society of America through the American Institute of Physics 1997.  ISBN 1563966093 1563966042 1563966085

Note: In 2004 the Catgut Acoustical Society joined the Violin Society of America.


“The ‘Secrets’ of Stradivari”, Simone F. Sacconi

Categories: Instrument Making, Historical

Summary: Hardcover, 264 Pages, 185 Illustrations. $$$, published by Libreria Del Convegno, 1979.

Synopsis:  This is a compilation of the research done by Luthier Simone F. Sacconi (1895-1973).  According to his biography, Sacconi had the opportunity to work on a large portion of the Strads in circulation.  Based on his own research and experience he has hypothesised the method and techniques used by Stradivari.   While the document covers everything from layout to varnishing it is not a step-by-step guide.  A large part of the book and illustrations are dedicated to the inventory of artifacts held at the Cremona’s Stradivari Museum.  Black & white with three color plates.  This is a fascinating read for Stradivari enthusiasts and makers.

Notes: Had a printing in 2007, but now sold out (Feb 2012).


“Stradivari” by Stewart Pollens

Categories: Biographical, Historical, Technical

Summary: Hardcover, 335 Pages, illustrations + 16 color plates. $$$, published by Cambridge University Press, 2010.  ISBN 978-0-521 -87304-8

Synopsis:  The pinnacle of Stradivari research, a modern refresh of the works by the Hill firm and Sacconi.


The Sound of Stradivari by Patrick Kreit

image198281Categories: Making

Summary: Hardcover, 322 Pages, illustrated. $$$$.

Synopsis:  One of the most through and practical books on a tuning method available today.  Plate tuning has been around for centuries and many theories exist as the tuning method that Stradivari and other great makers used, if indeed they used one at all.  Patrick Kreit believes he has found a way to accurately reproduce the resonate tuning of Stradivari instruments.  This book includes instructions on wood choice, discussions on finishing and, most significantly, step by step instructions for tuning of the major vibration modes.  In French and English, the 2nd Edition of the books is underway.

Note: The book’s website is here

“Traite De Lutherie – The Violin and the Art of Measurement”, Francois Denis

Categories: Making

Summary:  256 Pages, $$$$,  Aladfi 2006.

Note: The book’s website is here


“The Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari” by Stewart Pollens

Categories: Technical

Summary: Hardcover, 34 p., 40 leaves of plates (8 folded). $$$$, 1992.  ISBN 9780952010906

Synopsis:  A review of the molds used by Stradivari, including chronology and full size photos of the molds and other artifacts.


“Violin Iconography of Antonio Stradivari” By  Herbert K. Goodkind

Categories: Photographic

Summary:  780 Pages, $$$$$,  1972.  ISBN: 9780960049813

Synopsis: An exhaustive collection of Stradivari instruments.  Includes photographs of 400 Stradivari instruments with 1,500 views, all B&W some better than others.


“The Violin: It’s History and Making” By  Karl Roy

Categories: Historical, Technical

Summary:  764 Pages, $$$$,  2006.  ISBN 978-1-4243-0838-5

Synopsis: A through review of the history of the violin along with a review of methods of making, materials, tools and workshops.  Plentiful illustrations and color pictures.


“Violin-Makers of the Guarneri Family (1626-1762): Their Life and Work” by William henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill, and Alfred Ebsworth Hill

Categories: Biographical, Historical

Summary:  173 Pages, $$$,  1931, reprinted 1965, 1989. ISBN: 0486260615

Synopsis:  The Hill firm’s volume on the Guarneri Family.  Similar in scope to their work on Stradivari.


“Violin Making, a practical guide”, Juliet Barker

Categories: Making

Summary:  127 Pages, $,  Crowood, 2001.  ISBN: 1861264364


“Violin Restoration: A manual for Violin Makers”, Hans Weisshaar & Margaret Shipman

Categories: Restoration

Summary:  261 Pages, $$$$,  1988.  ISBN: 0962186104


$  = <$50; $$ < $100;  $$$ < $200;  $$$$ < $500; $$$$$ > $500.00

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