After all these years—180 years, to be exact—is there anything left to learn about Martin guitars? A great deal, as it turns out. And these revelations are featured in the deeply researched and lavishly illustrated new book Inventing The American Guitar: The Pre-Civil War Innovations Of C.F. Martin And His Contemporaries.
Edited by Robert Shaw and Peter Szego, Inventing The American Guitar was published by Hal Leonard Books to coincide with the 180th Anniversary of C.F. Martin and Company in October. It has also inspired a special exhibit on Martin Guitars running into December of this year at the world-renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Among the new findings:
- The “modern” system of top X-bracing that made possible the large bodied “Dreadnought” guitars favored by today’s bluegrass musicians was, in fact, in use by Martin as early as 1846.
- C.F. Martin’s full development of what we now call the American guitar took him less than two decades.
- Spanish-style guitars, often thought of as being totally unlike American-style guitars such as the Martins, in fact heavily influenced them.
- The creation of the Martin guitar was not a straight-line process, but one of ranging experimentation.
The project that became Inventing The American Guitar began when Peter Szego, an architect and designer based outside Princeton, N.J., who is also an avid old-time music performer and instrument collector, joined with Fred Oster of Vintage Instruments in Philadelphia to create a database of high-quality Martin guitars made before the Civil War. Read entire article »