Louis Panormo was the most successful of all nineteenth-century London guitar makers. His clients included Trinidad Huerta Madame Pratten and probably Fernando Sor. He built guitars from 1822 to around 1855 when his nephew took over the business.
Panormo, located at 46 High Street Bloomsbury in London described himself as ‘The only maker of Guitars in the Spanish Style’ and offered ‘Guitars of every description from 2 to 15 Guineas’
This particular instrument has features in common with Panormo’s top regular model, with Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a mother of pearl rosette. It was made in the Spanish style with seven fan braces (yes before Torres). It is unsigned so we refer to it as a Panormo-School guitar — a guitar made in the Panormo workshop. Its top is identical to a well-documented and signed Panormo made in 1832.
The beautiful tuners are by Baker and are over one hundred and seventy years old. I find it incredible that metal workers of the time were able to make such beautiful tuners. In 2014, these tuners were rebuilt at great expense by master machinist Jorg Graf of Graftuners.com. They feel like modern tuners but retain their historic appearance.
I especially love the beautifully turned bone end pin and two performance pins on the back. These delicate pins rarely survive through the years. The two back pins would have had a ribbon running between them. This passed through a tiny hook sewn to the bust of a woman’s dress to hold the guitar in a position ideal for playing.
This Panormo-School guitar is an unusually complete and playable instrument with remarkably full tone and fully playable up the neck. I am always astonished to hear how full these tiny guitars are. Unlike steel string guitars, there is surprisingly little difference in volume and balance between a full size and the romantic era smaller size instruments.
A joy to play, this 175 year old guitar represented the cutting-edge in concert quality guitars in its day. This fine example should continue to make music for centuries to come!
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