We have recently unpacked the contents of one of our secret closets containing stuff we haven’t looked at in years, some for decades, and come up with several gorgeous Martin round-back mandolins from the turn of the 19th-to-20th century. This particular one, a Style 3 made in 1901, is is a stunning example of restrained elegance, definitely above the norm, with touches of ivory and pearl, though not so much as to be ostentatious. It was made for H. Spahr of Jersey City, New Jersey, a noted player and teacher at the time, and is so marked by the stamping, in the teeniest of letters, “H. Spahr JC” on the back of the peghead, by Martin at the time of manufacture; we have seen other Martin instruments of the period that are so marked. Hidden on the underside of the top is hand-written, in pencil, “#859 April 30, 1901 ELB” This was done on most Martin instruments made between about 1895 and 1915. “ELB” was probably Martin's factory foreman who signed off on the instrument during final assembly; we are researching his full name at this time. The mandolin is in marvelous original condition, essentially untouched for 115 years, without an issue of any sort and barely a scratch on it; one would have to call it near-mint. With 26 Brazilian rosewood ribs, or staves, on its body (better-grade mandolins of this type always had a greater number of them), it also has genuine ivory top bindings and an abalone trimmed soundhole rosette. The pickguard is of genuine tortoise-shell, inlaid into the top, with a most lovely abalone floral pattern inlaid into it. The neck is of Spanish cedar, as were all Martin necks in those years, with separate dovetailed peghead. The ebony fingerboard is inlaid with white mother-of-pearl in a style that would in later years be called Martin’s “Diamonds and Squares” pattern. The bridge is entirely of solid ivory, most unusual for the model; this may have been an optional extra at the time, at additional cost. The tuning machines have solid ivory buttons with the end-grain showing, a touch typical of Martin but of few others, and a beautifully hand-engraved cover plate. With modern harvesting of ivory and tortoise shell being tightly regulated today, as well they should be, this kind of instrument can never be duplicated again. We have acquired a special, brand-new hard shell case for this mandolin. It deserves it. $2395 w/hsc
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