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Luthier or a repairer? And help with identification needed.
Pencil writing dated 1836 inside an old violin. Can anyone help with advice please.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (13 votes) 
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MikeSutton
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November 15, 2021 - 9:15 am
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Poirson_5.pngImage EnlargerPoirson_2thumbnail_IMG_4432.jpgImage EnlargerPoirson_thumbnail_IMG_4440.jpgImage EnlargerPoirson7.pngImage Enlarger

poirsonOnside.pngImage Enlarger

I am a new member. This is my first post. I hope I am in the right forum with this question.

I acquired a violin in need of repair on e-bay last week and as I have only been restoring old violins as a hobby over the past year. I wonder if anyone can help me identify a couple of things on a particular violin

1. Where and when it was most likely made.

2. Whether the pencil writing inside is likely to be by the maker or a 19th century repairer. 

I attach images of the writing in the inside of the back of the violin and various others of the full size violin. 

It is very light in weight and appears reasonably well made, although not at all fully lined. The varnish seems to be a yellow, gold spirit varnish and I think its original. It has had an historic re-angling of the fingerboard. Looks like historic repair to the central join of the violin table and I will need to re-glue and cleat part of that. 

The writing appears to read: "Thomas Stone" It might then say "Bretton" but I don't know. It has a date long with the handwriting. Dec 10 1836. 

The back of the violin has an engraved brand name but I can't read it. Does it read Poirson? 

The purfling has been inked. It has a one piece back.

poirsonInside_1-1.pngImage EnlargerPoirsonScroll.pngImage Enlarger

Any advice greatly appreciated. 

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stringy
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November 15, 2021 - 11:57 am
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If I were you I would post this on maestronet and ask the people on there. Be prepared though for the attitude problem that they have and dont be offended, there are no better experts on the net, especially Jacob Saunders who is an internationallly renowned expert on identifiyng violins if you post a clear close image of the back of the scroll and the c bouts on here I could tell you if its German or not, but thats about it for me. Others on here may be able to help more. To me it looks like a student violin.

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×?@?#?@

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ELCBK
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November 15, 2021 - 1:37 pm
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@MikeSutton -  

Welcome to the Fiddlerman Forum! 

Most of us here just play instruments, but some also have a hobby interest in construction and repair - like yourself. 

There is a great list of publications you can check to help you identify this violin here:

Violin Authentication - Bibliography

Just curious, what gives you the impression this is quality Luthier craftsmanship? 

I'm skeptical of the value of objects based mostly on their age. 

60e3600607d7f8ac8739c49df99d7e32--nursery-decals-nursery-rhymes.jpg

 

...the minute I notice painted purfling - I look no further. 

- Emily

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MikeSutton
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November 16, 2021 - 4:26 am
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Many thanks indeed for the link. I shall read the information avidly. 

Regarding the quality. It is certainly better made than most Saxony violins I have worked on. I've repaired about 15 so far. The bass bar is glued in rather than beaver-tooth carved (hacked) out of the table. It is very properly blocked in all four corners and the maple sides are very thin. The violin is very light (another rule of thumb good sign). The scroll is a much better example of craftsmanship than the factory models I have work on to date. The fact the fingerboard is so worn down and then very much grooved again and has been re-set in the past is another sign someone (perhaps many) thought it decent enough to play a lot and pay for such repairs.

Regarding the inked purfling, I repaired a lovely old 19th century French violin in beautiful worn oil varnish with rather poor scribed purfling for my youngest daughter. It impresses her teachers. One of whom said "she will never need another violin" and insists on playing it herself every lesson. Many basic Mirecourt violins - including many made by JTL workshops had scribed or inked purfling (I have a Medio Fino JTL 3/4 size I am currently repairing and another non-JTL medio fino 4/4 and both have scribed (not inlaid purfling). I think I read somewhere that some superior old Italian violins also had scribed or inked purfling rather than inlaid. That said, it is a perfectly sound rule of thumb than anything since the 1940's with inked or transfer purling is a not-to-great cheaper student model though. Of course, I expect (but don't know) it's perhaps a good rule of thumb that any violin of the 19th century without inlaid purfling is not going to be of professional performance standard.

Currently, I am not at all put off by inked or scribed purfling on antique violins. 

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ELCBK
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November 16, 2021 - 5:58 am
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@MikeSutton -

Thank you - I am so glad I asked! 

Definitely appreciate your outlook on this. 

For many years I've gained many skills, but I'm afraid right now I'm not much more than a collector of information (besides playing my violin and my 7 Grandchildren). 

So, all I have left in my bookmarks that may be of interest for you, is this site. 

French Lutherie of The 17th Century

 

Keep checking back here and try to keep this thread fresh - many members don't stop in very often. 

I really hope you find the information you are looking for - I'd love to know the outcome! 

https://cache.desktopnexus.com/thumbseg/1607/1607845-bigthumbnail.jpg

 

I almost forgot to ask - do you play the violin? 

- Emily

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MikeSutton
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November 16, 2021 - 7:22 am
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Hi

If ever I get to find out the age and who made the violin I will certainly let you know. 

I play only a few pieces that my daughter has taught me. I play the violin like one of those mechanical automaton curiosities. But with that extremely limited ability I have done pretty well so far in telling the best from the worst I have worked on as my opinion of them always corresponds (so far) with what a professional violinist performer and teacher has written and said when she has assessed my violins. My youngest daughter on the other hand is my fiercest judge and is highly critical of the violins I repair. She has, however claimed 2 (the best so far) from those I have worked on and loves them. One a Saxony 3/4 (outgrown now) and the current French 19th century one with the scribed purfling. 

If you Google " Super Sustainable Student Violins " you should reach my blog site where there are a number of videos and images of others in my collection of those I have repaired and "re-voiced" being played and reviewed by Ursula Donnelly. 

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Fiddlerman
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November 16, 2021 - 12:41 pm
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Welcome to the forum Mike.
Unless we recognize that maker it would be next to impossible for us to answer most of your questions. However, I believe that your instrument is a Elophe Poirson. End of the 1800's.
The writing inside the violin was most likely done by the restorer/repair person.
In good shape you could perhaps get 10-20,000 if it has a good sound.
Once again, this is just a guess based on the pictures that you provided.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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MikeSutton
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November 16, 2021 - 1:01 pm
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Hi Fiddlerman

Many thanks for helping me. Much appreciated. 

The seller suggested the same maker. I read that Elophie was making violins from 1876-1916 (see: https://www.viaductviolins.com.....lophe.html). So the pencil writing inside of 1836 does not fit with that.  The writing was completely concealed under dust (I used a squirrel hair varnish brush to uncover it gently).

I downloaded a data base of violin makers to my Kindle and found a Leon Poirson. making from (1901-1905) in France and a Louis Poison (1912-1912 - Mirecourt France). So they do not correspond with the pencil date inside either.

The database does include one more Poirson. Namely Pierre Poirson (1732 - 1742) who worked in Mirecourt. That seems a little early unless this violin has had an entire new neck fitted. 

Then I found all these:

Leopold Poirson, Elophe Poirson, Justin Poirson, Louis Poirson, Pierre Poirson HERE: https://www.corilon.com/gb/lib.....rchive-p-r

I suppose the first question to ask is: does the engraved name (brand) on the back of the violin definitely read Poirson? 

Any further help greatly appreciated. 

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Fiddlerman
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November 16, 2021 - 3:20 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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When we do valuations we dig much deeper but we won't do them without the instrument. There are some professionals that can give you more insight to your instrument but they too would need to physically inspect the violin.
The date inside changes my initial thought. 💭 😆

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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ELCBK
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@MikeSutton -

This is SO EXCITING!   

Can't wait to find out more - it's almost like you might have found a possible winning lottery ticket! 

I'm really glad you joined us here. 🤗 

https://www.comicbookreligion.com/img/c/a/Cat_and_the_Fiddle.jpg

 

...maybe you'll even find some inspiration here for playing the violin more! 

- Emily

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MikeSutton
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Thank you. Let's say I'm an "optimistic skeptic" on that one. I paid £99 (UK sterling/pounds) for the violin. So I'm sure it is worth more than that.  It needs the centre joint on the table re-gluing with traditional hide glue. That is an easy fix as I have all the equipment and have done several such repairs. However, on the face of the violin three of the "pointy bits" on the face of the violin, over the corner blocks on the bouts (what are those called?), are broken off and missing. I will have to fashion new ones from violin spruce wood of the same grain thinness, glue them (again using hide glue) so they are secure (difficult to achieve with those using hide glue) and then match the antique varnish on them. I imagine that is why the violin ended up on e-bay and why I was the only bidder on it. Had it been perfect it would never have been sold on ebay.

If how it sounds is all that matters then there would be no need to make the cosmetic repair, just repair the crack and re-voice the violin with good strings and a good bridge, correctly fitted new sound-post and the bridge carefully tuned to the violin. I always work under the principle of "first do no harm". It took me over 2 hours to very carefully remove the table of the violin in order to look inside and to get it ready to repair the centre crack. Before that, however, as the bottom of the violin was also coming away in several places I first had to hide glue that in place with hot hide glue so the ribs would not fall out when I took the top (face/table) off it. 

If it makes my attempts a playing sound better I may well be encouraged to keep it and pay for some lessons to improve my playing. If you can call my attempts that. I have just learned to play the Christmas Carol "Once in Royal David's City", which is good fun because every verse is the same and there are lots of them to the entire song and I can play along with my youngest daughter. 

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stringy
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Told you what to do, if you really want to know what your fiddle is snd how much its worth post it on maestronet they will tell you immediateley, I hope you have a rare gem, maybe you do but there reslly are no better experts in the world than on there, good luck hope you have a winner

Bit more, bit more, snap #*÷?×?@?#?@

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Gordon Shumway
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When I first saw the OP's photos I assumed it said Breton below the button rather than Bretton, but read on... (I typed all this out before reading about Bretton. The many additions I have made to this post have not all been in the best order. Oh well, it was useful revision for me). Yes, it says Bretton inside too. "Bretone", not "Bretton", is German for "Breton", btw.

Breton was a model of violin that was invented by a guy called Francois Breton, luthier to the Duchess of Angouleme (d.1851) then, after he died, the marque (copyright 1831) became common property, and by 1900 a Breton model was made by every factory in eastern France. Some, such as mine, are very good. They are typically yellowish and have a one-piece back. The carved word Breton is in an unusual place - mine is smaller and entirely within the button. Here's an example, except that the back is two-piece!

And as Emily says - the purfling is painted on. It was certainly some factory's baseline model (1836 seems too early, but maybe it's possible - I don't known when Breton died - it could easily have been 1836 - maybe the pencilling is just a bit of biog!). Even when the factories put good labels inside, it's surprising how anonymous they remained: here's my label. Someone on Maestronet suggests that this may be because the catalogue companies employed multiple independent factories to produce stock, even if JTL boasted of employing 1,000 "workmen".

There's plenty of material hereThis kind of thing (look at p.36, those who fear that electric violins require amplifiers!) - just like Sears Roebuck. There are Bretons type I and II on p.22 for 17 or 21 fr. Types III and IV on p.24 for 37 or 39 fr. But they are filetés (purfled). You'll see the words "non filetés" at the top of p.20. But they don't include Bretons, so yours is probably not this factory. You'll notice they sell Stentors. Stentor was a French make until a family in Sussex acquired it after WWI somehow. This page is useful. Notice where it says "Breton – Mirecourt Fr. - many makers incl. Maison Laberte and J.T.L. - 1830 to 1950 [this, if it isn't partially guesswork, may mean that Breton licensed the design in 1831] - JTL ones usually branded, with a star on each side[mine has no stars, so I have to assume it's not JTL]. There are also some actual makers named Breton.

Bretton - German - 1900 - often branded below the button BRETTON or BRETTON VIOLINS (in a oval). Below average trade instruments"

If anyone is curious, you can see the location of the original JTL factory which was demolished in the 1960s. The housing estate that is there now follows the exterior walls pretty accurately, to judge by the engravings in the catalogues. You can see it on Google Earth at 48°18'5.04"N,  6° 7'36.55"E

Moderator, can I have a badge for the most edited posting on the forum, please?

Andrew

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Fiddlerman
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November 17, 2021 - 1:37 pm
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Gordon Shumway said 
........Moderator, can I have a badge for the most edited posting on the forum, please?

I uploaded a smiley just for you!!! ROFL

 

editing-emoticon_png

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Gordon Shumway
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Actually the number of edits is less important than that I was working on it for 3 hours! Wow, the internet really is a time-waster!

Andrew

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MikeSutton
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Gordon Shumway said
When I first saw the OP's photos I assumed it said Breton below the button rather than Bretton, but read on... (I typed all this out before reading about Bretton. The many additions I have made to this post have not all been in the best order. Oh well, it was useful revision for me). Yes, it says Bretton inside too. "Bretone", not "Bretton", is German for "Breton", btw.

Breton was a model of violin that was invented by a guy called Francois Breton, luthier to the Duchess of Angouleme (d.1851) then, after he died, the marque (copyright 1831) became common property, and by 1900 a Breton model was made by every factory in eastern France. Some, such as mine, are very good. They are typically yellowish and have a one-piece back. The carved word Breton is in an unusual place - mine is smaller and entirely within the button. Here's an example, except that the back is two-piece!

And as Emily says - the purfling is painted on. It was certainly some factory's baseline model (1836 seems too early, but maybe it's possible - I don't known when Breton died - it could easily have been 1836 - maybe the pencilling is just a bit of biog!). Even when the factories put good labels inside, it's surprising how anonymous they remained: here's my label. Someone on Maestronet suggests that this may be because the catalogue companies employed multiple independent factories to produce stock, even if JTL boasted of employing 1,000 "workmen".

There's plenty of material hereThis kind of thing (look at p.36, those who fear that electric violins require amplifiers!) - just like Sears Roebuck. There are Bretons type I and II on p.22 for 17 or 21 fr. Types III and IV on p.24 for 37 or 39 fr. But they are filetés (purfled). You'll see the words "non filetés" at the top of p.20. But they don't include Bretons, so yours is probably not this factory. You'll notice they sell Stentors. Stentor was a French make until a family in Sussex acquired it after WWI somehow. This page is useful. Notice where it says "Breton – Mirecourt Fr. - many makers incl. Maison Laberte and J.T.L. - 1830 to 1950 [this, if it isn't partially guesswork, may mean that Breton licensed the design in 1831] - JTL ones usually branded, with a star on each side[mine has no stars, so I have to assume it's not JTL]. There are also some actual makers named Breton.

Bretton - German - 1900 - often branded below the button BRETTON or BRETTON VIOLINS (in a oval). Below average trade instruments"

If anyone is curious, you can see the location of the original JTL factory which was demolished in the 1960s. The housing estate that is there now follows the exterior walls pretty accurately, to judge by the engravings in the catalogues. You can see it on Google Earth at 48°18'5.04"N,  6° 7'36.55"E

Moderator, can I have a badge for the most edited posting on the forum, please?

  

Thank you Gordon. Vey much appreciated. I knew I wouldn't need to go and be weirdly insulted by some of the the curious folk who now dominate the Maestronet for simply asking a polite question.

To be honest, at first I wondered why you thought the writing on my violin said Breton. Then I put the picture you linked to beside mine. Its hard to imagine at first. But then it looks like it might have said Bretton before all the wear and tear.

You nailed it, I think. And, as you write, the fact it says Breton inside in pencil confirms that reasoning perfectly. Then, just as you say, the inked purfling etc further rather confirms it. The varnish is yellowish and it does have a one piece back. 

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MikeSutton
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November 17, 2021 - 4:14 pm
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So, thanks to the help form Gordon. It says Breton. 

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MikeSutton
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Breton.pngImage Enlarger

So, thanks to the very kind help from Gordon Shumway, it says (once said) Breton. 

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Gordon Shumway
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I disagree entirely, but you seem to be a man on a confirmation-bias mission.

I didn't notice that the pictures are titled Poirson (Porson?), and, frankly, this is closer to the lettering. I felt that it was more likely to say Bretton than Breton, but I could be wrong. Inside it could say Repton. What it says inside in anyone's grandad's pencil is of no interest.

And even if it were a breton model, I've shown that there are potentially four grades of breton in the purfled category, let alone unpurfled. There's a greater chance that it's a Strad than that Francois Breton made an unpurfled violin for the Duchess of Angouleme.

Andrew

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MikeSutton
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Confirming whose Bias? Who said it was a Francis Breton? Not me. Why the unnecessary rudeness? I am only trying to solve a mystery. Is that a problem for you?

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