c. 1810 J. Longman

London, England

James Longman opened his music shop in 1767 not far from St. Paul’s Cathedral in Cheapside, a bustling business destination in London during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Longman was a seller of printed music and a full line of musical instruments including violins, woodwinds, and keyboards. He later joined with Francis Broderip to form Longman & Broderip, a successful partnership lasting nearly two decades. Longman & Broderip were renowned for their exceptional pianos but were also known for their “English” guittars. The English guittar, shaped like a sixteenth-century cittern, was an immensely popular instrument during the eighteenth century. It was strung with wire and was most often tuned to an open-C chord.

Date c. 1810
Location London, England
Length of Guitar 930mm
String Length 626mm
Upper Bout Width 235mm
Waist Width 200mm
Lower Bout Width 292mm
Side Depth at Waist 98mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Sycamore | Sides: Sycamore | Details: Pre Panormo-era “Spanish” guitar.

Unfortunately, during the turbulent closing years of the eighteenth century, Longman & Broderip – facing mounting debts – filed bankruptcy and were both sentenced to debtor’s prison.

Fortunately for Longman, the famous English virtuoso pianist and composer, Muzio Clementi, recapitalized him a year later and the two formed a new business under the name Longman, Clementi, & Company. Longman passed away in 1803 but a relative, John Longman, opened a new music shop as Longman & Heron, continuing the Longman family legacy until about 1815.

The Longmans were dealers, not builders, and relied on others for manufacturing the instruments they sold. The c. 1810 guitar (attributed to J. Longman) is an early example of a six single-string London-made guitar, or what the English called the “Spanish” guitar to differentiate it from the cittern-shaped English guittar. The transformative years in around the turn of the nineteenth century saw guitars with five-courses, five single strings, seven strings, ten strings, etc. before the six single-string arrangement – popular on the continent – was accepted by the English as the standard configuration.

The c. 1810 Longman has many of the attributes associated with the pre-Panormo era, London-made guitars, including the peg headstock, spruce top, and back and sides made of sycamore – a pale white wood native to the United Kingdom. Additionally, a screw was used to secure the neck to the block, a design element often found in the earlier English guittars by Longman & Broderip. The most telltale attribute, however, is the ink-drawn purfling, a prominent decorative feature English luthiers commonly applied to their instruments.