c. 1831 R.&W. Davis

(attributed to Joseph Gérard)

London, England

Cousins Richard and William Davis opened their luthier workshop in 1822 on Coventry Street in London’s West End. Their quaint storefront, with double bow-fronted windows and the royal coat-of-arms over the door, was very different from the building that stands there today with its assorted curio shops catering to tourists. Their elaborate guitar labels depicting the lion and the unicorn announced: “Violoncello, & Bow Makers to His Majesty, the Duke of Cambridge” (William IV). Tucked away toward the top, they added: “Piano Fortes & all kinds of Musical Instruments for Sale & Hire. Spanish Guitars on a new and improved principle.”

Date 1831
Location London, England
Length of Guitar 930mm
String Length 627mm
Upper Bout Width 250mm
Waist Width 185mm
Lower Bout Width 315mm
Side Depth at Waist 88mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Brazilian rosewood | Sides: Brazilian rosewood | Details: Materials and ornate tuners portray a typical Mirecourt design.


R.&W. Davis was primarily a London dealer, who generally contracted to have instruments built offsite, but occasionally had guitars made on the premises by journeymen luthiers. One such journeyman was Joseph Gerard (c. 1806–1844). Gerard was a favorite maker of the acclaimed British guitar virtuoso, composer, and tutor Catharina Josepha Pelzer, later known through marriage as Madame Sidney Pratten.

There is evidence to suggest that Gerard arrived in London in 1831 to build guitars in the Davis workshop, as one extant guitar labeled by Davis is signed under the soundboard “Joseph Gerard/á Londres/1831.” Although Gerard claimed he was from Paris, he probably was born and initially trained in Mirecourt in northeastern France. (It was fashionable at the time for French émigrés to embellish their resumes by claiming they worked in the capital.)

The 1830s R.&W. Davis guitar in the Austin-Marie Collection looks nearly identical to one signed by Gerard, held in the Royal College of Music collection in London and is likely one of his instruments. With its back and sides made of Brazilian rosewood, topped with an ornate headstock, it portrays a typical Mirecourt design.

R.&W. Davis did business into the next decade before selling their firm in 1846 to violin maker Edward Withers.