1832 Louis Panormo

London, England

At the turn of the nineteenth century, a new instrument began to overtake the English guittar (a cittern-shaped instrument) in popularity: what the English called – and still call – the “Spanish guitar,” with six single strings. This led to the emergence of a new school of guitar making, almost exclusively based in London, and arguably representing the most productive period in the history of British guitar manufacture. It was led by England’s greatest guitar maker of the nineteenth century, Louis Panormo (1784–1862).

Date 1832
Location London, England
Length of Guitar 912mm
String Length 623mm
Upper Bout Width 222mm
Waist Width 173mm
Lower Bout Width 296mm
Side Depth at Waist 88mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Brazilian rosewood | Sides: Brazilian rosewood | Details: Features Panormo’s signature teardrop bridge and crescent-shaped headstock; tuners by Baker.

Panormo likely built his first surviving guitar at his workshop in London’s West End, no. 26 High-street, Bloomsbury. (The guitar referenced here is the 1816 Panormo in the Austin-Marie Collection.) The famed Catalan guitarist Fernando Sor had arrived from Paris the previous year, and perhaps by no coincidence, Panormo’s early guitars immediately reveal the Spanish influence. He often used rosewood for his back and sides as opposed to maple, and while his early soundboards are ladder braced, he later moved to Spanish-style fan-bracing.

The 1832 Panormo in the Austin-Marie Collection represents what might be called Panormo’s “classic” style. The label reads, “The Only Maker of Guitars in the Spanish Style,” a claim he first made in 1828 and continued to use on his labels throughout the remainder of his career. The two-piece back and sides of rosewood, the teardrop bridge, the crescent-shaped head, and the unscrewable endpin are all Panormo trademarks. The elegant pearl button tuners are by Baker, a Panormo favorite. Here we find five fan braces in the Spanish style to buttress the soundboard, and Panormo’s Stradivari-inspired rosette of offset square and diamond shapes encircling the sound hole.

An impressive roster of guitarists who visited London, or who resided there, played Louis Panormo’s instruments, including Antonio Trinitario Huerta, Phillipe Verini, Madame Pratten, and Stanislaus Sczepanowski.