The 1835 Lacote in the Austin-Marie Collection has an additional label written in ink that reads “F. Sor” after the renowned Spanish guitar virtuoso-composer, Fernando Sor. There are fewer than ten surviving Lacote guitars that carry the Sor label with most held in museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Edinburgh University Collection, Scotland. While it is unclear whose handwriting is on the label, it was clearly Lacote’s intent – and perhaps Sor’s too – to promote this instrument as the Sor signature model. A tertiary label provides an additional clue; it reads, “Sold by Robert Cocks & Company, Music Sellers, London.”
Robert Cocks started business in 1823 principally as a publisher and seller of music. He later expanded to include the making and marketing of musical instruments. Sor himself had arrived in London much earlier in 1815 and spent the next decade enjoying considerable fame and success for his unsurpassed mastery of the guitar. Lacote’s selling arrangement with Cocks, coupled with Sor’s endorsement, would have greatly enhanced the desirability of Lacote guitars in the London market. The timing could not have been better: the guitar was at its peak of popularity in Britain when the 1835 instrument in this collection was made.
Sor and Cocks were apparently well acquainted. Robert Cocks & Co.’s first address was at 20 Princes Street, Hanover Square which was situated opposite the Argyll Rooms, an important musical venue and home to the Philharmonic Society from its inception in 1813 until 1830. Sor made several appearances there from 1815 to 1817 (as did Huerta and Carcassi). The Royal Academy of Music (est. 1822) also used the Argyll Rooms for their concerts. Sor became Associate of the Philharmonic Society and was listed in 1822 as an Honorary Member at the founding of the Royal Academy of Music. The Lower Salon in the Argyll Rooms was also home to the Royal Harmonic Institution, publisher of many important guitar works including those by Sor.
Cocks continued marketing Lacote’s Sor model guitar even after Sor’s death in 1839. An 1846 newspaper advertisement placed by Cocks states, “Sor’s guitars, each 10 guineas.”
The back and sides of the Sor model in this collection are made of “plumb-pudding” Cuban mahogany, a wood used almost exclusively by Lacote. It comes equipped with Lacote’s signature enclosed tuners.
Mechanical tuning machines, as opposed to wooden tuning pegs, were an expensive commodity during the nineteenth century – adding a premium to the cost of a guitar. Even decades after Lacote’s death, the overriding factor in pricing his guitars was not the condition nor the decoration, but the type of tuners. For example, Robert Fissore, in his Les maîtres Luthiers from 1900, gives us insight into the pricing of used Lacote guitars: ordinary model with pegs, 100 to 125 francs; ordinary model with machines, about 150 francs; model with enclosed machines, 200 to 250 francs.