c. 1775 John Preston

London, England

The history of the guitar in England is detailed in a fascinating set of books by Christopher Page, who traces the guitar’s lineage through the chronology of Royal dynasties. The Guitar in Tudor England tells the story of the four-course Renaissance guitar as it was played by everyone from the nobility down to fashionable young men in London and “sturdie beggars” in the alehouses.

Date c. 1775
Location London, England
Length of Guitar 695mm
String Length 416mm
Upper Bout Width not applicable
Waist Width not applicable
Lower Bout Width 293mm
Side Depth at Waist 71mm
Soundboard: Spruce | Back: Flamed maple | Sides: Flamed maple | Details: Fitted with Preston’s patented watchkey tuning mechanism.


The Guitar in Stuart England recounts the story of the five-course guitar and the impact of the Italian virtuoso Francesco Corbetta at the Restoration Court of Charles II after 1660. The Guitar in Georgian England describes the arrival of the six single-string guitar around 1800. Page reminds us, however, that the five-course and six-string guitars bookended a fashion for the “guittar,” a cittern-shaped instrument strung with wire that was immensely popular in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The guittar (sometimes referred to as the “English” guittar) was plucked and strummed with the fingers like the vihuela da mano, which distinguishes it from the earlier Elizabethan cittern that was typically strummed with a plectrum. Used to accompany the voice, the instrument was tuned to an open-C chord, with its ten strings usually arranged in the following tuning: c–e–gg–c’c’–e’e’–g’g’. It is intriguing to note that the bottom bass strings were single while the treble strings were strung as courses, the opposite design of the late Baroque and Spanish guitars of the period which commonly reduced the top course to a single string. This might be explained by the English guittar’s wire strings verses the gut and wound silk strings used on Spanish guitars.

There were many fine makers of the English guittar, the majority of them in London. They were chiefly divided into two camps: the German immigrant makers such as Hintz and Zumpe and the English makers, which included the firm of Longman & Broderip, and the most prolific maker of the English guittar, John Preston (1727–1798).

Preston manufactured English guittars under his own brand and presumably supplied instruments to other manufacturers who sold them as their own. He was also known for making improvements to the instrument, including his patented watchkey tuning mechanism, which he later marketed to other English guitar makers. (Up until this time, less efficient wooden tuning pegs had been used. )

The Preston in this collection has its original wooden and tooled leather case. (English guittars are rarely seen with their original cases as cases were supplied separately at an additional cost.)