‘We chiefly Value Old Instruments’: Extant old viols
Any study of instruments from a particular country and period is likely to start by examining original specimens. Not every aspect of instrument examination can be explored fully in a book of this length that also covers contextual matters, and no single book could include a detailed examination of every old English viol and every fragment of information that may be relevant. Here therefore is discussion of some general issues, illustrated by examples and case studies. As well as providing information of immediate use, these demonstrate approaches that may be useful as a model for further studies. Of the many problems that can occur when interrogating antique instruments for information about their original form, some are especially acute for early English viols. Consideration of these issues comprised a significant part of my research activity in the 1990s.2 Updated evidence, arguments and conclusions from that work are incorporated or referenced in this chapter. It is a matter of enduring regret that multitudinous caveats still make my conclusions regarding the value of antique viols as organological sources seem so negative.