View Full Version : eBay bowlback

May-29-2004, 1:54pm
Any guesses about the maker or age of this mandolin (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=10179&item=3726432496&rd=1)? It resembles some Calace models, but apparently there is no label.

just curious, Arto

Jim Garber
May-29-2004, 2:05pm
Definite resemblance to Calace but armrest bothers me. I looks like some ca. 1906 Raffaele that I have seen. Possibly. Could be a bargain, tho I predict around $1000. If it is a 1900 calace it would be worth it tho. If not who knows.


May-29-2004, 4:09pm
It looks Calace to me but the armrest is probably a replacement (the original, if in t-shell, would likely have been broken beyond repair). The top also looks like it's been crudely refinished. Not a pristine example but it might still sound good. I like the long fingerboard.

Jim Garber
May-29-2004, 9:32pm
Another, more recent, 1980 Calace from a store in Belgium (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3727051378). I checked their site. They have a few other mandolins listed but you cannot access any of the interesting ones.


John Bertotti
May-30-2004, 12:19am
Was it common for these instruments to have the frett board extended across the sound hole? John

May-30-2004, 1:24am
Higher grade instruments meant for the advanced repertoire usually had at least 24 frets by the beginning of the 20th century. Calace would push this to 29 frets, Embergher and even Gibson would follow.

John Bertotti
May-30-2004, 10:46am
Thanks RSW. John

Alex Timmerman
May-31-2004, 7:33am
Hi Richard,

What makes you so sure a Calace pushed the fretboard to 29 frets?



May-31-2004, 10:53am

First, he was the first to exploit the high A in his music (as far as I've been able to discover). Second, my teacher (and Pettine) said that Calace had been the first one to do so. Both were active mandolinists from Napoli region at the time the first instruments equiped with 29 frets started to appear. I also read it somewhere. What's your opinion?

Alex Timmerman
May-31-2004, 3:21pm
Hello Richard,

Well, it is not such a big issue, but I did have that question when I read your 2nd post here. And now more questions reading your 3rd post.

I read your sentences and agreed more or less with the first one (quote): Higher grade instruments meant for the advanced repertoire usually had at least 24 frets by the beginning of the 20th century. In sofar that on Neapolitan mandolins the 24 fret fingerboard on concert-models at that particular time was standardized.

The following line, mentioning a Calace to be the first to enlarge the fingerboard up to the 29th fret, was however was a bit to much for my taste. Also because one reads it like: first there was the 24 fretboard (by the beginning of the 20th century) and than there was the 29 fret fingerboard. I take that as somewhat later in time.

The more so because you name Giuseppe Pettine and Alfonso Balasone (your teacher) as having said that ´Calace´ was to be credited for first applying the 29 fret fingerboard.

If they said so, I cannot help it thinking they ´believed´ or ´assumed´ that this was the case.

More so because Pettine, born in 1874 (and died in 1966) had left Italy already in 1888 settling in Providence, Rhode Island (USA). Alfonso Balasone born in 1897 (and died in 1977) was simply to young to be aware of something like fingerboards on early 20th century Italian mandolins. Balasone (or Bellson) probably only repeated what he was told by Pettine, his teacher. So how serious can we take Pettine´s statement in this matter?
And also how much value should we add to Pettine´s saying so? We know of course that Pettine and Calace knew and respected eachother; Raffaele dedicated his first Mandolin Concerto op. 113 for Mandolin and Piano to Pettine. They were friends...

Before I explain my confusion in this matter I like to know if I correctly read that you see the increasment of the fret-number as a chronological development.



Jim Garber
May-31-2004, 8:12pm
Could be a bargain, tho I predict around $1000.
Hey, I am getting good at this. Final bid was $1,180... going once... going twice...


Jun-01-2004, 1:14am
Alex (et al),

Personally, I never gave this issue much concern other than that my first 'high A, fourth octave' that I had to deal with as student was written by Calace. When I commented on this very high and difficult to produce note, Bellson told me that it was Calace's idea to 'up the ante' in a period when the mandolin was trying very hard to show it could compete note for note with the violin. To my knowledge, Calace was the first to write music that stretched to the limits. I would also assume that his mandolin, by then, had been equipped with a full 29 fret extended fingerboard. Of course, Bellson was a kid at this time but was already a professional musician by age of 13. Pettine would have been in a position, regardless of where he was living, to know what was going on in the mandolin world at large. He corresponded with almost all the great mandolinists of his day (Calace, Ranieri, Rocco, de Pace, Munier, and others). In this sense, I would take his word quite seriously, especially given his soberness on other issues. There was no specific reference to exact date or pivotal moment when the 29 fret finberboard became adopted for the professional highend instrument given by Pettine, but it seems fairly logical that it would have followed some sort of progression. Whether it was from 24 frets direct to 29 or 24 frets, then 27, then 29... is anyone's guess. We have 29 fret fingerboards soom into the 20th century. If you study any of the catalogues (Embergher, Vega, etc.) from the first quarter of the 20th century, you see the full lineup of mandolins and the number of frets reflect the grade and purpose of the instrument. Curious enough, the Vega Pettine special was listed as having 29 frets. My Vega Pettine model has 27 and Pettine's last instrument (that he used in concert) only had 24 frets. I was astonished to see in Paris instrument museum an aluminum bodied "Merrill" mandolin that had an extended fingerboard of 27 frets, most of the ones seen in the US have the common short fingerboard.

Alex Timmerman
Jun-05-2004, 1:54pm
Hello Richard,

Sorry for the delay in aswering.

I was troubled with your pointing out the Calace firm - with the Neapolitan mandolin type - to have pushed the fretboard up to 29 frets, since several Roman luthiers had already standardized their Roman mandolin type as an instrument equiped with 25[!] on the lower and 29 frets on the higher mandolin models years before 1900.

I am pretty much convinced by my own research over the years that the best Neapolitan mandolin makers (the Calace firm, the Vinacca´s etc.) were the ones who followed the Roman example in this.



Jun-05-2004, 3:02pm
Sorry Alex, but I have never seen a pre-1900 Vinaccia, Embergher or any other mandolin (Roman, Neapolitan or Kalamazoo Michigan) with 29 frets (originally 29 frets and not a later fingerboard). Pettine hadn't seen one either. As for the repertoire, Calace was the first mandolinist to use the high A. I doubt also that Calace and Vinaccia were particularily concerned what the Roman makers were doing (and vice-versa). Calace firm still doesn't care. Doesn't really matter does it?

Jun-06-2004, 12:59am
Now boys,
I can tell you categorically that on June 17th 1900 Calace extended the fingerboard to 29 frets after a long period wrestling with bending the string up a semitone on the 28th fret rock and roll style in an effort to achieve the Nirvanic (state of mind, not group) high of the top A.

However the flash of inspiration that led to this came to him the night before when he woke up in a sweat (not unusual for Naples in June, of course), having dreamed of an Embergher with 29 frets!
Had he seen an Em with 29 frets? He didn't think so, but he was now afraid. This new important innovation could bankrupt him, mandolinists would flood to the Roman instruments to get new highs.
So he immediately set to and wrote a piece with this new note and built an instrument with the high A, but whether the idea was his or Emberghers (through his subconscious) we may never know.

Jun-06-2004, 11:35am
Ohmmmmmm... brother Marc... ohmmmmmm... #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

What need have I of this?
What need have I of that?
I am dancing at the feet
Of my pot-bellied mando-god.
All is bliss;
All is bliss.

Brother Victor-who-still-thinks-17-frets-are-good-enough-for-me.


Alex Timmerman
Jun-08-2004, 4:30am
Hello Marc,

Nice you join in!

But poor Calace (...), having had these hard and sweating nightmare nights during the days and nights in june before the 17th - the day he (according to your categorical statement) extended the fingerboard up to 29 frets - of the same month in 1900, still wasn´t the first to do so.

Alas, that's the way it is.

Neither was Embergher...

And yes, you all are right: why bother? It´s only mandolin...

Let´s just have fun with the thing.



Alex Timmerman
Jun-22-2004, 5:53am
Just for fun and because some people here asked me about it, here a picture of a Roman 29 fret fingerboard made in the early nineties of the 19th century.



Photo: Alex Timmerman ©