The back in a single piece of maple of medium curl descending across the back from the bass down towards the treble flank. The ribs, pegbox and scroll are similar. The table in two pieces of spruce of medium grain in the centre becoming finer towards the flanks. The varnish of an orange-brown colour on a yellow ground.
Jeffrey J. Gilbert. Peterborough
Fecit Anno MDCCCCXVIII
also signed in black ink on the upper inner back ‘JJ Gilbert. Peterborough. 1918.’ And bearing the number 283 on the upper block.
Length of back 359mm
Width upper bout 168mm
Width middle bout 116mm
Width lower bout 206mm
He is the son of Jeffery and Eleanor Langley Gilbert, and was born in New Romney on Aug. 16, 1850. He is the direct representative of an old Kentish family, one of the most notable members of which, in recent times, was Sir Jeffery Gilbert, whom the learned in the law described as ” the accomplished exchequer baron.” He received private tuition till he was about twelve years of age, after which he spent some years at the Crockley Green Grammar School, which was then under the mastership of Mr Thomas Dalby. Mr Gilbert is one of the leading makers of modern times, and his workmanship, varnish, and tone give him a place amongst the very select few of the innermost circle of present-day makers. Although he has always been of an artistic and musical turn of mind, he was more than twenty years of age before he had any kindly feelings for the violin in particular. Having once caught the infection he was soon in the firm grip of the fiddle ” disease.” His father in his own early days was an enthusiastic amateur player and maker, and from him, he seems to have inherited the practical side of his character. He commenced his early studies quite unaided, as his father did all he could to discourage the budding “Stradivari,” intending him for another career; and, living as he was in a small isolated town, there were no opportunities of gaining any knowledge whatever upon the subject. The purely mechanical part of the work never presented any great difficulty to his hand and eye, but he was not long in recognising the fact that it required something more than an expert use of carving tools to create a masterpiece in tone, and especially was the difficulty of an approximate reproduction of the fine old varnishes realised by him. About this time he made the acquaintance of several connoisseurs in London, notably that of the late Charles Reade, the late George Hart, Mr Horace Petherick, Dr John Day, and George Withers, all of whom took a kindly interest in his work, and from time to time gave him useful hints. Mr Reade was especially interested in his varnish studies, and on the eve of his last departure for the Continent, a short time before his death had a long chat with him on the ” mysteries ” of old Cremona. It was at this final parting that Reade spoke to him the cheery words, ” Go on, Mr Gilbert, do not get discouraged, I am sure you will succeed in the end.” This was in allusion to the varnish problem. In 1876, Mr Gilbert was married to Miss Lily White, in St. John’s Church, Peterborough. He has six children, named Jeffery Francis White, Charles Clement, Catharine Eleanor, Leslie Baker, Kate Julia, and Frederick William. Up to date, Mr Gilbert has made 166 instruments, comprising six ‘cellos, thirty violas and viola altas, and the remainder violins. His aim has always been quality, and not quantity, and he carefully studies each instrument during its construction. His models have varied from time to time, and are original, without being vagaries on the one hand or slavish copies on the other.