To commemorate C. F. Martin and Co.'s 180th anniversary this October, Hal Leonard Books is publishing Inventing the American Guitar ($50), the first book to describe the early history of American guitar design in detail. With essays by prominent writers and spectacular color photographs of almost fifty guitars, many of which are newly discovered, this book tells the story of how a European instrument was transformed into one with all of the design and construction features that define the iconic American flat-top guitar - all within a mere twenty years.
The person who dominates this history is C. F. Martin Sr., America's first major guitar maker and the founder of the Martin Guitar Company, which continues to produce outstanding flat-top guitars today. After emigrating from his native Saxony to New York in 1833, Martin quickly established a guitar-making business, producing instruments modeled after those of his mentor, Johann Stauffer of Vienna. By the time he moved his family and business to rural Pennsylvania in 1839, Martin had absorbed and integrated the influence of Spanish guitars he had seen and heard in New York. In Pennsylvania, he evolved further, inventing a uniquely American guitar that was fully developed before the outbreak of the Civil War. Inventing the American Guitar traces Martin's evolution as a craftsman and entrepreneur and explores the influences and experiments that led to his creation of the American guitar that is recognized and played around the world today.
The book includes fold-out pages of schematic drawings of two early Martin guitars: the Austro-German Style Martin Guitar and the Spanish Style Martin Guitar. An additional forty-five two-page color profiles of important guitars, including detail photos, measurements, and bracing diagrams, fill this beautiful coffee table hardcover. Contributing essayists include David Gansz, an expert on early American guitar maker James Ashborn; Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Martin expert Richard Johnston; luthier and early Martin and Spanish guitar scholar David LaPlante; Arian Sheets, Curator of Stringed Instruments at the National Music Museum, University of South Dakota; and James Westbrook, a scholar of 19th-century European guitar making.