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Bryan, I'm not sure where you got the idea that Hill cases were more square.

Double cases are always rectangular but it is very unusual for a single case to be that shape which is why I was so interested in the one that fiddlecollector posted.

This one is a single case, English, Georgian period and probably dates to about 1780. W.E. Hill were using this style up to about 1850 then the fashion seemed to move in favor of the 'coffin' style.

It will all be covered in my forthcoming book.

The rectangular Hill cases are usually (if not always) much older.


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I sympathize. It's real tough to find these cases with the interiors in good condition and refitting is rarely satisfactory.

There is such an economical use of space that putting in new linings can rob valuable real estate.

I also have the impression that these handmade cases were often customized for a particular instrument and back in the 19thC, that instrument was likely to be an old and valuable one possibly slightly under 14" back length.

I'm sure you could accommodate a 4/4 somehow.

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I am currently drooling over your Georgian violin case! It reminds me of the John Johnson case that was in the British Violin exhibition. Did you find it in the States or over on this side of the pond?

I have a feeling that coffin cases and square cases may have run in parallel, given that I have seen some coffin cases which are stylistically much more 'archaic' than those captured in early photos (ca. 1860s). This is also an interest of mine. The sequence for post 1860 coffin cases as far as I can figure it is: extremities made of multiple pieces of wood (slightly angular) pre 1860s, curved extremeties (one piece of wood bent) begin around 1860, hooked latches or turn-knob latches 1860s and earlier, sprung (press-in) latches 1870s and onwards. Does this agree with your findings?



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Tradfiddle - I thought I was the only person in the world with an interest in, and respect for, antique fiddle cases, so I'm delighted to find a fellow enthusiast!

I believe this interest will grow as violin collectors find they can't afford the escalating prices of good instruments so then look to find appropriate, period cases in which to house their treasures.

I have never knowingly found a good English case in the US. The last one I posted came from England and I am keen to learn more about the John Johnson case you refer to. I have never heard of it.

I'm broadly in agreement with your observations relative to construction methods which appear to involve a progressive use of steam formed elements.

Case construction parallels the industrial revolution (not surprisingly) and makers increasingly made use of processes that became available to them.

My Stradivari cases have rounded ends but, amazingly, the ends are chiselled from huge blocks without any attempt to bend wood more than half an inch thick.

I just posted a response on another thread about the introduction of thermoformed plastics in the late 1920s which marks another milestone in construction technology.

I'm sure you are correct that square and coffin cases ran in parallel. One rarely observes sharp transitions.

I have a beautiful solid mahogany case which I acquired in the US and believe to be American, New England c.1880.

This case is still rectilinear, entirely hand built without the use of any machinery but, curiously, all major measurements are metric rather than Imperial sizes.

To me, this suggests a European immigrant, possibly French, working without the benefit of the steam forming machines prevalent in Mirecourt at the time.

So the availability of, and access to, technology had an impact on style.


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The John Johnson case is a Double case with two orginal violins still inside of it (with their original set-ups!) dating to ca.1750. It was exhibited in a 1998 by the British Violin Making Association at the Royal Academy and is illustrated in the catalogue 'The British Violin'. It has a similar look. You are very fortunate to be the owner of that one. It is fairly common to find good Hill cases, but 18th century cases are getting scarce!

I agree with the idea of having cases to match instruments in correct period style. It adds to the experience of taking the instrument out and playing it - particularly if it is also in a set-up sympathetic to its 'date of birth'.



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Claire, What you have there is one of the infamous 'holster' cases so called for their similarity to a pistol holster.

They have a very long history, reputedly back to Strad himself, and are responsible for the wear one occasionaly sees on the backs of scrolls.

The violin had to be inserted, scroll first and if not previously enclosed in a bag, the back of the scroll was polished smooth. Some will disagree with me on this point, maintaining that the wear was caused by repeatedly setting the violin down on a hard surface. Sometimes, this type of wear is seen but an equally great amount of damage appears on the back plate and the wear on the scroll is in a slightly different position and has more of a 'knocked' look.

I can't quite understand why this model was still being made in the 1880s. I see no advantages to it.

This historical ancestor to yours dates to the early 18thC.


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Before this thread reaches its natural conclusion, I'd just like to mention that my initial draft on:

"The History and Evolution of Violin Cases from 17th to 20th Century"

is nearing completion.

If anyone would like to receive a draft for critical review, feel free to contact me by PM and I will send you a copy.

I feel I have only scratched the surface of the topic but a little encouragement to pursue it would be very welcome.

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