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Internationally Renowned Violin Maker Donates Textbook

By Linda Conti, Professional Development
March 28, 2007

Karl Roy, left, with Alvin Thomas King and Clair Curtis, who assisted Roy in developing “The Violin: Its History and Making”

Karl Roy, a world-famous violinmaker, recently donated a copy of his new, in-depth textbook on the history and making of the violin to the university. Roy has been teaching at the Violin Craftsmanship Institute, sponsored by UNH Professional Development & Training, since the institute's inception 34 years ago.

The text was presented to Claudia Morner, dean of the University Library, and William Ross, special collections librarian, by Harry Richards, dean of the Graduate School, and Kay MacMillan, program manager of the summer Violin Institute.

"The Violin: Its History and Making" is a monumental study of the violin. The first half of the book covers the history of the violin, from its predecessor musical instruments starting with the harps of Ur, the flutes of ancient Egypt, and the lires of classical Greece, through Medieval and early Renaissance times to today. The text is richly illustrated with pictures and sculpture showing the various musical instruments.

The second half of the book is about the craft of violin making, illustrated with hundreds of meticulous hand drawn figures, many done by Roy himself. The book describes the process of violinmaking from the selection of the wood through varnishing and instrument setup. There is extensive discussion of why things are done and alternative procedures, along with the advantages and disadvantages. As Roy writes, "50 percent of the training is the training of the eye."

The text will be housed in the Special Collections section of the Dimond Library. Of the donation, Claudia Morner says: "This is an important addition to our Collection because of the impressive reputation of Karl Roy and the significance of the work's contribution to the field of violinmaking."

Roy was director of the Bavarian State School for Violin-making in Mittenwald, Germany, for 20 years and a member of its faculty since 1960. A master violinmaker and craftsman, he has served as a judge at major international violinmaking competitions and is an active member of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers. He is an author of the classic reference book, “Jakob Stainer, Leben und Werk des Tiroler Meisters, 1617-1683” (1986) and a co-author with Dr. Alex Shigo of “Violin Woods: a New Look” (1983).

A formal event acknowledging the gift will be held this summer during the Violin Institute to thank Roy in person for this and the many contributions he has made to the university throughout the years in sharing his craft with students from all over the world for more than three decades.

"We have been honored to host such incredible talent and to be able to share the fine art of violinmaking to several hundred violin makers, repairers, and musicians, giving them the rare opportunity to work hand-in-hand with this master craftsman," Richards said.

Individuals who wish to peruse the textbook can do so in the Special Collections Department on level one of the Dimond Library.

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