Volume 1 (2011) The Guitar Before 1900: What the Dictionaries Reveal

In The Guitar before 1900: What the Dictionaries Reveal, Sean Ferguson throws new light on the history of the guitar by drawing upon a class of literary sources still largely unexplored: historical dictionaries and encyclopedias. Between the earliest of these to mention the guitar (1606) and the last one surveyed, Baker’s Dictionary of Musical Terms (1895), the author selects and discusses nearly fifty entries about the guitar that run the gamut from the anecdotal to the objective, from ignorance and prejudice to clarity and insight. Sprinkled through these definitions are highly colorful comments on the guitar’s place in everything from love to war, as for example this 1819 remark in Rees's Cyclopoedia: “The Portuguese having lost a battle, 14,000 guitars were found on the field of battle.” There are first-time English translations of numerous foreign-language sources (Spanish, French, Italian, German); the originals appear in facsimile in an appendix. Cultural historians as well as curious guitarists will find the attitudes toward the guitar reflected in these dated sources to be both entertaining and informative. Among the referees’ comments were remarks such as these:

It is valuable to have so many lexicon entries gathered in one place. This monograph may become a useful research tool, one that will be quoted from for years to come.

This project is a valuable one and I hope it will soon be available online.

This monograph is available at $9.99 in two e-book formats: from Amazon.com (in Kindle format here) and from BarnesandNoble.com (in ePub format here). https://www.guitarfoundation.org/page/FergEpub