Vintage Instruments: Other Acoustic Guitars

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c.1885 C. Bruno Size 2

Charles Bruno, and later C. Bruno & Son, was a major New York based distributor of musical instruments with roots as far back as the early/mid 1800s. He was one of C.F. Martin’s two New York wholesalers for a number of years commencing in the 1850s, and was closely affiliated with Martin Guitars during the formative years of the American guitar. While this particular guitar wasn’t built by C.F. Martin, much of its design appears to bear inspiration from that company’s instruments.

What’s most surprising upon looking at this guitar is how remarkably well it has survived some 140 years of life. Housed in its original coffin case, the guitar appears virtually unplayed and is without repairs other than a reglued bridge and a couple of hard to spot side cracks. There are no cracks in the top or back, no brace repairs, the bridge and plate are unmodified, and the neck angle is excellent. The guitar’s original finish is nearly flawless, and its original tuners work smoothly and precisely. It is a stunningly beautiful guitar, meticulously crafted, and built with exquisite Brazilian rosewood and red spruce. Strung with Nylgut classical strings, it has a wonderfully warm and inviting voice and plays easily with a contemporary rounded neck carve and easy action.

The guitar is dimensionally similar to a Martin Size 2, with a lower bout that’s 12” across. The scale length measures 24.6”, and the neck has a very modern feel with a rounded carve and a nut width of 1-3/4”. The strings spread to 2-1/4” at the bridge, and the string action measures 3.5mm at the 12th fret. The original pyramid bridge is unaltered, and there remains a small amount of saddle available for further action adjustment.

This C. Bruno guitar is as much a time capsule as it is a musical instrument - and is entirely beguiling as each. It is wonderful to play and it’s mesmerizing to behold. Even if your living room isn’t technically part of The Met, this guitar might make it feel that way.

With original coffin case

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