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America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Ninteenth Century Hardcover – September 20, 1999
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society"
A clear and extremely detailed account of the banjo in nineteenth-century America.
"American Historical Review"
"America's Instrument" lavishly details the banjo from the pegface to tailpiece hanger bolt.
"Journal of American History"
We are given not only the rich history of the banjo but also a remarkable study of the American marketplace.
"[This book] makes it clear that the banjo is an essential constituent of what Greil Marcus once called 'that old, weird America.
"Times Literary Supplement""
ÝThis book¨ makes it clear that the banjo is an essential constituent of what Greil Marcus once called 'that old, weird America.
"Times Literary Supplement"
[This book] makes it clear that the banjo is an essential constituent of what Greil Marcus once called 'that old, weird America.
"Times Literary Supplement"
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Top Customer Reviews
The book doesn't deal (other than a brief mention) with the later emergence of the 5-string banjo as the backbone of bluegrass music and the banjos pictured are all pre-war - WW I, that is. As the title suggests, it focuses on the earlier period of the prototypic banjos brought to America by African slaves, the evolution of those instruments during the minstrel era into the four-long-strings and one-short-string format that we all recognize, and their further evolution into technologically sophisticated and culturally refined instruments in the parlors of the wealthy. For many not familiar with the social transformation of the banjo in the late 1800's, this phase of its cultural history may come as something of a surprise. This book is extremely well documented, the product of the complementary skills and interests of its two authors, one an academician the other an ardent collector. Factory records, municipal directories, contemporary periodicals, patent applications, and other relatively inaccessible sources of information have been used to excellent advantage. You really get a feel for the personalities (banjo manufacturer and proponent S. S. Stewart being a notable and colorful example), the times, and significance of this instrument in the lives of people.Read more ›
This is a history of the physical development of the banjo and its construction and manufacture during the 19th Century. There are some small references to the different musics the instrument was used for, but not many. There is elaborate and detailed discussion of the main lines of construction of the banjos during this period. The authors also write well and thoroughly about the business dynamics of the chief producers
of the banjo during the 19th Century.
While this book is obviously the work of two of leading banjo collectors in the world and of interest to banjoists and instrument makers of all kinds, it is an important picture of America social and economic history as well. Someone interested in the rise and development of capitalist industry, fetishism of "the finer things in life" by the middle class, and how culture wars were waged in the 19th Century would profit from reading this book.
For the artistically inclined there are a number of beautiful plates of 19th Century Banjos as works of art. It is clear that the authors priviledge the decoration and physical beauty of the instruments as much as they do the instruments "playability."
This work is great in itself. I found it very readable and believe someone who did not know much about banjos would also find this readable.
If you are interested in the social and cultural history of the instrument to the present day, what you need is
That Half-Barbaric Twang: The Banjo in American Popular Culture Culture by Karen Linn.Read more ›
Unlike the two fine Tsumura books which are primarily photographic essays of considerable magnitude, Gura and Bollman's treatise combines a highly readable and informed history with a remarkable collection of rare antique photographs and ephemera plus 4 lengthy sections of recent photographs of exquisite instruments and banjo related objects. Any one of these three aspects would be sufficient reason to own the book.
The frequently startling and personal photographs impart a very human feeling as we progress through the story of the evolution of the banjo in American culture. Amazingly, they represent just a minor fraction of Jim Bollman's immense collection.
Special praise is due Peter Szego for his magnificent photographs of the wonderful early banjos from his own collection.
I find it hard to remain objective as I turn the pages and imagine what it must have been like to pose for one of those Dageurreotypes, rudely dressed, banjo in hand, daring the photographer to capture my soul. And again, when I turn to that favorite Boucher or Fairbanks banjo and long to feel and play it.
Well done, gentlemen, and thank you!
James Bollman is recognized as one of our Nation's foremost banjo collectors, and his outstanding assortment of Victorian-era banjos and related paraphernalia is one of the finest in the world. He was very pivotal as a project consultant to the fine exhibition that took place in 1984 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called "Ring the Banjar!: The Banjo in America from Folklore to Factory," curated by Robert Lloyd Webb. That exhibit's catalogue had some wonderful information, photographs and illustrations. After seeing it, I was personally inspired to research and write an article about "Banjos at the Smithsonian Institution" which subsequently appeared in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (Vol. 27, No. 5, November, 1992).
Philip Gura, historian and Professor of English and American Studies at the University of North Carolina, is an expert in the history and culture of America's music industry. I found Gura's 2003 charming book, "C.F. Martin and His Guitars 1976-1873," to be well-researched, thoughtfully written, beautifully illustrated, and professionally executed.
In "America's Instrument: The Banjo in the Nineteenth Century," Gura and Bollman begin by documenting the banjo's evolution from the plantation to the stage. An interesting overview of the minstrel tradition and early performers is given.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I highly recommend this to the banjo enthusiast....well written and profusely illustrated.Published 16 months ago by Boulderfolkie
From the view of the twenty-first century, the banjo may seem inextricably and exclusively tied to bluegrass, country or folk. Read morePublished 21 months ago by ewomack
Still reading the book and finding some interesting facts about the history of the banjo. I am new at playing (at age 80) the instrument and knowing something about how this... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Charles Lang
I purchased this used for $25 as a used library book. It is in great shape and I used it extensively in a research paper I just wrote on the develpoment of the banjo from the... Read morePublished on November 18, 2012 by bullseye1130
This book is a detailed historical account of the banjo manufacturers in the USA. It is not a particularly easy read. Read morePublished on October 31, 2011 by Henwaddle
this book is an excellent overview and history of the Banjo. It is only for those really interested in the pedigree of this great instrument.Published on June 9, 2010 by A. Daniels
James Bollman's collection of banjos and banjo memorabilia is stunning and this volume may be the only way in which I would ever be able to view it in my home a photograph at a... Read morePublished on January 27, 2001 by Mary Z. Cox