Edit Magazine

Muted elegance

More than 800 of the University’s unique collection of historical musical instruments will be on display in the restored St Cecilia’s Hall from late 2016. Three are showcased here through images and audio.

Mute violin
Photography: Digital Imaging Unit, Centre for Research Collections

The University’s musical instrument collections include many beautiful and historically important pieces. More than 800 of the collections’ 5,500 items are soon to be on permanent display in the University’s St Cecilia’s Hall, Scotland’s oldest purpose built concert hall, opened in 1763, which is currently undergoing a £6.5 million redevelopment.

Some of the most exquisite pieces have been photographed by the University’s Digital Imaging Unit, and here we showcase three, plus a recording of one of the instruments being played.

Practice violin

One photograph, of what might be mistaken for a modern electronic instrument, actually shows a mute violin made in the early 19th century. The instrument was designed for practising, entirely lacking a sound box. It was bought by John Donaldson, Reid Professor of Music, in 1855, making it one of the founding instruments of the Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments.

Malaysian rebab

A second photograph shows a rebab,  a bowed string instrument, variations of which are found throughout the Middle East and central and south-east Asia. This instrument was made in Malaysia around 1977, and would have been played in theatre performances or as part of healing rituals.

Early guitar

The final image, as featured on the cover of the print edition of Edit, shows a baroque guitar attributed to Matteo Sellas, Venice, 1640. Sellas was a well-known instrument maker during his lifetime and today his instruments are considered some of the finest guitars of the 17th century.