Experts seem to disagree on how many years we have to go back to find the earliest guitar in history. For this list, we decided to start off in 1590. Take a look at four of the oldest guitar-like instruments that have survived for centuries.
The Belchior Diaz vihuela
This historic guitar got the name of its maker and was created circa 1590. Portugal is the country of origin. Vihuelas are widely agreed upon to be the ultimate predecessors of our contemporary guitars.
But this is a very particular vihuela. Since it was crafted in Portugal rather than Spain, which is the birthland of the instrument, the Belchior Diaz vihuela has some differentiating features.
The frets in this vihuela are not made of metal. Instead, they are tied just like those in the ancient lutes. Because of the unparalleled historic value of this guitar-like stringed instrument, it has been the subject of meticulous preservation efforts.
The look and feel remain exactly the same as in the year it was crafted, though. The parchment rosette on the center is also believed to be original. This Portuguese classical guitar is displayed at the Musical Instrument Museum in the American city of Phoenix, Arizona.
The Matteo Sellas guitar
Just like the Belchior Diaz vihuela, this guitar carries the name of its craftsman, Matteo Sellas. It is believed to have been made in the period between 1630 and 1650 in the Italian city of Venice.
After being hugely popular in Spain, the interest around the latest string instruments started rapidly increasing in Italy and France and its success showed no signs of slowing down over the following centuries.
During that time, Italy became one of the top guitar manufacturing countries.
The Matteo Sellas guitar is at the New York’s Metropolitan Museum with its original peg block, bridge and rosette. Prior to this, though, those fittings were once removed to add five strings that would adapt the sound and playing style of the guitar to the changing musical tastes of the time.
The Sabionari guitar
Like the example above, the Sabionari guitar originates from Italy. It was created by Antonio Stradivari in the year 1679, making it the first instrument of the list to have an official recorded birth year.
You’re most likely aware that Antonio Stradivari and his relatives alike were primarily known for crafting violins. However, Stradivari did make some guitars, the most iconic being the Sabionari.
At some point during the late 1700s, Giovanni Sabionari bought the guitar from Stradivari descendants. That is how it got its name.
There are only four other known Stradivari guitars, although the Sabionari model is the only one that can still be played. Just like the Matteo Sellas, the guitar went through some alterations before being restored to its original form only in 2016.
The Joachim Tielke baroque guitar
Crafted by Tielke, one of the absolute best instrument manufacturers in history, this guitar dates back to sometime between 1695 and 1699 in the German city of Hamburg. Almost 200 of Tielke’s instruments can still be found today.
Staying true to the baroque style, this guitar has intricate ornamentation with white and black stripes on its back and laterals. The sound hole also features creative decoration.
Up until the second half of the 20th century, guitars had been constantly evolving.