A List of Extant Historical Lutes

Background of the List

One of the major goals of scientific research on historical instruments is to check observations made about single examples against information on comparable instruments, in order to undertake classification and evaluations. In the context of his research, begun in the late 1970s, on geometry, construction, history and conservation of historical lutes, Friedemann Hellwig began to assemble an annotated list of surviving instruments. In 1987 when I assumed his post as conservator of musical instruments at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, I also took over the administration of his list of lutes.

This list has become the foundation of a database, set up with great assistence of Sonja Leggewie and after the model of the “Viol-List” compiled by Peter Tourin and now continued by Thomas MacCracken. It also includes all entries found in the compilations of Pohlmann and Schulze-Klein.


The goal of the Lute Database is to give as comprehensive as possible an overview of the historical lute-type instruments currently preserved in public and private collections. The most important aspects seem to me to be the identification of the instruments, their builders, and their current location, in order to be able to gain a quick impression of the surviving work of a master and the state of a school of construction or a type of lute. The attempt has been made to collect further information as well.

The database is limited to lutes of European origin made before approximately 1900. The list also contains lutes known from instrument catalogs, but which must now be regarded as missing or destroyed during WWII, as well as instruments known from auction catalogs but whose current whereabouts are not known.

As for classification, Hellwig’s graphical arrangement (proposed in 1981) according to type of neck currently in place on the instrument seemed to me to be the clearest. All names carry special meaning limited to a time or region, and despite the attempts by Spencer and Schulze-Kurz, there appears to be no generally accepted naming system for lutes within the field of organology.

Detailed Explanation of the Database Fields

Using, Revising, and Expanding the List

The use of this list is open to all for research purposes. At the time of this list’s first publication (October 2002), on the World Wide Web site of the Lute Society of America, the Lautenweltadressbuch consisted of nearly 700 entries. For a second edition it has been possible to correct many errors. In spite of the fact that several instruments have been removed, since they were not real historic members of the lute family (for instance Swedish theorboes), the list now contains more than 820 entries.

The cooperation of many specialists is vital to attaining as complete a listing as possible of all extant historical lutes worldwide, as well as for continuous updating and correction of its information to reflect transfers of ownership and new discoveries. Therefore I invite readers to contribute to the database. Please send any new information (corrections and complementary information) about these instruments, or about other lutes not already listed, to me via e-mail at:

or paper mail at:

Klaus Martius
Ebenseestr. 7
D-90482 Nürnberg

rev. March 2008