Liuto attiorbato
The liuto attiorbato was a lute of 7 or 8 double courses of stopped strings, with 6 or 7 single or double courses of unstopped diapasons. This instrument was used principally for solo music, but was also called for (as liuto) to provide continuo. Courses 1 and 2 were at correct lute pitch, not lowered an octave as on the tiorba or chitarrone. This implies an instrument with a smallish body and a stopped string-length no longer than that of a normal lute. Many instruments made by Matteo Sellas in the 1630s seem to have the right proportions for a liuto attiorbato. (Fig. I3).

Paris Liuto attiorbati Figs 13, 14 & 15
Left: ? Liuto Attiorbato by Matteo Sellas (Venice, 1638). 7 double stopped courses 58. 8cm, 7 double contrabassi 84.3,cm, overall length 112cm:3’81/8”. Paris Conservatoire, Musée Instrumental, no. E 1028 C 1052

Centre: Testudo Theorbata (detail from plate XVI) with its scale in Brunswick feet, from M. Praetorius Theatrum Instrumentorum (Wolfenbüttel, 1620). Its tuning from M. Praetorius Syntagma Musicum, Tomus 2: De Organographia (Wolfenbüttel, 1619) p 27.

Right: ? Liuto Attiorbato (anon, undated). There are 8 holes in the capping strip for hitch-pins. 7 stopped courses (13 strings) 54.7cm, 5 contrabass courses (8 strings) 84.0cm, but the neck has probably been shortened. Paris Conservatoire, Musée Instrumental, no. E 528 C 229.

Piccinini (1623) says he invented this type of instrument in Padua in 1594. He calls it arciliuto because the name liuto attiorbato suggests that it was derived from the tiorba which he knows to be untrue because he invented it45 His book also gives very full instructions on the technique of playing the liuto attiorbato, including recommending the use of right-hand nails.46 Graces are explained in Meli (1614) and Piccinini (1623). The liuto attiorbato is named in printed music between 1614 and 1623 only: but after about 1611 (Kapsberger's Intavolatura di lauto, which is for l0-course lute) liuto means with few exceptions liuto attiorbato in Italy. The old G tuning was carried right through the l7th into the 18th century while other European countries experimented with new tunings, culminating in the D minor and ‘Flat French' tunings.

Solo music in tablature was printed by Saracini in 1614 (14 courses); Meli in 1614, 1616, and 1620 (13 courses); Piccinini in 1623, 1639 (13 courses); and Gianoncelli in 1650 (14 courses). L. Theorbato is called for in a manuscript of Italian tablature in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Rés 1108). Eleven courses are used on f. 14V-15, and 12 on f.42. Other manuscripts of Italian tablature for 11 or 12-course Liuto are: Nuremberg, Staatsbibl., Mus. MS. 271/3; Florence, Bibl. Naz. Cen., Mus. Codex. XIX.105 (dated 1635); Venice, Bibl. Naz. Marciana, Codex 1.IV. 1793 (dated 1657-8). The anonymous Conserto Vaga (Rome, 1645) for tiorba, liuto and chitarrino implies that the liuto is tuned in A, but only 8 courses are used.

Praetorius (1620) illustrated a Laute mit Abzügem (extension) oder Testudo Theorbata (Fig. 14). This shows an instrument smaller than his Paduanische Theorba, with strings taken over or through the bridge to the capping strip, which would only be necessary if they
were made of metal. An instrument of this type survives in the Paris Conservatoire Musée (Fig. 15), on which the soundboard is ‘bent' to withstand the tension of metal strings. Praetorius (1619) is speaking of the testudo theorbata when he says that the lute of his day has seven or eight double courses on the fingerboard and six single diapasons alongside.47 . His theorba differs from it in having single strings throughout and courses 1 and 2 lowered an octave. He gave this tuning for Lautte mit eim langen Kragen [long neck]:48

Praetoriu’s tuning

As mentioned above, Piccinini preferred the word arciliuto to liuto attiorbato because the latter implied a relation to the tiorba which he, the inventor, denied. Mersenne (1652) was confused between tiorba and arciliuto, which perhaps indicates only that neither was common in Paris at that time.

Mersenne, Arciliuto
Fig 16
Arciliuto and its tuning, detail from the engraving in M. Mersenne Seconde Partie de L’Harmonie Universelle: Livre Premier des Instrumens (Paris, 1637) p46.

In the text he called this instrument (Fig. 16) Tuorbe, but in his errata he wrote that the Italians called it Arciliuto though he would have preferred Luth à double manche. He gave this tuning for the 11 courses, though in the text he implied that others tuned the arciliuto a tone lower:49

Mersenne’s tuning

However, the word arciliuto did not gain universal acceptance until thg 1680s, by which time two importanr new factors called for a continuo instrument to replace the tiorba. First, covered strings had been invented in the middleof the century (first mentioned in print in 1664)50 which enabled a fuller sound to be produced on a string length shorter than that of the tiorba. Secondly, Corelli and his contemporaries were writing wide-ranging bass lines that stretched the theorbist: both his fingers, and the upper register of his instrument, so that he had no higher strings for the harmony above the bass. Or if he did try to play harmony on the upper two strings, it sounded below the bass because of their octave transposition. The arciliuto solved both these problems. It carried on the tuning of the liuto attiorbato with the upper strings at lute pitch, thus enabling the bass to rise higher and still have at least one string left for a harmony note above it. And the shorter stopped string-length (say, 67 instead of 90cm) made it feasible to play with greater facility. Corelli named the arcileuto as a possible alternative to the violone in his trio sonatas from 1681. It would have played the bass line and added harmony to that of the organo. Many other composers, e.g. Sammartini,
Vitali and Veracini, named the arciliuto in this way.51

I suggest that the instrument by M. Harz of Rome dated l665 (Fig. 17) is an arciliuto.

Archlute by Martinus Harz
Fig 17
? Arciliuto by Martinus Harz (Rome, 1665) with its original case. Overall length 167cm: 5’ 51/4”. Edinburgh University, Collection of Musical Instruments .
It has 6x2 stopped strlngs measuring 67cm and 8x1 diapasons of 143.7cm. This stopped string-length does not seem long enough for a theorbo, that is, there is no need to lower the top courses an octave, and the chitarrone is last named in printed music in 1641 and 1658.

In planche [3] of his Principes d’Acoustique Joseph Sauveur confirmed the distinctions between theorbe and archiluth, and that the latter had 14 courses tuned in G with the top courses at lute pitch. In 1703 Brossard said that when a théorbe is double-strung, with diapasons in octaves, the stopped strings unison and the first course single, it is then called Archileuto or Archiliuto by the Italians, and Archiluth by the French.52

G. Bononcini wrote a part for arciliuto in his opera Il Xerse, written in 1694 in Rome, and A. Scarlatti scored for leuto in his opera II Prigioniero Fortunato (Naples, 1698).53 In 1708 Handel scored for arciliuto solo in his Resurrezione, and gave a fully written out part forarciliuto in the aria 'Come la Rondinella' from his
cantata Clori, Tirsi e Fileno, A cantata (1738) by G. Bonno includes the aria 'Qual sara l’anima' for bass with a written out part in staff notation for arciliuto solo.54 I have in my own library an anonymous Italian manuscript, written c.1720, containing two Concertini Per Cammera Con Arciliuto obligato, Violini è Basso and a Sinfonia à solo di Arciliuto. The arciliuto part is written in staff notation on one stave transposed up an octave (as guitar today), alternating between solo sections and figured bass (Fig. 18). These compositions illustrate the advantage of arciliuto over tiorba for continuo, in that solo sections are possible if the top strings are at lute pitch. There is a painting by Johann Georg Platzer (1702-60) in The Hermitage, Leningrad, in which an arciliuto is being played with violin, cello, transverse flute and cembalo to accompany a singer.

The archlute largely replaced the theorbo in England at the beginning of the 18th century. About 1700 James Talbot measured an 'Arch Lute' with this tuning:55

Talbot’s Arch Lute tuning

Notice how close the stringing and measurements are so the Harz instrument illustrated above, A manuscript of c 1680 contains on f11v-20v Italian songs with tablature accompaniment for either archlute or theorbo, Tbe two solo 'Menuetts’ on f16V seem ts call for the upper strings to be at the upper octave. If so, this would be a very early use of the archlute in England.56 Between 1703 and 1708 Thomas Dean advertised London concerts in which he played the archlute to accompany in turn the violin, the German flute and the voice.57 John Blow scored for ‘lute' (probably intending archlute) in an anthem to celebrate the Battleof Blenheim (1704).58 John Walsh the publisher listed the archlute for continuo in nine of his music books 1705-17.59 In 1715 a ‘lutanist’ was appointed to the Chapel Royal.60 This was John Shore the trumpeter, whose archlute Talbot had measured some years earlier, and who, according to Hawkins, invented the tuning fork 'to tune his lute by'.61

In the following year John Weldon specified the ‘arch-lute' to provide continuo for his anthems in Divine Harmony, and the lutenist can be seen in the frontispiece view of the Chapel. Handel wrote a figured bass part for ‘archilute' in ‘Gentle Airs' from Athalia (Oxford, 1733),62 but its range and style is indistinguishable from his teorbe parts (London, 1724-39). It is possible that his choice of instrument was governed by the availability of particular players and the instruments they played. After Shore's death in 1752 the archlute is mentioned only in histories (Hawkins, 1776) and dictionaries (Hoyle, 1791), but these merely repeat earlier writers.

Music for arciliuto
Fig 18
Music for arciliuto, figured bass changing to solo, from Concertino Per Cammera Con Arciliuto obligato, Violini e Basso (c. 1720) owned by R, Spencer.

Chitarrone, Theorbo & Archlute
Part One
Chitarrone, Theorbo & Archlute
Part Two
Chitarrone, Theorbo & Archlute
Part Four
Facsimile version


45 Piccinini, op. cit., p 8 Cap XXXIIII ‘Dell’ Arciluto, e dell’ Inuentore d’esso: Doue hò nominato il Liuto, hò voluto intendere ancor dell’ Arciluto per non dire, come molto dicono, Liuto Attiorbato, come se l’inuentione fosse cauata dalla Tiorba, ò Chitarrone, per dir meglio, il che è falso, e lo so . . . io l’Anno MDLXXXIIII . . . andai à Padoua alla Bottega di Christofano Heberle . . . & li feci fare per proua un liuto . . . tal che ne feci far’un’ altro con la Tratta al manico’. Back

46 English translation by S. Buetens, ‘The Instructions of Alessandro Piccinini,’ in the Journal of the Lute Society of America II (1969), pp 6-17. Back

47 M. Praetorius, Syntagma Musicum II: De Organographia (Wolfenbüttel, 1619); facsimile Kassel, 1968), p 50. English translation by H. Blumenfeld (Bärenreiter, New York, 1962), p 50. Back

48 Praetorius, op. cit., p 27. Back

49 Mersenne, op. cit., p 48. ‘Oú il faut remarquer que ie n’ay pas mis le G re sol sur la 6 chorde, comme sont plusieurs.’ Back

50 J. Playford A brief Introduction to the Skill of ~Musick 4th edition (London, 1664), 2nd pagination, p 45v: ‘There is a late invention of strings for the Basses of . . . Lutes, which sound much better and lowder then the common Gut String, either under the Bow or Finger. It is small Wire twisted or gimp’d upon a gut string or upon Silk. I [i.e. John Playford, 1623-86] have made tryal of both, but those upon Silk do hold best and give as good a sound. . . .’ Back

51 Pohlmann, op. cit., p 190. Back

52 Brossard, op.cit., ‘Toutes ces Chordes sont ordinairement simples, mais il y a en a qui doublent les Basses d’une petite Octave, & les Chordes du petit Jeu d’un unisson, à la reserve de la Chanterelle; & pour lors, comme il a beaucoup plus de rapport an Luth que le Théorbe à l’ordinaire; les Italiens le nomment Archleuto ou Archiluto, & les François Archiluth’. Back

53 London, British Library, Add. MS. 22, 102; Add> MS. 16, 126. Back

54 Vienna, Öster. Nat-Bibl, Mus. MS. 18,290. ‘Festa di Camera per Musica: la Pieta di Numa’. Back

55 Prynne, op.cit. , pp 60-61. Back

56 Tokyo, Japan. Ohki collection of Nanki Music Library. N-4/42. The manuscript could have been written out possibly by Cesare Morelli who spent some time in Rome before coming to England in 1675. He was employed by Samuel Pepys the diarist, so comparison with his music manuscripts in the Pepys Library at Magdalene college Cambridge should resolve this possibility. Back

57 Tilmouth, loc. sit. Back

58 Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Music MS. 240 (31.H.1) f. 9-19v ‘Awake, utter a Song’. Blow also used the lute in the anthem ‘Let the Righteous be glad’ ibid, f.21-29v. I am grateful to Dr Watkins Shaw for these references. Back

59 Listed in W. C. Smith, A Bibliography of the musical works published by John Walsh during the years 1695-1720 (London, 1948). Back

60 E. F. Rimbault, The Old Cheque-Book . . . of the Chapel Royal (London, 1872), p 28: ‘Aug. 8 1715 . . . there were added in King George’s establishment . . . a second composer . . . Mr John Welldon . . . ~A Lutanist, which place Mr John Shore was sworn and admitted to.’ Back

61 J. Hawkins, A General History of Music (London, 1776); new edition. (London 1875), p 752. Back

62 London, British Library: RM. 20. h. 1. f21. autograph score. Back