Back in November 2010 the Spanish luthier Carlos González made a trip to Ecuador to study an examine one of the world's oldest preserved guitars, one of the three known existing vihuelas, the Vihuela of Quito to be more precise.
The Vihuela of Quito, Relict of Saint Mariana de Jesús is guarded by the Foundation Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in Quito. Its overall length is comparable to the one of a modern classical guitar but its lower bout is only 270 mm wide. The string length (nut position to bridge of the current instrument) is 727 mm.
The luthier of this vihuela, and even the place where it was built are unknown. But González' recent investigation which included not only measurements and photographs but also radiographs (X-rays), micro-probes of wood and dendrochronological analysis revealed some very interesting facts. For example, the ribs are made of beech (Fagus sylvatica), the bass-side rib at some time having been doubled up with a cedar (Cedrela spp.) rib. The back, top and the soundboard braces are made of some kind of pine (Pinus spp.).
A few weeks back Carlos González published the first results of his investigation. There is now a plan available (50.- Euros plus shipping) which I had ordered using the contact information on his website http://www.luthier.org
The plan features three sheets, all at 1:1 scale
- Photograph with braces and some other elements drawn in white lines
- Plan of the the instrument in its current state, with dozens of thickness measurements for top, back and treble side
- Working drawing for makers
Carlos González told me that he is working on a small bilingual (Spanisch and English) book about the Quito Vihuela and its relation with the other (two) existing vihuelas which are the "Guadalupe" and the "Chambure", about both of which he had worked previously. I am sure he has to tell some interesting details about the construction and history of this unique instrument, and I am impatiently looking forward to the publication of this "small book" as he called his project in process.