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English Double Bass by James Cole, Manchester circa 1855


This exceptional and pure example features magnificently flamed and matched wood, a glorious golden-orange-brown original varnish over a yellow ground and Cole's characteristic use of double purfling that in this example ends in elaborate and well-executed geometric patterns on both the upper and lower back. 

There are a lot of instruments on the market being passed-off as a James Cole but this is what a real one should look like. The strong influence of William Tarr to whom Cole was a pupil can clearly be seen in the large viol outline with its deep ribs, smooth arching and steeply raked sound-holes. Also emulating the early period of Tarr's work is the breakless back formed over ribs that gradually taper towards the neck and the use of “Manchester-school” cogs on brass half plates with their characteristic fine gearing and lack of retaining end-caps.

Of particular merit is the stupendously carved scroll which is bold and characterful. The hunched over stance over a short pegbox being typical of his output while the remnants of a black varnish that highlights the outer edges of the volutes and pegbox is à-la Stradivarius and shows the maker's lofty class. It is recorded that after Cole had learnt everything that he could from Tarr he left and set up his own business. This new competition within the same area would undoubtedly have deprived Tarr of work, commissions and valuable sales. In addition, Cole's arguably superior quality instruments, good success and influence within the trade must have caused Tarr to resent him for he expressed his disapproval about him for the rest of his life.

The instrument has recently been fully rebuilt to the highest of standards by one of our outworkers and is offered in structurally A1 condition. Internally the instrument bears a hand written label stating that is was previously restored by R. Ervine in 1908. Robert Ervine is recorded as a maker who worked in Belfast around 1890-1925.

In terms of sound the instrument is sure to put the biggest of grins on any double bass players face for it produces a simply massive, fat, juicy, gorgeous, tonally orgasmic spread of sound that is just so easy to produce.  

This really is an instrument of the most exceptional quality and workmanship. What a beauty!


LOB (length of back) - 114.0cm
Width across upper bouts - 53.6cm
Width across middle bouts - 39.3cm
Width across lower bouts - 70.3cm
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 22.3cm
Body Stop - 61.2cm
String length - 106.8cm

Reference number #2852