The Lute Society: Extant Lutes Database

Extant Lutes Database

The Extant Lutes Database is an online resource for lute makers, scholars, players and others interested in the history of the lute. It contains over 800 entries of lutes that have survived into our modern times, mostly held in museums and institutions around the world. These are gathered together as a resource for the community and now available online.

Go to The Extant Lutes Database

Release History

  • January 2023 - The Extant Lutes Database was officially released, based on data provided by David Van Edwards, technical implementation by Luke Emmet.
  • For further context and background, see David's introductory notes below.
  • Go to the Extant Lutes Database


The Extant Lutes Database is a scholarly resource and we aim to provide attribution and references to the source information where known. Please contact the maintainers listed below if you have any issues relating to material held or referenced - we aim to fix any problems quickly.

New submissions

If you find a new image of a lute that you have established is not already in the database, we would be pleased to add a new entry.

  • First, check the instrument is not already in the database by searching for its name or current location. Most of the well-known and many of the lesser known lutes already have their own entries.
  • If it is a new instrument, or you can provide updated photographs or technical details, you can then send these details to David.

Contact information

  • Images and copyright queries: David Van Edwards
  • Technical queries: Luke Emmet

History of the Extant Lutes Database

This database has three main antecedents;

1. Ernst Pohlmann’s groundbreaking book Laute Theorbe Chitarrone which first came out in 1975 and listed all the existing lutes that he had knowledge of, as well as an enormous list of tablature sources for the lute. I remember meeting Ernst Pohlmann at the very first Lute Society summer school in 1967 and he asked me to help him measure the lutes in the V&A collection. At that time these were not on display and were held in glass-fronted cases in the basement. They refused to open the cases and so I held tape-measures up against the glass while Mr. Pohlmann did his best to estimate the string-lengths etc. A second edition was published in 1982. In the pre-computer world this was an heroic undertaking and was enormously useful to many scholars.

2. The Lautenweltadressbuch, this wittily named database started out as a paper or card index list of all known lutes compiled by Friedemann Hellwig, the then musical instrument curator in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg, and its central purpose was to list where the various lutes lived. This was taken over and greatly expanded by Klaus Martius, his successor at the museum, he and some of his students trawled through all the known catalogues and literature to add many missing instruments and their details. He then generously gave this to Douglas Alton Smith in the LSA who passed it to someone else who coded it using MySQL and then gave it to Wayne Cripps who worked in Dartmouth College in the USA; Wayne used software and servers provided by his university and published it online with links from the Lute Society of America. Unfortunately when he retired in 2020 he no longer had access to either the software or the servers. But he did manage to save the data as a .csv file and, with the permission of Klaus Martius, passed it to me with the hope that the English Lute Society could find a way to publish it online again.

3. My own database, which I started as soon as I got my first computer in 1995 by copying out all of Ernst Pohlmann’s list. I was able to use the good database software at that time included as part of the Apple OS and, in addition to producing an easily searchable list, it enabled me to include photos of the instruments where I could find them. I continued to add to my list from many research and measuring visits to museums around Europe and the UK, and continued to collect photos from as many sources as I could find. These proved immensely useful to me in distinguishing rapidly between instruments which otherwise appeared only as sets of measurements and label names. I also added fields for the weight of the lute and the stringband width at the bridge (where known) plus a calculated field which showed how many fret spaces were on the neck. Apple hived off their database software and in order to keep up to date I had to invest in increasingly powerful, and expensive, software now called FileMaker but still essentially made by Apple.

When I received the .csv file of the Lautenweltadressbuch it seemed sensible to combine the two digital databases and produce a composite of the best of both, the literature and source notes from the Lautenweltadressbuch, the photographs and some of my comments from mine and any lutes missing from either list. By that stage I was using the latest FileMaker Pro software but they have an unbelievably aggressive pricing policy for online publication which made it impossible for the Lute Society to afford to publish it straight from there. But fortunately we had already encountered and overcome this problem when I gave my iconography database to the Society. Luke Emmet had developed a javascript solution for the iconography database, and he has adapted his software for this existing lutes database, which is what we now present to you.

I have cleaned out the links which went to my private folders of extra information and drawings but I have left in some of my own added comments about some of the instruments as I thought they might be useful or amusing, but of course these are my own opinions and not gospel. Equally, although the measurements look authoritative, they too should be treated with care. As Michael Fleming has argued at length in his PhD thesis on English viols, measurements of complex shapes like lutes and viols are almost impossible to take with precision. Even between expert makers measuring the same instrument many small differences will arise, and will rely anyway on assumptions about precisely what is being measured. So, for example, the body lengths in this database may refer to the length from the bottom of the lute to the neck joint at the soundboard level or the neck joint at the back of the neck, or even the length of the soundboard. Each are defensible definitions but they will result in different sizes. Even the widths can vary between measurers, my own measurements sometimes differed from those in the Lautenweltadressbuch and sometimes I have chosen to keep one, sometimes the other.

A major problem in our scholarly age when writing or talking about lutes throughout their 500 or 600 year development in the different countries of Europe is the difficulty of saying what sort of lute any given instrument is. Taxonomy like this is actually more cumbersome than for the natural world since we have to account for both the form of the instrument and the name and use it was known for in different ages and different countries. For us the worldwide Sachs–Hornbostel system is completely useless. Robert Spencer made an heroic effort at this for extended neck lutes in his 1976 article in Early Music Vol 4 No.4 which can be read online. It was at the time a famously confusing article and he felt it necessay to publish a simpler explanatory version in FoMRHI but it was also enormously influential and he did make a number of important advances such as quelling the misleading use of the term theorbo for the German baroque lute of the type known colloquially as “Swan-neck” (though this term would give any ornithologist a crick in the neck) “I gotta use words when I talk to you” says Sweeney in T S Eliot’s Fragment of an Agon and alas that pressure is always there when talking about lute types. But Friedemann Hellwig proposed a different approach in a later article in Early Music 1981 Vol 9 No. 4 The morphology of lutes with extended bass strings, where he drew schematic pictures of the different pegbox types and proposed classifying them into his types A-K

This was much simpler to use and indeed he used it in the Lautenweltaddressbuch but it failed to distinguish between early renaissance lutes and 18th century mandoras or indeed between theorbos, archlutes and liuti attiorbati as can be seen from his use of the letter G twice to cover all those types. Furthermore his types F and I have not survived as physical lutes and only appear in the iconography. Plus few people knew the types by these letters and so searching required reference to his sheet of drawings. At the moment our database has a field for “Lute type” with a rather unholy mixture of the two systems, Robert Spencer’s words and Friedemann Hellwig’s letters. This is an area for further work and I will attempt to develop a more searchable system. But it does highlight how important photographs are for those instruments which defy easy classification; such as for instance Lute 532 which the Lautenweltaddressbuch had down as type G implying Liuto attiorbato but which since it was made in Germany in 1694 might be more likely to be a version of type K or a German baroque lute. It doesn’t look like either!

There is one further caveat; mostly I have chosen to use the form and spelling of the names of makers as they appear in their labels rather than the Germanicised versions which often appear in reference books and were used in the Lautenweltadressbuch, probably to correlate with the practice in Lütgendorff’s magisterial reference work Die Geigen- und Lautenmacher vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart. So for example Michielle Harton was how he referred to himself in his labels so I have listed his instruments under this form of his name rather than as Michael Hartung. There is however one important exception to this general rule: the many branches of the large Tieffenbrucker family used all sorts of different spellings in their labels from Tifenbruger to Dieffopruchar which makes searching for them difficult, so I have decided to keep to the generic Tieffenbrucker form.

Towards the end of its online life the Lautenweltadressbuch had acquired unique ID numbers for each of its entries, this was very useful for references but, alas, it did not survive into the .csv file which was handed over. I have had therefore to create a new set of unique reference numbers. But these can now be used (like the equivalent Image IDs in the iconography database) to identify and pass on references to other people. For instance you can simply refer to Lute ID 511 or give the URL for that instrument to take people to the complete entry:

I hope you will find this database useful and I would like to thank Luke Emmet for his enormous amount of clever software development to create a system to publish it in such an accessible form, Klaus Martius for allowing us to use his original list, and the spirit of Ernst Pohlmann for his important early work.

Naturally please report any obvious errors to me and please do send me photographs of any lutes that so far have none. Just under half of the lutes have no photo at all (302 out of 853) and, as I’ve said, a photo is really the best way to quickly identify the type of instrument we have. So please do carry your phone or camera whenever you go to a museum with lutes and try to take at least one image to share with the world, if we don’t already have an photo in the database. For this purpose a simple snap taken through a glass case is much better than nothing at all. We credit photos where known, so this is your chance of digital immortality!

The live database can be accessed via the Lute Society’s website at the following URL:

Have fun exploring them all!
David Van Edwards
Norwich 2022

Using the Extant Lutes Database

Basic overview of the site

The default view is a listing of the entries in the database.

If you hover over the maker or date you will see a preview image, if one is available. Click on the link to navigate to see the full entry.


To search, simply type into the search box at the top of each page. This searches across all attributes.

Attribute search

You can also search individual columns and combine them. The results will be filtered as you type.

Sharing search results or individual entries

As you search the listings, the page URL is updated with the filter query. To share a listing, simply copy the page URL and share. Individual entries have their own URL which can also be shared.

Understanding the fields

Whilst most of the fields should be self-explanatory from their name, we provide a couple of additional remarks about some:

  • rose: The rose entry shows the diameter in millimeters, where known, and the distance from the centre to the bottom of the soundboard. In the case of triple roses this distance is from the centre of the lower two roses.
  • fret-spaces: This refers to the number of fret spaces on the neck between the lower nut and the neck joint.



Individual entry