Northern Renaissance Instruments

6 Needham Avenue, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 8AA, U.K.

Phone & Fax. +44 (0) 161 881 8134 ; proprietor: Dr. Ephraim Segerman [USA]

e-mail: ; on internet:


English viol making, playing and music composing all flourished most during the first half of the 17th century. The English viols made then were considered the best in Europe.

Characteristic of these viols are particular design features which include a soundboard with 5-piece bent-stave construction and double purfling. At NRI we have been leaders in researching the design, construction and acoustics of English viols of this period, and have been making them in original chest sizes for almost 30 years. Such sets usually played at a pitch standard no higher than a tone below modern. We now offer the full range of original and modern sizes of English viols, and French viols as well. They are made by John Duncalf, a craftsman who works to a particularly high standard.

Our standard models incorporate design details which are characteristic of John Rose, probably the best maker of the period. The starting point for design is the viol of his in the V & A Museum, London, which has a 28 inch string length. In designing the other sizes, different parts are scaled differently to conform to dimensions of surviving instruments or those given in the Talbot ms. Construction is with spruce soundboard, a choice of peg hardwoods and the rest of maple. The fingerboard and tailpiece can have boxwood edging or ebony veneer.

Where - appears, this indicates that there is no evidence for a viol of this size being played then. Where a name appears in parenthesis, there is evidence for the size being played, but not for any particular name associated with it (the name given here being conjecture). The actual pitch of the first string can be tuned up to a third lower than the highest pitch given here.

These prices do not include strings, which are charged at 35% discount on current NRI prices. Decoration can be ordered at extra cost: £90 for a soundboard rose, purfling on the back, or pegbox stippling, £140 for patterned purfling on the fingerboard and tailpiece, and £290 for a carved head.

Many of early 17th century lyra viols originally had six metal sympathetic strings tuned to some of the bowed strings. Having the additional sympathetic strings costs £230 more. Simpson illustrated two designs for division viols: one like other viols, and the other with a bass violin body (which he preferred), which costs £530 more.

We also make French viols after Bertrand originals in Paris (71 cm string stop) and Brussels (66 cm string stop) at the same price for the size as English viols. A 7th string costs £30 more.


We make instruments to order, not for stock. This allows for variations of materials and appearance to suit customer preferences. When not given such preferences, we choose the closest we can to the historical original model. The instruments we make are exceptional in that they are not our own creations based on an original design concept, but rather as close as we can get to reconstructing a particular original instrument. In most cases, the information available to us about the original instrument is incomplete, so we use our extensive knowledge about design details of surviving related original instruments and their acoustics to complete the design.

This design exercise has already been done for all of the instruments included in our catalogue listings, and quite a few others. If a customer wants a different type of instrument than those in the listings, we would be glad to make it, but the customer may be asked to pay for the costs of our acquiring the relevant information about the instrument if we do not already have it. A quote for this should be requested, specifying the particular original, or at least specifying the historical repertoire that the instrument is intended to play.

Regarding conditions of payment, a deposit of 20% is required when the order is placed. This deposit secures a place in the queue, and is fully refundable if the order is cancelled before we have started work on the instrument, but not afterwards. When the instrument is near completion, the customer will be sent an invoice for the remainder of the price of the instrument, plus the cost of strings, the cost of a case (if ordered) and transport costs. On receipt of payment of this invoice, the instrument will be sent as soon as possible. If the strings are made by us, there will be a 35% discount on current NRI prices. If the strings are not made by us, the current list prices of those strings in the U.K. are charged. If a case is not ordered, we will either lend a case for transport, and that case must be returned, or charge for a strong box to ship it in.

There is no VAT charged on our products. While the instrument is being made, we will ask whether a carrying case is desired, and if so, we will get a quote from a case maker and ask if it is acceptable.

We do not offer bows with our bowed instruments. The choice of a bow is a very personal matter for experienced players, and inexperienced players are advised to follow the advice of their teachers. We will be glad to offer advice on historical bow designs, and on some bow makers.


We only accept cheques or money transfers that go through a U.K. bank and are in £ (pounds sterling). We are equipped to accept credit cards, but the cost of their use for instruments cuts deeply into the small fraction of the instrument's price that we take for administrative costs (the rest goes to the maker). Consequently, we will only accept credit-card payment if an extra 5% is added to the price of the instrument.

We accept Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards and Maestro and Solo debit cards. For security, the card information should be given to us by phone, fax or post.

We can accept cheques, money orders or bank drafts only if they are in £ (pounds) Sterling that go through a U.K. bank.

Payment can also be made directly to our NRI account 81389955 at the HSBC bank at 577 Wilbraham Rd,, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 1AH, U.K.; sort code: 40-31-17, IBAN: GB34MIDL40311781389955, BIC: MIDLGB2144P.