James Tubbs

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James Tubbs at his workbench in the shop at 94 Wardour Street, London. The photo taken in 1917 in his last years.

James Tubbs (b 1835-d 1921)- one of the most celebrated English bow makers, and is considered "The English Tourte".

Together with his son Alfred (d. 1912) they produced more than 5000 bows. It is universally accepted that James Tubbs ranks among the five or six most important bow makers in history.[1]

"The Tubbs family made bows and instruments as early as the 1800s, and five generations have practiced the craft." [2]

Born in London, in 1835, (eldest of eleven children) son of William. James worked for his father until 1860. James T. first started making bows for William Ebsworth Hill around 1860 and continued that relationship until 1870. His bows made for W. E. Hill & Sons are stamped W E Hill and are sometimes double stamped. In the 1870s Tubbs settled on his own opening a shop at 94 Wardour Street. The early bows from this period were branded "J. TUBBS." Around 1878 he changed this brand to "Jas. TUBBS."

In 1885 he won a Gold medal for his bows at the Inventions Exhibition held that year in London, after which he was made bowmaker by Special Appointment to HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

The authority, Henley, calls him “this champion” and places him alongside Tourte, Peccatte and Voirin. "This champion, completely disciplined, stepped forward to challenge the opinion that French bows were the only bows worthy of artists' acceptance, and, he won the day on this field he had entered. To say that he was the equal of Tourte, Peccatte, and Voirin, is not a wild and extravagant hypothesis."[3] - William Henley


”Intimately acquainted with the minutiae or perfect balance, familiar with the diversified style of celebrated predecessors, trained by long study of all the laws, wisely assimilated suggestions from various violinists, brought a refined and mature tact in seizing all the bearings couched under strength and elasticity, imbued with a sincere love of artistry and profound reverence for its dictates, and withal, endowed with a natural gift of manipulative skill. Possessed every qualification peculiarly fitting him to produce everything replete with perfection.” [4]

Typical characteristics are: Head is broad and full, the model being an early work of Francois Tourte. The frog with pearl eyes and long ferrule and one piece long buttons with solid metal (ex: silver ) are also typical of this period. Finest examples have metal fittings of engraved gold.

World Record Auction Price: Sotheby's Mar 21, 1995 $43,608.00 Round stick - ebony frog - gold and ebony adjuster - stamped and engraved "Made and presented to Prof. Aug. Wilhelmj by James Tubbs 1885" on the gold slide and "A.W." on the ferrule.

String players generally regard his bows as extremely desirable, and will often go to great lengths to obtain one and collectors may pay huge amounts to own one.

"Leading musicians of the day such as Piatti and Wilhelmj, were attracted by bows made by James Tubbs and were using them. Since then, his bows have been enjoyed and used by musicians (soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral players) the world over." Filimonov Fine Violins

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