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James Westbrook

James Westbrook

Visiting Research Fellow

Wolfson College


James Westbrook is a British-based organologist whose particular interest is in guitar construction. Currently he holds a Wolfson College, Cambridge, Research Fellowship; investigating ‘The Life and Work of David Rubio’. He is the author of two popular books: Guitars through the Ages (2002) and The Century that Shaped the Guitar (2006) as well as co-author of The Complete Illustrated book of the Acoustic Guitar (2012). In 2010 James was awarded the O’May studentship for his Doctoral research into Guitar Making in Nineteenth-Century London at the University of Cambridge.

James has given papers for The Classical Guitar Festival of Great Britain, European Guitar Teachers Association, The Galpin Society, The American Musical Instrument Society, and the San Francisco Conservatory. He has given numerous interviews for guitar magazines, newspapers, radio, and television. He is a consultant for Brompton’s Auctioneers, specialists in Fine Musical Instruments, at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London and a part-time luthier and restorer.

James is a Trustee, Committee member and Section Secretary of Springboard (Brighton & Hove Performing Arts Festival), a charitable organization for music, dance, speech and drama. With respect to this, in 2009 he was awarded for 25 years voluntary service by The British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance & Speech. The same year he achieved The London Metropolitan University Recognition Award for Academic Excellence.

James is a founder member of The Consortium for Guitar research, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, a member of the European Guitar Teachers Association and the American Musical Instrument Society as well as Secretary ofThe Brighton & Hove Guitar Society.

James has loaned many of his rare historic guitars from his Guitar Museum collection, including a guitar to Colin Firth, via Ealing Studios for the filming of The Importance of Being Earnest, a rare signed photograph of Francisco Tárrega, the nineteenth century composer of the famous ‘Nokia ring tone’, as a back-drop to BBC 1’s ‘QI’ with Stephen Fry, Alan Davis, a Stauffer guitar for the Travelling Guitars exposition, Musee de la Musique, Paris, and the loan of the Tarrega/Leckie manuscripts and a Torres guitar for the Tarrega 100 exhibition, Villa Real Museum, Spain.

Colleges, Departments and Institutes

Wolfson College:

Key Publications

He is featured in:

OK! Magazine: Photograph and mention, October 13, 2000, p.184
Mojo Collections: Quote in a Jimi Hendrix Article, Summer 2001, pp.18-19
‘Therese Wassily Saba talks to James Westbrook: The Guitar through the Ages’, Classical Guitar Magazine:: July 2002, pp.18-20
‘Introducing Classic Classics: a New Series by James Westbrook’, Classical Guitar Magazine: May 2004, p.55
Interview: The Argus Newspaper: Friday March 25th, 2005
Interview: The Argus Newspaper: Tuesday January 17th, 2006
Interview: American Lutherie: ‘Meet the Collectors, Forderer and Westbrook’, Summer 2008, pp.18-29.
Hector Garcia Martinez: ‘James Westbrook, Creador y Fundador de un Importante Museo de La Guitarra en Londres’El Tradicional (Argentina) Nov. 2006, no.72, p.12.

Publications include:

Westbrook, James, Guitars through the Ages (Brighton: Crisp Litho, 2002)
Westbrook, James, The Century that Shaped the Guitar (Brighton: Crisp Litho, 2006)
Westbrook, James, век, создавший гитару (Moscow: Klassika-XXI, 2012)
Westbrook, James & Ted Fuller, The Complete Illustrated book of the Acoustic Guitar (Leicester: Lorenz, 2012)
Westbrook, James, ‘Johann Georg Stauffer and the Viennese Guitar’, in: R. Shaw & P. Szego (ed.), Inventing the American Guitar: the pre-Civil War Innovations of C. F. Martin and his Contemporaries (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, due 2013).
‘General Thompson’s Enharmonic Guitar’, Soundboard: XXXVIII: 4, pp. 45–52.
‘Louis Panormo: ‘‘the only Maker of Guitars in the Spanish style’’’, Early Music, 41:4 (due November 2013)
‘C.F. Martin 0-28, c.1880: Julian Bream’s first Concert Guitar’, Classical Guitar: June 2004, pp. 57–58
‘Ignacio Fleta: John William’s Concert Guitar’, Classical Guitar: July 2004, pp. 52–54
‘1930 Francisco Simplicio: Blanca Prat’s first Guitar’, Classical Guitar: August 2004, pp. 56–57
‘Gounod’s 1834 Vinaccia Guitar’, Classical Guitar: Sept 2004, pp.58–59
‘Mario Maccaferri’s 1935 Julian Gomez Ramirez Guitar’, Classical Guitar: Oct 2004, pp. 38–39
‘1967 Daniel Friederich: the Famous Prize Guitar made for the Liège Competition’, Classical Guitar: Dec 2004, pp. 37–39