The year was 1913. One year before the “war to end all wars” broke out in Europe, Katharine Lee Bates was busy completing her inspired final edits to the third and final installment of “America the Beautiful.” Meanwhile, the Victorian Era in America was just about finished, though many tried desperately to hold on as the Progressive Era was in full swing.
At the turn of the century, Gibson was building on its reputation as the premier mandolin maker in North America. By 1913 the mandolin world had already been turned upside down by the ground-breaking creation of Orville Gibson’s “F”-style and “A”-style mandolins, and Gibson was continuing to improve on those early designs with models like the heralded F4, F2, A4, and A3. Fascinating in appearance and tone, these mandolins were the world’s finest.
Gibson hadn’t yet invented the truss rod, so without a truss rod cover the peghead face had ample room for beautiful inlay. After the truss rod was introduced (a very necessary addition that’s still used on most string instruments today), there was much less room for grand inlay on the peghead face. The instruments from this era also had a shorter neck with less access to the upper frets. The hallowed F5 with a longer neck and more access was still a few years away.
Today, Gibson Original is introducing one mandolin that takes advantage of the best attributes from both the F5 and the F4 mandolin—the new Limited Gibson Victorian F5 mandolin.
The Gibson Victorian mandolin has each of the time-proven features that the most discerning mandolin players demand of their instruments while combining the beloved details of both the F4 and F5 mandolins. The Victorian mandolin is constructed of figured maple back, sides and neck, and a red spruce top with f-holes—all held together with hot hide glue. As a special touch for this mandolin, all of these instruments are made with a one-piece figured maple back, stunningly accentuated in an early teens Victorian Era Red Sunburst finish.
Additionally, the peghead face will feature a Gibson “double flower pot” inlay, used for the first time since the pre-truss rod era ended. The beautifully figured F5-length neck is topped by an ebony fingerboard with a subtle radius that finishes over the body with an F4-style fingerboard end. Other features include a period correct “black-face” top, F4-style pickguard and side clamp, and nickel-plated Waverly “arrow-point” tuners with ivoroid buttons. The fingerboard, body, and f-holes are also gracefully adorned with ivoroid binding. In keeping with the patina of those original models, the Victorian mandolin comes with an aged varnish finish and the same soul-stirring tone.
The Gibson Limited Victorian F5 mandolin is the result of a decade of innovation and craftmanship, and can only be owned by 15 fortunate players. Look for a Victorian mandolin at a dealer near you this May. Each instrument will come complete with a hardshell case and an accompanying Certificate of Authenticity.