Me playing my Ibanez flat-back mandolin
Me playing my Ibanez flat-back mandolin

Exhibitor : Mike Pryor

Because I have been playing the mandolin almost as long as I have been collecting matchbox labels, I have always been fascinated by representations of this wonderful instrument on labels.

Austrian packet label, 90 mm x 67 mm
Austrian packet label, 90 mm x 67 mm

The Mandolin is a small 8-stringed instrument in the Lute family, using four pairs of steel strings which are tuned at the same pitch as the violin. Two main types of mandolin exist :

  1. the Neapolitan bowl-back mandolin, which originated in Italy in the 18th Century, usually used for playing classical music
  2. the flat-back mandolin, like the one I play, which originated in the USA in the late 19th Century, usually used for playing folk musics (e.g. Bluegrass, Irish, Brazilian Choro)

 

Mandolin Orchestra, France ca. 1900
Mandolin Orchestra, France ca. 1900

Smaller than a guitar, the mandolin is part of a family of instruments including the mandola, mandocello and mandobass. In the early 20th Century mandolin orchestras became enormously popular, with dozens of people playing together in informal settings and concerts.

Swedish packet label 94 x 70 mm, Austrian box label, 35 mm x 48 mm
Swedish packet label 94 x 70 mm, Austrian box label, 35 mm x 48 mm

 

 

 

Matchbox labels depicting the mandolin can be found from many countries, though the ones I know all show the classical bowl-backed mandolin. Label designs were often copied because copyright laws were less rigorous in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

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