Guide to the Jacques Français Rare Violins, Inc. Photographic Archive and Business Records, 1566-1998
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0872
Creators:
Hermann, Emil, 1888-1968
Francais, Jacques, 1923-2004
Dates:
1566-1998
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Some materials in French, German, and Italian.
Physical Description:
33.3 cubic feet
60 document boxes, 30 binder boxes, 5 flat oversize
Repository:
Jacques Français was a preeminent luthier, violin expert, and dealer in rare stringed instruments. Emil Herrmann was also a violin expert and dealer in rare violins. This collection contains photographic prints, negatives, certificates of authenticity, and sale books related to their business as dealers and authenticators of rare stringed instruments.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of a wide-ranging photographic survey of rare stringed musical instruments and bows. Many of these photographs were made in support of creating certificates of authenticity for a wide variety of stringed instruments. The photographs date exclusively to the 20th century and were the product of both the Français and Emil Herrmann rare violin shops. The collection also contains sale books from the Français violin atelier in Paris and New York and a small number of office files from the Français New York shop. There are minimal correspondence and office files, from either the Herrmann or Français shop, within the collection.
SERIES 1: STRINGED INSTRUMENT CERTIFICATES AND PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCE FILES, 1566-1959, undated. This series consists of Français and Herrmann's stringed instrument certificate files, photographic prints, and negatives. The date span of this series reflects the manufacture dates of the instruments pictured in the certificates as assigned by Jacques Français or Emil Herrmann. The series is arranged alphabetically by surname of the instrument maker. Copies of certificates were created in the office and used as a reference archive; information on many of them was not as detailed as that on a customer's certificate. Not all certificates were duplicated for the office archive and seldom, if ever, did they carry a date of creation. Loose photographs are labeled with the certificate number and filed with that certificate. If no certificate or certificate number was available to identify the extra material, it is filed separately in chronological order by the year of manufacture --if given. The year of manufacture is written on the photograph along with the date of the photograph (if any) from the accompanying envelope. Spelling of makers' names follows Français and Herrmann's original folder labeling; obvious misspellings have been corrected. The researcher is encouraged to check for alternative spellings. Photographs with undateds are filed at the back of folders or in a separate folder. Herrmann's certificates are often in German.
Also included in this series are photographic portfolios of violins by the photographic studio, P.S. Photo. The P.S. Photo portfolios are large format photographs. This series also contains the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers (AFVBM) Photo Archive 1997 and Violin Photos, 1988. The photographer Herman Gordon's portfolio entitled "36 Famous Italian Violins" is in this series.
SERIES 2: BOW CERTIFICATES AND PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCE FILES, 1825, undated. This series consists of Français and Herrmann's bow certificate files, photographic prints, and negatives. The series is arranged alphabetically by surname of bow maker. Copies of certificates were created in the office and used as a reference archive; information on many of them was not as detailed as that on a customer's certificate. Not all certificates were duplicated for the office archive and seldom, if ever, did they carry a date of creation. Loose photographs are labeled with the certificate number and filed with that certificate. If no certificate or certificate number was available to identify the extra material, it is filed separately in chronological order by the year of manufacture --if given. The year of manufacture is written on the photograph along with the date of the photograph (if any) from the accompanying envelope. Spelling of makers' names follow Français and Herrmann's original folder labeling with obvious misspellings corrected. The researcher is encouraged to check for alternative spellings. Photographs with undateds are filed at the back of folders or in a separate folder. Herrmann's certificates are often in German.
SERIES 3: EMIL HERRMANN PHOTOGRAPHIC NEGATIVES, 1939-1951, undated. This series is divided into two subseries: Subseries A: Violins and Subseries B: Bows, Labels and Checks, 1939-1951, undated
Subseries A: Violins consists of large format negatives used by Emil Herrmann in creating his certificates of authenticity for violins. The negatives are arranged alphabetically by instrument maker. All original negative sleeves were copied and the negatives filed in the enclosures along with each copied sleeve. Original sleeves that were empty but with written information on them were copied and noted as "empty" on the reverse side of the copy. Herrmann on occasion used opaqing on his negatives to give a better print. (Français negatives, when they exist, are filed with the corresponding certificate and material in Series 1 and Series 2.)
Subseries B: Bows, Labels and Checks, 1939-1951, undated, consists of large format negatives used by Emil Herrmann in creating his certificates of authenticity for bows and for documenting violin maker labels and checks used for payment. It also includes the photographs of those labels and checks. The bow negatives are arranged alphabetically by instrument maker. The check negatives and photographs are arranged chronologically. All original negative sleeves were copied and the negatives filed in the enclosures along with each copied sleeve. Original sleeves that were empty but with written information on them were copied and noted as "empty" on the reverse side of the copy. Herrmann on occasion used opaqing on his negatives to give a better print. (Français negatives, when they exist, are filed with the corresponding certificate and material in Series 1 and Series 2.)
SERIES 4: SALE BOOKS, RECEIPTS AND OFFICE FILES, 1844-1998. This series consists of sale books and receipts from the Français shops in Paris and New York City. The books and receipts usually contain date of sale, person sold to, and amount of sale. They may also contain notations of repairs made, ownership, and provenance for violins and bows. This series is arranged chronologically and by type of record. The receipts are filed randomly, the majority of them written in French. Many of the early sale books are written in French. The pre-1901 entries and sale books are most likely for Gand & Bernardel Freres and subsequently for the House of Gustave Bernardel and Albert Caressa. Box 55 Folder 2 and Folder 4 are copies of Charles Gand's "Catalogue descriptif des instruments de Stradivarius et J Guarnerius", begun in 1870 with addition of violins and annotations by the successor firms of Bernardel, Carressa, and Francais. These ledgers provide detailed descriptions and provenance for many rare violins. It appears that entries were made in books over subsequent years with no thought to keeping books in a chronological fashion. The majority of office files are from the Français shop in New York City and include files on stolen instruments and one folder pertaining to the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers (AFVBM). There are two folders of material from the Herrmann shop.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1: Stringed Instrument Certificates and Photographic Reference Files, 1566-1959, undated
Series 2: Bow Certificates and Photographic Reference Files, 1825, undated
Series 3: Emil Herrmann Photographic Negatives, 1931-1959, undated
Subseries 3.1: Violins
Subseries 3.2: Bows, Labels and Checks, 1939-1951, undated
Series 4: Sale Books, Receipts, and Office Files, 1844-1998

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Jacques Français was born in Paris, France on July 3, 1924 the son of Emile Français and Lucile Caressa. His ancestry can be traced to the French town Mirecourt in Lorraine, the traditional center of French violin production. Jacques's grandfather, Henri Français, was an official violin maker to the Paris Conservatory. His maternal grandfather, Albert Caressa, was a violin and cello dealer. The House of Caressa & Français was one of the world's renowned violin making and repair shops. They had acquired the former House of Gustave Bernardel in 1901 (the former House of Gand & Bernardel Freres in Paris founded by Nicolas Lupot in 1796). Henri sold his share in the business to Albert at the end of World War I. The House of Caressa was eventually taken over by Emile Français in 1938. The shop remained open during the German occupation of Paris in World War II and closed in 1981 after the death of Lucile Caressa Français. The Paris shop was patronized by some of the greatest names in music.
Jacques Français's early training was in the Paris shop, beginning work at the bench at age twelve. At age eighteen he was apprenticed to violin maker Victor Aubry in Normandy. He completed his apprenticeship with George Apparut in Mirecourt. He then worked in his father's shop on Rue de Madrid and in the shop of Fridolin Hamma in Stuttgart, Germany. He was sent to New York City in 1947 and worked under Simone Sacconi in the shop of Rembert Wurlitzer. After a year Jacques returned to Paris to work in his father's establishment. A year later, Jacques returned to the United States and opened his own shop in New York on 57th St. near Carnegie Hall. He pursued a career in the repair and sale of rare violins independent of his father. Over the course of its lifetime the shop became well-known and was patronized by many of the preeminent names in the concert world.
Many photographic images in the Français Archive originate with rare violin dealer Emil Herrmann. Herrmann maintained a shop at 148 W. 57th St., New York City and later at 161 W. 57th St., just opposite Carnegie Hall and even later at 130 W. 57th St. After Herrmann's retirement, Français acquired his extensive certificate and photographic archive. In 1964, renowned luthier Rene A. Morel joined the Français shop and became a close business and personal associate of Français. Morel and Français worked together for the next thirty years. In 1985, Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt was employed by Jacques Français. He became shop foreman in 1990. On February 1, 1994 Jacques Français, Rare Violins, Inc. ceased business at 250 W. 54th Street. Morel and Gradoux-Matt remained at that address and renamed the company René A. Morel Rare Violins, Inc. Jacques Français died in New York City on February 4, 2004. He left a widow, Beatrice Français, and one surviving daughter, Isabelle Français. His nephew, Gael Francais, a student of both Francais and Morel, continues the family luthier tradition.
References (Copies may be found in the Archives Center control file): Français, Gael. "The Français House of Violin Making: A Retrospective," Journal, Violin Society of America, Volume XIX, No. 3, 2005, pgs. 3-22.
Martin, Douglas. "Jacques Francais, 80, Dealer in String Instruments, Dies," The New York Times, Febuary 8, 2004.
Miller, Stephen. "Jacques, Francais, 80, Dealer in Rare Violins," The New York Sun, Weekend Edition, undated.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., archives technician; supervised by Vanessa Broussard-Simmons, archivist, assisted by interns Anne Cnockaert, David DeAngelis, Veronica Gonzales, Amanda Leinberger, and John Mask, 2006.
Separated Materials
The National Museum of American History, Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment holds instruments associated with the Français atelier, most notably the Axelrod Quartet of Antonio Stradivarius instruments (See accession numbers, 2000.0013, .01, .02, .03, .04).
Author
Franklin A. Robinson, Jr
Sponsor
Preservation and processing of this collection was made possible by generous support from The Herbert and Evelyn Axelrod Endowment, The Friends of Music at the Smithsonian, and Beatrice Français, widow of Jacques Français.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Archives Center, by Jacques Français in 2004.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research use.
Researchers must use gloves when viewing this collection.
Conditions Governing Use
Copyright for the Français items held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions on works not created by Français. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Preferred Citation
The Jacques Français Rare Violins, Inc. Archive, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Appraisals Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Certificates Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musical instruments Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Violin Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stringed instruments Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 20th century Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives