A Timeline history of the Violin Bow - from c. 1600 - 1800

... the sources in detail ...


Bartolomeo Bismantova (fl. 1675–1694)
Compendio musicale (1677)

(An online facsimile is available on imslp, here

Bismantova was a writer, cornettist and composer. He was a musician at Ferrara Cathedral and a cornetto virtuoso at the Accademia dello Spirito Santo. His Compendio musicale is a relatively small pamphlet, surviving only in manuscript, containing instructions (or rules - Regole) for singing, counterpoint, playing a rather large number of instruments, and tuning the organ and harpsichord! The level is elementary - like most of the late 17th/early 18th century tutors in Germany and England, he starts with a simple presentation of the open strings, fingering (first position only, 4th finger only on the e-string), and then he gives detailed examples of adjustments needed to achieve a down bow on the main beats; - a dot below means down-bow, above means up-bow. Luckily his examples are clear - because the text is stunningly opaque!
He shows - frequent retakes of downs in common time:

two up-bows in three:

always a down on dotted notes - therefore, down on the second beat of a Sarabanda (in contrast to Monteclair, who suggests an up):

His one example of slurring suggests one bow per half-bar (curiously in contradiction to his slurs, which group the eighths in pairs in the third bar):

There is one rather surprising example, where he gives an alternative bowing for triple time, exactly reversing his first rule:

He says of this: “the moderns play this way, and it’s really not so bad!” (Quite what he means by this is a mystery. I've not seen this anywhere else)
Hidden in the middle of these various rules come this rather general but also extremely significant sentence ;
„The whole art of playing the violin consists in knowing how to manage the bow well, and in making good bowing, in drawing a long bow, in playing now forte, now piano, in sometimes making passaggi [diminutions], which should be played at the point of the bow, with a short stroke.”