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Actually out of production.

These are strings made with lamb gut or kid "split", that is not whole, but cut into two strips using a tool called "cornetto". This practice was strictly forbidden to the string makers belonging to the Roman guild, on pain of severe penalties and flogging, but precisely this prohibition that appears in the Statutes enables us to demonstrate that even in Rome the guts were broken (Patrizio BarbieriRoman and Neapolitan Gut Strings).

The advantages of cutting are basically two: in fact, you can also use guts of adult animals to make thin strings and you also get a stronger string than a similar one made with whole guts, because the separate strips are all at the same tension on the instrument.

If in fact a gut is cut in half and the two strips are compared, it will be noticed that one is much longer than the other, because the gut is not a straight cylinder, but a curved tube, to adapt to the animal's belly, and therefore it has a longer external part than the internal one: using it whole, only the shorter part will come into strong tension, while using cut strips all of them will be stressed to the same traction.

But then why did Roman string makers forbade cutting? As I was able to personally experience, the sound quality of a string made with whole guts (our Cantini di Napoli) is considerably better, and then the use of very fine lamb guts guarantees the quality of the raw material, since the gut of adult animal is often much rougher, wrinkled and full of irregularities.

That being said, for our Minikins only lambs' guts are used and not adult rams, and a stronger string is obtained, but the quality is still lower than that of the Cantini di Napoli and there is a tendency to fray, but the sound is however surely superior to that of the Ritorte di Salle.

As for the name "Minikins", it is the one used by Thomas Mace, while Dowland calls them "from Monnekin", meaning "from Munich", which in Italian become "strings from Monaco" in the preface to the music book by Vincenzo Capirola (see: Historical sources), in which the quality of these strings is celebrated, superior to the Italian ones for regularity and resistance (in the early part of the sixteenth century the Roman string makers had not yet reached and exceeded the quality of the string makers from beyond the Alps).

Given that the practice of cutting the guts is attested in Germany, in Markneukirchen, as far back as 1677 (see: Saitenherstellung in Markneukirchen), it is likely that the Minikins were made with strips.

They are particularly suitable for the high and medium register of Baroque violinViola and CelloViola da gambaOud, Lute, archlute, chitarrone or theorbo and baroque guitarRomantic guitar and Medieval and ethnic instruments.

 

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