James Tubbs is undoubtably one of the best-known names in British bow making history. Born into a family with a rich lineage of bow makers, it was only natural that he grow up learning the family trade, taught firstly by his father, William Tubbs.
William, as his father (Thomas) before him, trained with John Dodd, and it was this wealth of inherited knowledge that passed down to James. James followed the teachings of his forebears to a great extent, emulating the form of "classical French concepts".
For a relatively short period, the young Tubbs, now around the age of twenty-three, was associated closely with the W.E.Hill shop. However, in the words of Dilworth: "The relationship soured when Hill was awarded medals at the 1862 exhibition for two Tubbs bows entered under the Hill own name and brand." Moving forward, the disenchanted Tubbs would superimpose his own brand over that of his master when submitting bows for exhibitions.
He soon moved on to pastures new and forged a rich career for himself, taking the title 'Bow maker to the Duke of Edinburgh', and making a series of bows which were to be presented as annual prizes to the students of the Royal Academy and the Guildhall Schools of Music. This was a tradition that would continue for over thirty years!
It is impossible for any person who appreciates a fine bow, not to hail with unalloyed delight any of the productions of James Tubbs - valuable accessions to the realms of famous French examples.
- W. Henley
As we mentioned a few weeks ago in our article on Charles Nicolas Bazin, Bazin was an admirer of Tubbs's work, and so imitated and reproduced them to sell himself. Bazin seemingly wasn’t alone in this however, as the German maker, Pfretszschner, also enjoyed James' work enough to copy.
The bow we're looking at today is by the man who started it all, Thomas Tubbs, of whom Henley says: "Completely splendid, an opinion generally entertained and justly grounded." Thomas lived from 1790-1863 and as previously mentioned, worked in London, for amongst others, John Dodd, who he went on to imitate for the most part of his career. He supplied such makers as John Edward Betts, Thomas Kennedy and his old master, Dodd. Thomas's son, William, was attributed to some of his later output.
The wood used in this example is incredibly lively, in particular at the tip. The shape, reminiscent of an f-hole, is highlighted by the well-defined grain, angling down the stick at a pleasing diagonal. The frog and button are by William.