James Westbrook

Dr James Westbrook


Dr James Westbrook is a British-based organologist whose particular interest is in guitar construction.


James Westbrook

In 2010 James was awarded the O’May studentship, for his Doctoral research in to Guitar Making in Nineteenth-Century London at the University of Cambridge. In 2013-2016 he held a Wolfson College, Cambridge, Junior Research Fellowship, investigating The Life and Work of David Rubio. James was the 2014 holder of the American Musical Instrument Society’s Publication Grant, and the 2015 Terence Pamplin Award for Organology, by The Musicians’ (Livery) Company, London.

James is the author of three popular books: Guitars through the Ages (2002), The Century that Shaped the Guitar (2006, Russian language edition 2012) and An Illustrated History and Directory of Acoustic Guitars (2015), as well as co-author of The Complete Illustrated book of the Acoustic Guitar (2012) and The Practical Book of the Guitar (2017).

James has published in Early Music, The Journal of the Lute Society, the Soundboard Journal and American Lutherie. He contributed a chapter in Inventing the American Guitar: The Pre-civil War Innovations of C. F. Martin and his Contemporaries, and wrote entries for Lawson, L. & Stowell, R. (eds), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Historical Performance in Music, (Cambridge: CUP, 2018).

James gives professional valuations and appraisals of fretted musical instruments and he is a consultant for Brompton’s Auctioneers, Mayfair, London.

Research interests

As an Affiliated Research Scholar at The Music Faculty, Cambridge, and a Senior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge, James continues to research and publish on the guitar in the nineteenth century.

His title as an Honorary Lecturer in Guitar Musicology and Organology, through the Harris Guitar Foundation, at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, gives him the opportunity to research and give papers in the broader area of guitar history. 

He works closely with museums, private collectors and professional musicians as a part-time guitar maker and restorer, on conservation and restoration projects involving plucked string instruments, which include: guitars (antique, vintage and modern) lutes, ukuleles, mandolins, and the English guitar (cittern).