London: The first violins appeared in 16th century Italy and since then their designers have continued to incorporate numerous innovations to improve the acoustical properties and playability of violins, says a study.
To better characterise the history of the violin, the author analysed the evolution of the violin shape by family, sampling the body shapes from photographs of over 9,000 instruments over 400 years of history.
Specific shape features, produced by different violin makers, strongly correlate with historical time.
"Specifically, violin shapes originating from multi-generational luthier families tend to cluster together, and familial origin is a significant explanatory factor of violin shape," the study noted.
The four major clusters include Maggini, Stradivari, Amati and Stainer.
"The clustering suggests that luthiers are likely to have copied the outlines of their instruments from others," said Daniel Chitwood from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Missouri in the US.
Together, the analysis of four centuries of violin shapes demonstrates not only the influence of history and time leading up to the design of the modern violin but widespread imitation and the transmission of design by human relatedness.
"In the case of violins, their architecture was influenced by consumer preference and resulted in mimicry between violin makers, as well as by genetic lineages and human relatedness, through which information in the form of shape passed from one generation to the next," Chitwood concluded.
The study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.