1854 Martin 0-23 Guitar
This guitar is a very early and rare size “0” C. F. Martin guitar, probably the second 0 size guitar made.
A total of seventy 0 size guitars, in all styles, were made between 1854 and 1864, with only nine being 0-22 or 0-24 guitars. The first two size 0 guitars were a 0-24 and a 0-22.
It is a little hard to precisely determine the style of Martin guitars before 1858, the date that the shorthand size and style code came into use (e. g., 0-28). Prior to 1858 Martin kept notes in their ledger books detailing features of the guitars they manufactured, with the original style designation being the same as the wholesale price of the guitar.
Although the herringbone sound hole ring is typical for a style 21 guitar, the white line of purfling, sometimes called fillet purfling, under the binding indicates it is either a style 22, 23 or 24 guitar (although style 24 guitars usually have fancier purfling around the top of the guitar).
This guitar is somewhat unique as the sound hole decoration has two rings and not the three rings usually encountered.
Curiously, the two-piece back is not separated with a back stripe.
As with most early 0 size guitars the guitar has a peg head with ivory friction pegs rather than tuning machines. This is an indication that Martin intended the guitar for professional use. With the fragile gut strings then available professional musicians preferred friction pegs as it was easier to change strings quickly.
Based on the detailed description and the fillet purfling on the side of the guitar this guitar is interpreted to be a 0-23. Regardless, this guitar is one of the very first 0 size guitars and shows that C. F. Martin was still experimenting with design features for the new size.