Viols, the most esteemed bowed instruments of the late Renaissance, were only gradually displaced by the violin family. Viols differ from violins chiefly in shape, in number of strings and tuning, and in having fretted necks. All viols are played in an upright position between the knees or on the legs ("gamba" means "leg"), and the bow is held palm upward. Their sound is less brilliant and quieter than that of violin's. Chamber music for a consort of four to six viols was composed during the Renaissance and Baroque eras, and solo works for the bass viol were being played until nearly the end of the eighteenth century. This instrument is of the type known as a division viol, measuring between two and three inches shorter than a consort viol.Richard Meares was an entrepreneur who expanded his business to musicpublishing and trade in cutlery. The label reads: Instrumentorum MusicorumFabricatore in area / Boreali. D. Pauli apud Londinates (i.e., fabricator of musicalinstruments on the north side of St. Paul’s in London). “Fabricator,” an unusualterm for an instrument maker at the time, points to a division of labor. Itsuggests that the carving and marquetry work and the building of the bodywere probably executed by different hands. The dating rests on dendrochronologyof the carved-out two-part belly, which established 1672 and 1673as the youngest growth rings. The earliest possible manufacturing date isprobably about 1677. The outstanding workmanship of the viol and the richnessof the decoration point to a well-to-do customer.