I'm having difficulty locating books that just deal with the banjo from a standpoint of a beautiful musical instrument. I'm interested in lots of nice photography with a bio of each instrument. I'd like to see the great ones from Gibson and other American made banjos, some custom banjo's and some early classics from around the world. I don't want a banjo instruction book or one on how to build them, I already have those. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, or maybe it has yet to be written. Thanks for your help and ideas.
Bob Carlin's book is probably your best bet, although the descriptions and histories of some of the instruments are blatantly incorrect and a few of the photos are mislabeled.
The best banjo porn would be the Tsumura Collection books (the "Red Book" or smaller edition would be the most affordable). But they don't have the "Bio" you are looking for.
The Jim Mills Book (still available online at publisher price) fits your description as to pre war Gibsons. Sounds like you would like something covering the Boston makers and the ornate banjos of that era.
Other books that come somewhat close to what you are describing would be Banjo: An Illustrated History by Bob Carlin and Robert Lloyd Webb, Ring the Banjar: The Banjo in America from Folklore to Factory (MIT 1984)
I completely forgot about the Tsumura Collection... That would be your best bet. A fair number of the banjos in it are fakes, but a lot of them are real. All are beautiful.
Thanks so much for all of your replies and book leads. Miraculously, I found the Tsumura Banjo Collection book listed at my public library, along with the Guitar Collection that he authored. As soon as those come in, I'll be a happy camper. With banjo envy.
Tsumura's big book is definitely the tops! The photography is wonderful and the information is worth reading. There is a 'group' on BHO.
Also a very nice coffee table book with many color plates, and a good read to boot is
by Philip F. Gura and James F. Bollman
Having that book available through your local library is absolutely AWESOME!!!!!
I looked at the Tsumura book. Lots of nice (and better than nice) banjos. I'd love to see an updated edition with more American made banjos that show off the craftsmanship of today's builder. A combination photo book of craftsmanship and luthiership.
There are THREE Tsumura banjo books
THE book hard cover and limited
The brown soft cover, VERY good
The pink skinny book, lots of good pictures and data
'Good Wednesday Morning' 4 hrs
'Quotable Quote' 4 hrs
'“The One Thing...”' 6 hrs