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If you're looking for something interesting to do one afternoon, you could go along to a preview for an auction of musical instruments. The instruments are on display so that people can look at them and perhaps play them before deciding whether to bid for them in the auction.

We went recently to a preview at Bonhams auction house in London. When we arrived, we asked where the instrument preview was being held and instead of being told which room to go to, we were told to follow the sound! People were trying out the instruments, so it sounded a bit like an orchestra tuning up.

The bows were all laid out together on tables with labels to show which cellos they belonged to. There were also violins on tables and hanging from the walls and some unsual instruments such as a mandolin, a spinet (like a harpsichord) and a concertina (like an accordion).

Here you can see the bows laid out together on the tables
Photograph with kind permission of Bonhams

If you think all cellos look the same, think again. There were cellos here of all different shapes and sizes, even though they were almost all full-size cellos. People were examining them using bendy lights (like bendy torches which they poked through the f-holes) and dental mirrors to see inside. (Maybe they were checking that the cellos hadn't eaten too many sweets ;-) )

Examining a cello with a bendy light
Photograph with kind permission of Bonhams

A cello sold at a recent auction for 80,000! But the cellos weren't all in good condition. Some had only one string. We saw one poor cello with its wood quite bashed and no bridge and no strings. It was made in 1790 so it was about 220 years old. What do you think happened to that cello? Could you write a story about it and send it in to littlecellist.com?