A mysterious lute - made by one of the instrument's masters - will go up for auction in Lower Hutt today.
The small Central Markets auction house has been inundated with interest from across the world since the 36-string lute, dating from 1927, was unearthed.
Central Markets owner Alan Fisher said the instrument arrived with some junk from an unclaimed storage locker.
"We didn't know what it was. It was listed as a mandolin. We established it was a lute."
The case said it had belonged to a Diana Poulton and appeared well-travelled.
However, they had no idea the lute was made by Arnold Dolmetsch - a celebrated luthier - until a customer found an inscription inside. It said the lute was the first made at Dolmetsch's English workshop, at a country house in Surrey, in 1927.
"This was the first lute made at Jesses, Haslemere under my direction, 1927, Arnold Dolmetsch," the inscription reads.
How it ended up in New Zealand is a mystery.
When Mr Fisher checked the name on Google he discovered Dolmetsch's reputation. A Frenchman, born in 1858, he emigrated to Britain and played a key role in the revival of early instruments like the lute and recorder. He set up the workshop at Haslemere in 1917, and it is still run by his descendants today.
Poulton, for whom the lute was made, was another pioneer who popularised the instrument during the 20th century.
She made several recordings for the BBC and performed for the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was also a Communist who was refused entry into the United States for a lute seminar in 1974.
Valuers acting for the Dolmetsch family and the Horniman Museum in London have visited Lower Hutt to examine the lute. Another Dolmetsch was sold at auction in Britain for about $1400 in 1997.
Mr Fisher said he had been quoted anything between $5000 and $20,000 for this one. The auction takes place at 11am today.
- The Dominion Post