When Orville Gibson produced flatback mandolins as an alternative to the traditional bowl back, he designated two styles: 'A' or Artist and 'F' or Florentine. The F-style has ornate scrolling and points.
Most manufacturers continue this designation today. Similar in sound, F-style tend to be favoured by Bluegrass and A-style by Folk, but not exclusively.
Note: Either 'F' style or 'A' style can have f-holes or oval holes. The f is for florentine not f-holes.
a-style flatback Mandolin
f-style flatback Mandolin
A popular style at one time and still found today is the guitar shaped Selmer or Maccaferi style of mandolin. It has a guitar shaped body but scaled down to mandolin size. This particular example was made by Luthier Paul Hathway in London
Maccaferi style flatback Mandolin
Mandolins can be simply acoustic as above, electro-acoustic or purely electric. The elctro-acoustic is an acoustic mandolin with a pick-up and the electric is a solid body with pick-ups which needs an amplifier to be heard at all.
Solid Body Electric Mandolin
The Neapolitan bowl-back 'tater bug' style is the oldest and original style of mandolin body. Quiet and delicate with a distinctive sound. The Mandolin Orchestras would have played a family of instruments of this type. Although their origins were Neapolitan, they here made elsewhere in Italy and eventually elsewhere in Europe and America. Makers such as Lyon & Healey, Martin and Vega were still making bowl-backs as Gibson was starting to make flat-backs.
Neapolitan Bowlback Mandolin