Harps and Harpists

Harps and Harpists

Harps and Harpists

Harps and Harpists


"This is the long-awaited, expanded edition of a classic text on the harp, written by a musician who is also an art historian, and beautifully illustrated with more than 160 photographs and drawings. The book surveys the progress of the harp from antiquity to the present day - from the simple bow-like early harp to the gleaming modern pedal harp, most recently equipped with the refinements of electronic sound."


Through the centuries, stringed instruments of various sizes, shapes, and constructions have been referred to as harps. in this study the stringed instrument with the triangular-shaped frame, and the musicians who play or have played it, are of main concern. However, the bow-shaped harp, instruments that appear to be harps, and some important harp makers are also noted.

Neither a piano, a harpsichord, nor a guitar—but sometimes used (or misused) as such—the harp has endured many “vicissitudes of fortune” throughout its long existence. the instrument has been revered, neglected, and revived only to be abandoned, altered, and revived again. However throughout its history the harp, whether of simple or complex construction, has retained its own distinctive character and the manner of playing it has remained constant. Although the ancient harp is a far cry from the elegant present-day concert harp, both instruments are given life only when human fingers touch the strings.

My purpose in writing again about the harp is still to provide a single source of valid information on the instrument. Myths and folklore have not been ignored, but information backed by reliable sources, with the sources themselves duly credited, has been my goal. It is hoped that this revised edition of Harps and Harpists, with greater depth in certain areas, notes as well as a bibliography, additional illustrations, and a comprehensive index, will, like the 1989 book, encourage further research. Extant historic harps deserve greater study, as well as help with their preservation; and many more manuscripts, art examples, and musical works relating to the harp—in all times and places—deserve scholarly consideration.

Thanks are due to the museums, other organizations, and private individuals who permitted use of the copyrighted or personal photographs that illustrate this book. Illustration sources are given in the captions. However, I am especially grateful to the following, who so kindly allowed gratis use of their photographs:

David Henry, editor of the Pinkfoot Press, Balgavies, Angus,

Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig, Germany

Lyon & Healy Harps, Chicago, Illinois

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Chicago,

W & W Musical Instrument Company, Chicago, Illinois

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