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Psaltery 1700 – Venitian school
A woman playing a triangular harp, which was called by Greeks a psalterion. Ancient Greek "red-figured "pelike from Anzi, "Apulia, circa 320–310 BCE.
Picture of an unusual type of psaltery, found in eastern Europe

A psaltery (or sawtry (archaic)) is a "stringed instrument of the "zither family.


Ancient harp psaltery[edit]

The psaltery of "Ancient Greece ("epigonion) is a harp-like instrument. The word psaltery derives from the "Ancient Greek ψαλτήριον (psaltḗrion), "stringed instrument, psaltery, harp"[1] and that from the verb ψάλλω (psállō), "to touch sharply, to pluck, pull, twitch" and in the case of the strings of musical instruments, "to play a stringed instrument with the fingers, and not with the "plectrum."[2] The psaltery was originally made from wood, and relied on natural acoustics for sound production.

In the "King James Version of the "Bible, "psaltery", and its plural, "psalteries", are used to translate several words whose meaning is now unknown: the Hebrew keli (כלי) in "Psalm 71:22 and "I Chronicles 16:5; nevel (נבל) in "I Samuel 10:5; "2 Samuel 6:5; "I Kings 10:12; I Chronicles 13:8; 15:16, 20, 28; 25:1, 6; II Chronicles 5:12; 9:11; 20:28; 29:25; "Nehemiah 12:27; Psalms 33:2; 57:6; 81:2; 92:3; 108:2; 144:9; and 150:3; and the "Aramaic pesanterin (פסנתרין) in "Daniel 3:5, 7, 10, and 15.

Ancient European zither psaltery[edit]

In the Christian era, a psaltery consisting of a soundboard with several pre-tuned strings that are usually plucked came into use. It was also known by the name canon from the Greek word κανών (kanṓn), which means "rule", "principle", and also "mode". The modern Greek folk instrument is called by its "diminutive, "kanonaki. The instrument is usually small enough to be portable; its shape and range vary.

Medieval psaltery[edit]

Psaltery player from the Gorleston Psalter, c. 1310–1326.

From the 12th through the 15th centuries, psalteries are widely seen in manuscripts, paintings and sculpture throughout Europe [1]. They vary widely in shape and the number of strings (which are often, like lutes, in "courses of two or more strings).

Modern psaltery[edit]

In the 19th century, several related zithers came into use, notably the "guitar zither and the "autoharp. In the 20th century, the "bowed psaltery came into wide use. It is set up in a "triangular format so that the end portion of each string can be "bowed.

Similar instruments include the large "cimbalom and the smaller "dulcimer, both usually played using small hammers to hit the strings.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ψαλτήριον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  2. ^ ψάλλω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus


External links[edit]

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