CHAPTER 3: History to 1800
The first stage in preparing this part of the study was to assemble as much material as I could find, ranging from major essays to fragmentary references; one amusing result was a strong inclination to write a survey of histories of the dulcimer, for what was accumulated was a fascinating mixture of stock phrases and ideas, mostly gained from the writers of the early treatises, and in later generations, from the pioneering, but rather uneven, work of Engel and Sachs; to this was added an amazing overlay of personal interpretations of other data, some having identifiable sources which could be re-examined, others reading like fantasy novels. Some writers engendered a marked respect - here I would mention especially Brigitte Geiser in Bern and Hubert Boone in Brussels; others, including some of the leading scholars, displayed an astounding and encyclopaedic knowledge, but so little basic grasp of what a dulcimer is that their comments on - and even classification of - source material was often puzzling; and again, there were those who knew much about dulcimers, but rather little about scholarship.
I have tried to bring something of both the practical and the scholarly to all my work here, in collecting copies of icons and literary references, and details of surviving instruments, both privately owned and in museums; the originals were consulted wherever that was feasible.
The second stage was to re-examine the hundreds of items of source material collected, and to restructure it to give a cohesive and balanced view of the instrument.
My purpose in the third stage - writing the history - has been threefold:
- firstly, to mention the first examples of innovations;
- secondly, to give a picture of the overall situation in each epoch;
- and thirdly, to quote in detail particularly graphic sources which illuminate a particular facet in a human way, to show that it was all really happening.
Be all that as it may, the function of this chapter is to trace the development of the dulcimer throughout history, not, in general, the development of writings about the dulcimer: a detailed 'history of dulcimer histories' would be instructive but too time-consuming for the present work, and, frankly, not sufficiently productive. The major areas of controversy are discussed in Chapter 7, but minor divergencies of opinion have had to be merely noted in passing or occasionally even ignored.
A general outline of the instrument's historical development is charted in here.