CHAPTER 3: History to 1800 > Later Renaissance - 16th century

Detailed Treatises - 2 of 8 - Virdung

The first of the text-books was that of Sebastian Virdung, entitled Musica Getuscht, published in Basel in 1511 (64), and it was on his work that the other four 16th-century books were based, to a greater or lesser extent.

Virdung did not discuss the dulcimer as such, but there is a rather cryptic reference to a psalterium:

"Das psalterium das noch in Ubung ist/ das hab ich nye anderst gesehen dann dreyecket".

'The psalterium which is still in use/ of which I have seen none otherwise than triangular'.

fig. 55a: from Martin Agricola's
Musica Instrumentalis Deudsch
, (1528 edition)

Nevertheless, among the musica irregularis, of which Virdung protests at having to speak, he illustrates a dulcimer (fig. 55) very similar to that in Cornelisz van Oostzanen's painting: this is the earliest example of the deprecatory attitude which characterises many a dictum from the world of Art music up to the present day.

The same woodcut was a favourite for reproduction in later years - firstly, by Agricola and Luscinius, but also in the following century, to adorn Erato, the muse of lyric poetry, plectra gerens, 'wielding a plectrum', and later still in Rastner's 1852 Danses des Morts.

fig. 56: possible tuning for the
in Virdung etc.

It is shown as having six or seven double courses, and, if the instrument be of type 11.2., fig.56 would be a possible tuning.