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

Detailed Treatises - 4 of 8 : Livre Plaisant

In 1529, the year after Agricola's work first appeared, Guillaume Vorstermann published in Antwerp an anonymous "Livre Plaisant et tres utile pour apprendre ... a iouer sur les Manicordion/ Luc/ et Flutes" (67), an 'Agreeable Book, very useful for learning to play the Clavichord, Lute and Recorders'.

This was a very free French translation of Musica Instrumentalls, omitting the introduction to musical instruments, and substituting instead a passage suggesting that if the student learns to play a few basic instruments, skill on others will easily follow:

"Le disciple Lequel instrument donc me ordonnerez Vous premier?

Le Maistre Prens premier le manicordion/ puis apres le luc/ a tiercement la flute/ car quant tu auras aprins sur le manicordion tu pourras facilement aprendre à iouer sur les autres instrumens. Aussy quant tu scauras iouer sur le manicordion/ tu scauras aussy iouer sur les orgues/ clavicymbalon/ sur le Virginal/ Herpecordion/ & sur tous telz autres instrumens. Quant tu scais frapper sur le luc/ alors facilement frapperas tu sur la harpe/ sur le psalterion/ & tous autres semblables instrumens ...

'The pupil So which instrument do you prescribe for me first?

The Master Take firstly the clavichord, then afterwards the lute, thirdly, the recorder, for when you have learnt the clavichord, you will easily be able to learn the other instruments. Also, when you know how to play the clavichord you will also know how to play the organ(s), harpsicord, the virginal, spinet and all other such instruments. When you can play the lute, then you will easily play the harp, the psalterion and all other similar instruments....' (68)

The use of frapper, 'hit' to denote the playing technique of lutes and harps is particularly important: any description of the dulcimer or psalterion being 'frappé' in French needs to be considered in the light of this usage, since the word must have had a secondary meaning of plucking a stringed instrument. The instruments known as psaltérion in French after the Middle Ages are identical, in their important features, to instruments known as 'dulcimer' in English; and the appropriate translation of frapper sur le psalterion is therefore not 'to strike the psaltery' as might be expected, but 'to pluck the dulcimer'.