CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.1. Popular cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries:

2. Germania

Detailed evidence: 1 of 6: Introduction & Praetorius


Since this study did not discover a large number of detailed sources for 17th and 18th century popular dulcimers, (two treatises, four other illustrations and some 16 surviving instruments), and since they present a consistent pattern, they may be discussed together.

The instruments are not sufficiently different one from another for a detailed discussion of each to be merited: two particularly interesting examples will be mentioned, and the museum reference number of each is listed below. Details of the collections may be found in Grove 5, 'Instruments'.

Basel - 103, I04 284;
Brunswick - 15;
Chur - 2405;
Claudius - 40;
Eisenach - 62;
Hamburg - 1573;
Leipzig (Cologne) - 676;
Nuremberg -
Salzburg - 32, 33, 34, 35;
Thun - 914.465

Coincidentally enough, the detailed discussions all date from the 17th century, while the illustrations are all 18th century. The magnum opus of Michael Praetorius (the Latinised form of his German name, Schulze), Syntagma Musicum (1618-1620) has been discussed often and in detail, valued for its detailed illustrations and descriptions: Sachs (l940), for instance, calls it "comprehensive and reliable". However, it is sadly disappointing to the dulcimer historian Praetorius refers to the Hackebret only briefly, as a "dorfliches oder lumpen Instrument", 'village or vagabond instrument'; he includes it in his fourth group of instruments with metal strings (silver, iron, steel or brass), viz:

"4. Mit hölzen klöppeln intonieret - Sambuca, Barbyton, ein Hackebret." '4. Intoned with wooden sticks - Sambuca, Barbyton, a Hackebret'

Sambuca and barbyton (barbiton) were stringed instruments of ancient Rome and Greece respectively, whose names were used in the Middle Ages as generic terms for stringed instruments (96). It seems that Praetorius is simply giving classical names for the Hackebret (note the northern spelling, discussed in Chapter 2), as he did in the earlier categories ("Cithara - die Cither" etc).

fig. 64: Hackebrett, Praetorius

The illustrations are only a little less cryptic, although at first sight they appear remarkably detailed: the drawing of the ordinary Hackebrett (fig. 64) shows bridging of type II, and the stringing is very feasible - 5III treble strings, 4II bass strings plus an extra 1I, the longest string nearest the player; but the bridges seem to have no holes for the strings to pass through, and the wrest pins certainly seem to be either 7IV or 8IV, not tallying with the strings.

fig. 60: tuning resulting from five melody strings divided in the ratio 1:2

The bridge is shown to divide the strings in the ratio of 1:2, giving an octave between the two parts. With only five melody strings, this would leave a gap in the scale produced (see fig. 60) and one would need to discover more examples of such an arrangement before considering it realistic. Octave divisions have certainly been used, and are standard in Persia today, but they require at least seven treble courses to produce a conjunct diatonic scale; the five treble courses shown by Praetorius would be perfectly feasible if the ratio were 2:3.

fig. 61: 'Ein Art eines Hackebrets, Praetorius , 1619-20

In his other engraving (fig. 61), the stringing and hitch- and wrest-pins are inconsistent: there are 16 strings attached to 16 single hitch-pins, but there are twenty-four wrest-pins, grouped in pairs: whilst it would be quite normal to draw single strings instead of pairs, two thirds the number does not make immediate sense. This is another example of the rare type 0, having no bridge, and Praetorius himself seemed to find it unusual, for his caption reads "Ein Art eines Hackebrets/ wird aber mitt Fingern gegriffen", 'A sort of a Hackebret but gripped (plucked) with the fingers'; this instrument is sometimes referred to as a psaltery, simply because it was plucked, but it should be noted that Praetorius did not use the term either for this instrument, or for the "gar Alt Itanienisch Instrument", 'very old Italian instrument' which appears on the same plate, and which he elsewhere refers to as "stromento di porco" etc.

fig 62: 18thC instrument, from Scholes, 1930

fig. 63: 19thC instrument in Henry Ford museum, Dearborn, Michigan (photo Paul Gifford)

There are a few surviving examples of this type of instrument after 1600: the 17th century 'shepherd's harp' mentioned by Galpin (93), the 18th century example shown by Scholes (fig. 62)(94) and labelled 'psaltery' by him, a 19th century example in the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn, Michigan (fig. 63), three recent instruments collected by the author from the English Midlands (Birmingham and Redditch) - and a factory-made example from Japan, aimed at the 'Woolworth's' market. There is no evidence that the name 'psaltery' was used by any of the players or members of their circles; William Fell of Birmingham called his instruments 'zitherettes', while the Japanese firm coined the term 'Zippy Zither'.