CHAPTER 7: Controversies and Misunderstandings

2 of 17 - Pantaleon

Gammond (1975), plate 62, has an instrument bearing the caption 'pantaleon', implying either that the instrument was an 18th century survival, or that if it is an instrument currently played, that its local or generic name is pantaleon; none of these seem feasible; it does not fit the contemporary descriptions of pantaleons (gut strings, double soundboards, great length, some 200 strings etc.) nor, as far as I am aware, does anyone today play an instrument which he calls by that name.

The only other possibility, then is that some kind of generic term is intended: this is not made clear in the text, which paradoxically uses the term fretted instruments to include dulcimer, cimbalom, psaltery, qanun, santur, cheng, koto. yang chin and "various dulcimers from the Appalachians to Ireland" (these last implying that there are some Atlantean specimens which I have missed ...) However, the deepest mystery of all is that the same instrument as is labelled 'pantaleon in plate 62 is photographed from a slightly different angle at plate 66, and there labelled "the best-known form of dulcimer". Such confusion of names and types warrants, I think, the classification of this example as a misconception, not a controversy.

In this connection it may be added that Marcuse writes of the pantaleon, that "it has been known as such ever since"(2); this suggests to me that the name has been used by players of the instrument ever since, while, so far as I know, it has not been played since the 18th century. Another possible interpretation is that she is merely pointing out that scholars have since distinguished between the pantaleon and other dulcimers; the statement seems either disputable or misleading.