writers make a distinction between psaltery and dulcimer, commonly
on the basis of playing technique (see also Chapter 1), and some,
such as Marcuse (1975) apparently consider that it is appropriate
to translate salterio, psaltérion etc., as 'psaltery',
since they discuss these instruments - whose features are indistinguishable
from dulcimers - with the psalteries.
ordinary usage, the names 'psaltery' and its variants relate to the
mediaeval instrument, with no bridge, strings in a single plane, and
designed to be plucked; apart from James Talbot's enigmatic reference
(chap. 3.5, England), it seems the latest use in English of 'psaltery'
as a specific name (i.e. used in the culture where the instrument
is played) is in early 16th century poetry, and it did not acquire
its contempoary generic sense until the present era of organology.
Instruments which were essentially the same as those called salterio
in Italy, psaltérion in France, psalterium
in Germany (etc) from the Livre Plaisant (1529) onwards were
in England called 'dulcimer'; thus the appropriate specific translation
for salterio etc. at this time is 'dulcimer'.
may be argued that 'psaltery' is an appropriate generic translation,
using the term to mean "a plucked instrument having open strings
stretched over a board"; certainly these instruments were plucked
on occasion, (the quills of the Spanish salterio in Brussels
are often quoted), but there are equally many references to their
le corde con le bacchette" (11) in Italy; "frappé
par les petits maillets de bois" (12) in Spain, the references
of Mersenne, Furetière, Diderot and LaBorde in France, and
conclusion, then, is that while the link between 'psaltery' and other
related words is very important etymologically, it is not appropriate
to use the one as a translation for the others. In passing, it may
be noted that the same is equally true of the ancient Greek psalterion,
which does not seem to have been a psaltery, however one uses the
with this issue is Dr. Marcuse's statement that "During the latter
part of the Middle Ages, 'psaltery' came to denote both the finger-plucked
psaltery and the struck dulcimer". There are two points here:
the question of whether it is sensible to use a different name for
an instrument when it is plucked than from when it is struck (for
most, if not all, the early references to struck psaltérions
etc. indicate both playing techniques on the same instrument);
secondly, so far as I am aware, the name psaltery' was never used
in English for a struck instrument. Presumably the author means 'the
groups of names, of which 'psaltery' is the English form, came to
denote both plucked and struck instruments'; but since this only applies
outside England, the statement as it stands is misleading.
Panum used the words in yet another sense, discussed in Chapter 1:
to her, a dulcimer was evidently a kind of psaltery, so that the hammer
illustrated alongside the 'psaltery' from Mersenne presents no incongruity
within her own terms(14).