This page gathers references to bags, cases, boxes or covers for historical harps.
The most extensive and celebrated description of a harp bag from the old Gaelic world is from the early medieval myth of Táin Bo Froích:
There is some parallel evidence from England and from the Continent. Martin van Schaik has written an interesting paper about harp bags in medieval art2, which reproduces and discusses illustrations showing a bag surrounding the base of the harp (perhaps as a ‘fig leaf’ to cover the harp’s base3). There is also a nice medieval drawing in the early 14th century Tickhill Psalter4, showing David arriving in front of Saul carrying his harp in a bag on his back.
A fifteenth century Gaelic poem from central Scotland mentions wolf-skin as a cover for harps:
The household accounts of an Anglo-Irish nobleman record the purchase of leather, fabric and thread for making harp cases:
In May of that year, ten shillings was paid “to Plunkett your Lordship’s harper’.
There is a line in a poem of Màiri Nighean Alasdair Ruaidh (c.1615-c.1705), an elegy for the Laird of Applecross, which may refer to the harp being kept in a locked box, though it may be a reference to the instrument iself (the box with strings, and the tuning key).
1. Eugene O’Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, vol. 3, pps. 219-222 ^
6. A.J. Fletcher, Drama & the Performing Arts in Pre-Cromwellian Ireland, Brewer 2001, p.422 ^