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Simon Chadwick's
Early Gaelic Harp Emporium

History books

The definitive history of the early Gaelic harp has yet to be written. These books are a start. From scholarly sources to popular overviews, they are all curious and worth collecting. Click on an author's name for pricing and purchasing details of their books

EM Nov 08 Defining Strains The Harp of Ireland Annals Tree of Strings Bunting's Messiah Martin van Schaik The Irish Harp Pencerdd's Toolkit Music in Welsh Culture

Early Music: 'The Early Irish Harp' by Simon Chadwick
An illustrated article, the ideal overview of the Scottish and Irish harp traditions.

James Porter (ed), 'Defining Strains: The Musical Life of Scots in the Seventeenth Century'
A collection of scholarly essays including two on harps and one on pipes.

Barra Boydell & Kerry Houston (eds), 'Music, Ireland and the Seventeenth Century'
Scholarly essays including one on harps.

Robert Bruce Armstrong, 'The Irish and Highland Harps'
A detailed illustrated technical study of many of the surviving instruments.

Roy Johnston, 'Bunting's Messiah'
A biography of the music collector who saved much of the tradition.

Keith Sanger and Alison Kinnaird, 'Tree of Strings'
The best history of the harp in Scotland.

Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Vol. 102, 1997, contains the article by Diarmaid Ó Catháin, ‘Revd Charles Bunworth of Buttevant, Patron of Harpers and Poets’.

Séamus Ó Brógáin, 'The Irish harp Emblem'
A small but essential book on the heraldry of the harp in Ireland.

Joan Rimmer, 'The Irish Harp'
The original monograph. Secondhand copies usually available.

Martin van Schaik, 'The harp in the Middle Ages'
Very scholarly and thought provoking work from the Continent.

George Stevens, 'Historical Notes on the Irish Harp'
A harp maker's dissertation.

Christine Y Delyn, 'Cláirseach, la harpe Irlandaise'
In French, a popular overview.

Gráinne Yeats, 'The Harp of Ireland'
An excellent little book, mostly looking at the 18th century traditions.

NEW Helen Lawlor, 'Irish Harping 1900-2010'
Aspects of Irish harp playing in the 20th century, including the historical revival.

Nora Joan Clark, 'The Story of the Irish Harp'
A popular overview.

Charlotte Milligan Fox, 'Annals of the Irish Harpers'
From 1911, includes many extracts from letters and diaries.

Pekka Toivanen, 'The Pencerdd's Toolkit'
A very good scholarly study of the medieval Welsh harp music.

Daniel Tokar & Ann Heymann: 'Dialogue on Historical Wire for Gaelic Harps'
Technical results of experiments with making historical alloys and testing them on replica harps.

Historical stringing: 'The metallurgy of 17th & 18th century music wire'
A technical monograph on old harpsichord wire.

Sally Harper, 'Music in Welsh Culture', CMCS, 'Hanes Cerddoriaeth Cymru' (Welsh Music History)
A full length book, an article, andan edited journal, on medieval Welsh music.

Osian Ellis, 'The Story of the Harp in Wales'
Slim popular historiy of Welsh harps.

The New History of Ireland Vol. I
Includes a very good article on music in medieval Ireland, by Ann Buckley.

Barry Cunliffe, 'The Celts - A Very Short Introduction'
The best overview of a contentious subject. Who were the Celts?