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Zithers, Psalteries, and Dulcimers

  • The MFA’s Musical Instruments Collection contains over 1,100 examples from around the world, ranging from ancient times to the twenty-first century. Explore a selection of zithers, psalteries, and dulcimers from the Museum’s holdings.

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  • Zither

    18th century

    Object Place, Germany

    Description

    A shallow sound-box with a straight right-hand side and a semi-circular extension on the left-hand side. Pierced sound-hole. Gradually tapering head. Lower end frontal string fastening, anterior pegs of iron wire with loop formed heads. Two paired stopped strings pass over seventeen wire frets inserted in an ebony finger-board. Nine open strings.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 57.3 cm, width 21.5 cm, height 4.2 cm (Length 22 9/16 in., width 8 7/16 in., height 1 5/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1777

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Zither (epinette des Voges)

    19th century

    Object Place, France

    Description

    A narrow sound-box with two heart-shaped sound-holes. Peg-box with scroll at the top; five lateral pegs. Metal strings with the lower end frontal fastening. Two stopped melody strings passing over fourteen metal frets set in the sound-board. Three open strings. The ends of the pins are protected at the lower end by an ornamented guard. Played in the horizontal position with the peg-box at the player’s left.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 64.3 cm, width 7.9 cm, height 2.8 cm (Length 25 5/16 in., width 3 1/8 in., height 1 1/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1778

    Medium or Technique

    Maple

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Zither

    19th century

    Object Place, France

    Description

    A rectangular deep box with slanting, molded ends on four ivory feet; bottom and sides of maple, sound-board of pine. Light yellow-brown varnish. The sound-board has two sunk rosetted sound-holes. An ebony finger-board with twenty-four ivory frets. Lower end frontal fastening of strings; buttons at the lower end, square-headed steel tuning pins. Four stopped strings passing over metal strips serving as the saddle and a nut. Thirteen open strings pass over two ebony bridges with thin metal strips on the top. The edges of the sound-board and of the sound-holes are inlaid in black and white.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 73.8 cm, width 22.7 cm, height 7.6 cm (Length 29 1/16 in., width 8 15/16 in., height 3 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1775

    Medium or Technique

    Maple,spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Concert zither

    1893
    Hartmann Bros. & Reinhard (American, active 1880–after 1893 American)

    Object Place, New York City, New York, United States

    Description

    Inscription

    Printed label: HARTMANN BROS. & REINHARD, / MANUFACTURERS OF / MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS / NEW YORK CITY Engraved on plaque on soundboard: WORLDS / FAIR / Chicago / 1893

    Provenance

    Before 1986, awarded to John E. Hagmayer, Jr., Bloomfield, Connecticut; 1986, gift of Hagmayer to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 21, 1987)

    Credit Line

    Gift of John E. Hagmayer, Jr.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 59.9 cm, width 37.6 cm, height 3.3 cm (Length 23 9/16 in., width 14 13/16 in., height 1 5/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    1986.972

    Medium or Technique

    Rosewood

    On View

    Jan and Warren Adelson Gallery (Gallery 221)

    Collections

    Americas, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Zither (Scheitholt)

    about 1900
    F. Oberthier (German, 20th century? German)

    Object Place, Germany

    Description

    Inscription

    Stamped on back: F. OBERTHIER

    Provenance

    1963, sold by Gerald J. Bouvier, Worcester, Massachusetts, to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 13, 1982)

    Credit Line

    William Lindsey Fund

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 87.3 cm, width 11.1 cm, height 6.3 cm (Length 34 3/8 in., width 4 3/8 in., height 2 1/12 in.)

    Accession Number

    63.3048

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Zither (langeleik)

    mid-20th century

    Object Place, Norway

    Description

    Inscription

    Handwritten in pencil ___? inside handwritten in ink: Nord [Frond?] 29-12-19 / N. Peder Nielsen

    Provenance

    1982, gift of M. P. Ford, Needham, Massachusetts, to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 13, 1982)

    Credit Line

    Gift of M. P. Ford

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 108.5 cm, width 16 cm, height 8.6 cm (Length 42 11/16 in., width 6 5/16 in., height 3 3/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    1982.14

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery (arpanetta)

    about 1670

    Object Place, Germany

    Description

    A vertical, shallow sound-box placed on two feet, with strings on both sides. Ornamented with painted Cupids, birds, and flowers. A portrait of a lady on the front. The left-hand side sound-board has one rosette sound-hole and thirty-six strings passing over a single bridge. The right-hand sound-board has two rosettes and seventy-three strings divided into tow groups; a group of fifty-one strings fixed at the upper end to a curved bar and passing over a curved bridge close by, then over a straight bridge at the bottom; a group of twenty-two strings fixed to another curved bar and passing over the straight bridge at the bottom.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Height 116 cm, width 38.4 cm, depth 8.4 cm (Height 45 11/16 in., width 15 1/8 in., depth 3 5/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1773

    Medium or Technique

    Spruce

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
    Multimedia
    • audio

      MIAudio93.mp3

  • Psaltery

    1789

    Object Place, England

    Description

    A trapeze-shaped oak case. Eight strings, identified by numerals painted in white under each string on the sound-board; strings are fastened to two bars by small iron pins on the left and to the tuning pins on the right. Both bars have inserted thin strips of brass, serving as bridge.

    Inscription

    Pierced in top board: H S / 1789

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 83.8 cm, width 27.6 cm, height 8.8 cm (Length 33 in., width 10 7/8 in., height 3 7/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1776

    Medium or Technique

    Oak

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery (bell harp)

    19th century

    Object Place, Scotland

    Description

    Maple case. Spruce soundboard. Eighteen triple courses of strings.

    Inscription

    Stencilled on cover: KILWINNING

    Provenance

    Before 1992, Robert W. King, Scotland; by 1992, by descent to his great grandson, Robert H. King, New York; 1992, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert King to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 24, 1992)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert King and Mr. and Mrs. Allen I. Barry

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 61.5 cm, width 35.8 cm, height 16 cm (Length 24 3/16 in., width 14 1/8 in., height 6 5/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    1992.316

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery

    19th century

    Object Place, Germany

    Description

    A trapeze-shaped pine sound-box with bevelled edges and an ornamented sound-hole. Two bridge bars and a tuning pin bar on the top. Twenty-two doubled steel strings, both ends of which are fixed to the tuning pins; the looped ends of the strings are affixed to hooks fastened on the side of the body.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 61.9 cm, width 34.3 cm, height 3 cm (Length 24 3/8 in., width 13 1/2 in., height 1 3/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1774

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery (kantele)

    19th century

    Object Place, Finland

    Description

    Bottom and sides of birch carved from solid block. Soundboard of pine. Two soundholes: one circular and one cross-shaped. Tuning pegs of wood. Bridge near tuning pegs of iron. Twelve strings, attached at lower ends to rod of iron held in place by holes in case flanges.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 69.5 cm, width 21.7 cm, height 7.2 cm (Length 27 3/8 in., width 8 9/16 in., height 2 13/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1771

    Medium or Technique

    Birch, pine

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery (kantele)

    late 19th century

    Object Place, Finland

    Description

    Provenance

    1963, gift of Professor and Mrs. Otto Oksala, Dr. Sauli Hakkinen, and Mr. Niilo Lehtonen, Finland, to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 22, 1989)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Prof. and Mrs. Otto Oksala, Dr. Sauli Hakkinen, and Mr. Niilo Lehtonen

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 91 cm, width 27.3 cm, height 10.8 cm (Length 35 13/16 in., width 10 3/4 in., height 4 1/4 in.)

    Accession Number

    1989.131

    Medium or Technique

    Birch, spruce

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Psaltery (Phonoharp)

    about 1892
    Phonoharp Co. (American, 1891–1926 American)

    Object Place, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

    Description

    Inscription

    No. 2/ PHONOHARP/ MANUFACTURED BY/ THE PHONOHARP CO./ BOSTON MASS./ U.S.A.; stamped on _____: PHONOHARP/ PAR. AUG 4. 1891

    Provenance

    1980, gift of Eleanor Dearborn, Newtonville, Massachusetts, to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 18, 1980)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Eleanor Dearborn

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 44.2 cm, width 23.5 cm, height 2.9 cm (Length 17 3/8 in., width 9 1/4 in., height 1 1/18 in.)

    Accession Number

    1980.248

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Americas, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Zither (Appalachian dulcimer)

    1913
    James Edward Thomas (about 1850–1933)

    Object Place, Bath, Kentucky, United States

    Description

    Bottom, sides, soundboard, and fingerboard of poplar painted black. Three shallow feet. Pegbox and tuning pegs of walnut. Seventeen frets of iron. One stopped string. Two open strings.

    Inscription

    Handwritten label: manufactured by/ J. Edward Thomas/ Sept 10 1913/ Bath KY

    Provenance

    Before March 1965, gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes, Boston, Massachusetts, to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 22, 1989)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 86.8 cm, width 15.8 cm (Length 34 3/16 in., width 6 1/4 in.)

    Accession Number

    1989.129

    Medium or Technique

    Walnut, poplar

    On View

    David and Stacey Goel Gallery (Gallery 239)

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
    Multimedia
    • audio

      MIAudio28.mp3

  • Zither (Appalachian dulcimer)

    1962
    Edd L. Presnell (American, 1917–1994 American)

    Object Place, Banner Elk, North Carolina, United States

    Description

    Inscription

    Printed label: HAND MADE (handwritten: No. 170)/ Mr. and Mrs. Edd L. Presnell/ WOODCARVING & DULCIMERS/ Banner Elk, North Carolina/ [handwritten: FEB. 13, 1962]/ Handcrafts Guild Stamp]

    Provenance

    By the 1970s, accessioned as source unidentified to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 22, 1989)

    Credit Line

    Source unidentified

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 89.4 cm, width 16.4 cm, height 4.9 cm (Length 35 3/16 in., width 6 7/16 in., height 1 15/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    1989.138

    Medium or Technique

    Walnut

    Not On View

    Collections

    Americas, Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Aeolian harp

    late 19th century

    Object Place, England

    Description

    Long rectangular body of wedge-shaped cross-section, with removable cover, made of pine throughout. Round soundhole (diameter 52 mm) at center of soundboard. Two moveable bridges of ebony. Twelve gut strings fixed to brass? hitchpins at one end, passing over bridges and fastened at opposite end to staggered iron tuning pins with rectangular heads. Cover has four “legs” with brass? pins to locate position on body, and forms wedge-shaped air passage when in place.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 91.1 cm, width 12.3 cm, height 7.3 cm (Length 35 7/8 in., width 4 13/16 in., height 2 7/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1779

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Aeolian harp

    1825–50

    Object Place, Probably United States

    Description

    Long rectangular body of wedge-shaped cross-section, with removable cover, made of pine throughout. Body and cover painted cream white with light green stripe along all edges. Center of cover painted with two white flowers and foliage. Round soundhole (diameter 43 mm) at center of soundboard. Two fixed bridges of ebony. Eight gut strings fixed to small iron hitch pins at one end, passing over bridges and fastened at opposite end to staggered iron tuning pins with rectangular heads. Cover has arched blocks at each end, forming four “legs” with iron pins to locate position on body, and forms wedge-shaped air passage when in place. Cover fits flush at hitch-pin end of body, but stops short of tuning pins. Painted white with green borders. Rectangular box, slanting top, with circular sound hole; strings and pegs. Cover with slanted sides has painted roses on top.

    Inscription

    Handwritten in graphite pencil on underside of body: This belonged to my great grandmother Eliot, / given to me by Papa / May 13th 1883 / Sally Norton

    Provenance

    Before 1829, Catherine Eliot née Atkins (1758-1829), who was married to Samuel Eliot (1748/9-1820), a distinguished Boston merchant and president of the Massachusetts Bank; 1829, by descent to her daughter, Mrs. Andrews Norton (Catherine Atkins Eliot, b. 1793), Boston, Massachusetts; before 1908, by descent to her son, Charles Eliot Norton (1829-1908), a professor of fine art at Harvard University; after 1908, by descent to his daughter, Sarah Norton (b. 1865), Boston, Massachusetts; 1912, gift of Sarah Norton to the MFA. (Accession Date: March 22, 2007)

    Credit Line

    Gift of Miss Sarah Norton

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 74.8 cm, width 13.7 cm, height 10.6 cm (Length 29 7/16 in., width 5 3/8 in., height 4 3/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    12.1531

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Aeolian harp

    about 1960
    Possibly by Lawrence Thompson (American, about 1870–about 1960 American)

    Object Place, Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard, United States

    Description

    Long rectangular body of wedge-shaped cross-section, with removable cover, made of pine throughout except for end blocks of mahogany. Two trefoil-shaped soundholes. Two fixed bridges of walnut. Twelve gut strings fixed to brass? hitch pins at one end, passing over bridges and fastened at opposite end to staggered iron zither-type tuning pins with square heads. Cover has four brass pins to locate position on body, and forms wedge-shaped air passage when in place.

    Provenance

    By the 1970s, accessioned as source unidentified to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 22, 1989)

    Credit Line

    Source unidentified

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 81.3 cm, width 11 cm, height 7.8 cm (Length 32 in., width 4 5/16 in., height 3 1/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    1989.140

    Medium or Technique

    Pine

    Not On View

    Collections

    Americas, Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • Hammered dulcimer and one mallet

    19th century
    John Grey & Sons Ltd. (English, 19th century)

    Object Place, London, England

    Description

    Trapezoidal box, sides inlaid in bands. Sound-board varnished black; two sound-holes covered with red flannel. Twenty-one sets of quadruple strings attached on the right side to eight-four pegs. Two strings of each of these sets are made of one V-shpaed wire, the free ends being attached to the tuning pegs and the bottom of the V hooked to a small iron pin on the left side. There are two slotted strips of wood placed over the sound-board. The strip close to the tuning pins supports eleven small movable bridges with tongs fitting into the slot to provide clearance. The other strip supports ten similar bridges, its location being so selected as to divide the vibrating lengths of the string in the ratio of two to three (which gives the ratio of a fifth). A tuning key is exhibited with the instrument.

    Inscription

    Engraved on circular ivory plaque on case: DULCETTA JOHN GREY & SONS LTD. LONDON

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 82 cm, width 38 cm, height 7.4 cm (Length 32 5/16 in., width 14 15/16 in., height 2 15/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1780a-b

    Medium or Technique

    Mahogany, maple

    On View

    Musical Instrument Gallery (Gallery 103D)

    Collections

    Europe, Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info
  • String drum (tambourin à cordes) and mallet

    19th century

    Object Place, France

    Description

    Irregular oblong sound-box hollowed out of a solid block of maple forming the body of the instrument; light walnut sound-board. Six gut strings, fixed to the projecting block at the bottom, pass over the saddle- block (nailed to the sound-board), over the upper bridge with U-shaped wire staples, over the top saddle-block to the six boxwood tuning pegs inserted in the top and protected by two horn-shaped guards. The sound-board is decorated with two hexafoils and conventionalized plant pattern and perforated by many small holes; the decorativs are made lighter in color than the rest of the sound-board. Stained light greenish-borwn and varnished. Linen covered stick attached by a gut string.

    Provenance

    Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945), Hatfield Regis, England; 1916, sold by Francis W. Galpin to William Lindsey (1858-1922), Boston, Massachusetts; 1916, gift of William Lindsey, in memory of his daughter, Leslie Lindsey Mason, to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 5, 1916)

    Credit Line

    Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection

    Details

    Dimensions

    Length 90.9 cm, width 16.3 cm, height 7.1 cm (Length 35 13/16 in., width 6 7/16 in., height 2 13/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    17.1781a-b

    Medium or Technique

    Maple, walnut

    Not On View

    Collections

    Musical Instruments

    Classifications

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    More Info

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