The psaltery (or psaltry) was an ancient string instrument. It evolved from the simple instrument produced when stretching gut strings across a wooden board. This evolved in to its final form by acquiring metal strings, a trapezoidal frame and a sounding box. The trapezoidal frame, somewhat like that of a grand piano allowed longer strins to be at one end of the instrument, which tapers as the length of strings decreases.

The psaltery was usually played with the fingers, but use of a plectrum was not uncommon. Most psalteries were of a size at which they could be held in the crook of the arm, but some performers laid them play on tables to play.

Versions of this instrument existed before the birth of Christ, and it was popular into the fifteenth century, when it was replaced by the zither and harpsichord. A psaltery is mentioned in Chaucer. In Medieval times it was frequently used to accompany music in religious ceremonies, and it is for this reason that a book of psalms is called a psalter

Psal"ter*y (?), n.; pl. Psalteries (#). [OE. sautrie, OF. psalterie, F. psalt'erion, L. psalterium psaltery, psalter, from Gr. , fr. . See Psalm, Psalter.]

A stringed instrument of music used by the Hebrews, the form of which is not known.

Praise the Lord with harp; sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Ps. xxxiii. 2.

 

© Webster 1913.

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