Historical Harps

Portrait of Robert Bruce Armstrong playing his wire-strung Egan

Portrait of Robert Bruce Armstrong playing his wire-strung Egan harp

Robert Bruce Armstrong published The Irish and the Highland Harps in 1904. It remains to this day the greatest single work on the subject, although it contains a few errors and misses information that has since come to light. He was also the first, in effect, to catalogue these instruments. Thus Armstrong’s volume has been chosen as the framework from which we will explore the historic instruments in greater detail.

These harps are presented and linked in the Historic Harp Table below, listed in the order in which Armstrong covered them in his book with the exception that the two oldest Scottish harps have been moved to the front of the list in order to place the three oldest harps together. Please also note that the information presented on these pages will continue to be in a state of development as matters progress.

Beyond the harps Armstrong specifically included in his work, we have also chosen to include harps which have come to light since. As did he, we also include harps that may no longer exist but for which there is sufficient information to be of interest.

We have chosen a cut–off date of 1850 for the historic harps, as distinct from modern or replica harps, primarily because this allows for the inclusion of the Society harps, Egan, etc. while also pre–dating the modern period of interest.

Below is a listing of the harps which have survived from what may be called the “pre-revival” period. We may debate where and when (and if) the revival began, but this is a subject for the Transformation and Revival pages of this website. Each harp’s name below opens a link with further detailed information, where available.

Historic Harp Table

Harps Described by Robert Bruce Armstrong, with later additions provided here below

Harps Noted since Robert Bruce Armstrong

Harps that no longer exist, but for which there are interesting descriptions or depictions

This Historic Harp Table is being developed with the editorial advice of Michael Billinge.

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