The British Museum Citole: New Perspectives

James Robinson, Naomi Speakman and Kathryn BuehlerMcWilliams

Since its frst known mention in Sir John Hawkins’s A General History of the Science and Practice of Music of 1776, the British Museum citole has been a source of interest and also confusion. Hawkins described it as a violin ‘of a very singular form…encumbered with a profusion of carving’and in the centuries that followed this unique instrument has been called a violin, fddle, viol, gittern and fnally citole, with some terms used interchangeably. As the only substantially extant instrument of its kind to survive from the Middle Ages, this citole has been collected by aristocracy and proudly displayed in a number of exhibitions prior to its acquisition by the British Museum in 1963.
A brief introduction to the history of the citole will assist the reader in understanding the complex story of this particular instrument. The citole is a plucked stringed instrument used in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, which was held by means of the thumbhole in its short neck. The British Museum citole dates from the early 14th century, a dating that will be discussed within this volumeMade of boxwood, the instrument is playfully and delicately carved with dense woodland scenes reminiscent of medieval marginalia, the iconography of which will also be analysed
in the following chapters.
The British Museum Citole: New Perspectives
Edited by James Robinson, Naomi Speakman
and Kathryn Buehler-McWilliams
isbn 978 086159 186 2
issn 1747 3640
The British Museum Citole: New Perspectives

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