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Harps

The harp dates back to 2500 B.C. in ancient Egypt. It is the oldest-known string instrument. Ancient harps did not have a support column, so they only had a few strings. The frame harp, which included a support column, first appeared in Western Europe between 700 and 900 A.D. These instruments used 10 to 11 strings. Irish harps from the 1300s include a hollow sound box to amplify the harp's sound as well as a stronger neck and 30 to 36 strings made of brass.

Double- and triple-strung harps appeared in Europe during the late 1500s. These harps were designed to be played with two hands. Pedals were introduced in the early 1700s and further improvements followed. Sebastien Erard of Germany developed and patented many improvements to the harp, including developing the single- and double-action harps in the early 1800s. The double-action harp system is still used in modern harps.

A harp is considered an antique today if it was made prior to 1935. These instruments were handmade and hand tuned, so they vary in pitch and tuning. The strings used on antique harps are much lighter than strings used on harps made after 1936, so collectors should do some homework before re-stringing an antique instrument.


Quick Facts

  • Erard was the premier producer of harps in the early 1800s. An antique wooden harp with gilt trim by Erard made in France in 1840 is currently valued at about $25,600
  • Harpo Marx taught himself to play the harp even though he could not read music. He owned two gold Lyon & Healy harps that were donated to an Israeli university music department after his death
  • The most expensive harp available today is the Louis XV Special Concert Grand produced by Lyon & Healy Harps of Chicago, Illinois. The intricately carved instrument is covered in 23-karat gold leaf and sells for $189,000

Recommended Items at Auction

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MOBILE
Dec 05, 3:00 PM CET
MOBILE
by Aste Boetto SRL
Est: €2,000- €2,300
€2,0001 Bid
Harfe des 19. Jahrhunderts
Dec 04, 10:00 AM CET
Harfe des 19. Jahrhunderts
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Est: €0- €0
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Italian silver and lapisslazuli harp - 1960s
Dec 07, 3:00 PM CET
Italian silver and lapisslazuli harp - 1960s
by Bertolami Fine Art
Est: €100- €150
€900 Bids
Outstanding Lyon and Heily Gilt Decorated Harp
Dec 17, 12:00 PM EST
Outstanding Lyon and Heily Gilt Decorated Harp
by Main Auction Galleries
Est: $4,000- $6,000
$2,0000 Bids
EARLY 19TH-CENTURY GILT & AMBOYNA CONCERT HARP
Dec 06, 10:00 AM GMT
EARLY 19TH-CENTURY GILT & AMBOYNA CONCERT HARP
by Sheppards
Est: €2,500- €3,500
€1,5000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Harps


Main Auction Galleries

Main Auction Galleries

Sheppards

Sheppards

Aste Boetto SRL

Aste Boetto SRL

Bertolami Fine Art

Bertolami Fine Art