Period Sources of Treatises and Theoretical Works Mentioning Cittern

Last updated Thursday, June 21, 2012.

The following is a table of period theoretical works that mention the cittern (or variants), its tuning, or its use. The list is derived mostly from the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians articles on "cittern" and "ceterone," as well as my own research.Currently, clicking on a title in blue will display the contents for that manuscript in a separate window. I hope eventually to have links to the contents for all extant manuscripts.If there are any other sources you know of that we have missed or if you have a correction, please contact me, and I will be more than happy to include them.

N.B. A title in brackets denotes a lost source.


Title Author / Theorist Year of Publication Place of Publication Notes
De inventione et usu musicae Tinctoris, Johannes c.1487 - Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the "cetula" and its tuning—a possible precursor to the cittern.
Scintille di musica Lanfranco, Giovanni Maria 1533 Brescia Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the cittern and its tuning (no music).
Modern English translation by B. Lee in Giovanni Maria Lanfranco's 'Scintille di musica' and its Relation to 16th-century Music Theory, dissertation, Cornell University, 1961.
Le institutioni harmoniche Zarlino, Gioseffo 1558 Venice Zarlino mentions a ceterone that is used by the Spanish. ("Vsa lo Italiano, et anco il Francese grandemente il Leuto, et lo Spagnolo vsa il Ceterone; ancora che varia poco dal Leuto; et altri popoli vsano il Piffero.") Nothing else is known about his instrument in this context.
Novellette Balsamino, Simone 1594 - Balsamino mentions an instrument of his own invention, the cetarissima, that has seven courses of brass and steel strings with the following tuning: A-d-g-c'-e'-g"-c".
De regulaepantometrae ... fabrica & usu libri septern... Coignet, Michiel after 1596 MS copy, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Ms. Latin 7253 "Problema 12um. Cytharis ac testudinibus tactus sonorum imponere" describes the use of a pantometer for the division and placing of frets on a cittern using Pythagorean tuning.
Del Sonare Sopra'l Basso Con Tutti Li Stromenti Agazzari, Agostino 1607 Siena Book on basso continuo. Agazzari cites the ceterone as useful for a continuo ensemble.
Orfeo Monteverdi, Claudio 1609 - Monteverdi lists both ceteroni and chitaroni as instruments to be used in the performance of his Orfeo.
El melopes y maestro Cerone, Pedro 1613 Naples Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the cythara, citola, and cethera (no music).
Utriusque Cosmi ... Historia , vol. 2 Fludd, Robert 1618 - Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the cittern (no music).
Syntagma Musicum, vol. 2 Praetorius, Michael 1618, 2/1619 Wolfenbüttel Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses several types of citterns (including 4-, 6-, and 12-course, plus various sizes) and their tunings (no music).
Polyhymnia caduceatrix Praetorius, Michael 1619 Wolfenbüttel Listed in the new edition of Grove as a source of cittern music; however the book does not contain any actual music for cittern. Rather, Praetorius suggests using cittern to double certain parts playing from single-line staff notation.
Harmonie universelle Mersenne, M. 1636-7 Paris Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the cittern and its tuning (no music). Also describes a cisteron of 14 single courses and a flat back.
Musurgia Universalis Kircher, Athanasius 1650 Rome Theoretical treatise on music. Discusses the cittern and its tuning (no music).
Wiskonstige musyka van Nierop, Dyrck Rembrantz 1659 Amsterdam? This work, bound with his Mathematische calculatie, contains a diagram of a fingerboard for a cittern fretted using just intonation. The diagram is copied in Lindley's Lutes, Viols, and Temperaments, p. 76.
Reglas, y advertencias Minguet y Yrol, Pablo c.1745 - Cited in the old edition of Grove as being the last known mention of diatonic fretting for cittern (no music).
Forrester notes that "Minguet y Yrol [pair] cittern chords with guitar alfabeto, opening up a very large potential valid field for accompaniment."

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