Dr. John


See the review of this book in the
Library Journal, April 15, 2002

"Musicologist Smith, editor of the Journal of the Lute Society of America, has succeeded at an enormous undertaking..."   "The reader is given a clear overview of the instrument from its origin in central Asia, through its introduction to Europe by Arab invaders, to its prominence as the 'king of Renaissance instruments' in courtly circles."
"Highly recommended for medieval and Renaissance history and music collections in public and academic libraries."
Timothy J. McGee, University of Toronto (reviewer)

Self PortraitOverview

In today's world, the Lute's image is perhaps most commonly found on Christmas cards, pictured in the hands of angels in a visual reference to the almost celestial beauty of its gentle harmony. Many of these images survive from the Renaissance, when the lute reigned supreme as the most popular of musical instruments from the exquisite salons of royalty to the humblest of barbershops. By the year 1500, the lute's almost universal appeal throughout Europe had made it a unifying element of Western music and culture. Renaissance composers, singers and dancers all found in the lute a perfect tool for the musical development and maturation of their art. In fact, the lute's unique musical and physical characteristics inspired artists and poets alike to elevate it to a place of such high honor that the lute's image has come to symbolize music itself.

In his fascinating book, “A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance”, Douglas Alton Smith traces the lute’s development from the early instruments of Classical Greece to its glorious flowering in Renaissance Europe’s golden age of polyphony. His superbly illustrated and comprehensive book explores the historical and cultural reasons behind the lute’s importance as the preeminent musical instrument of the Renaissance. With its lengthy bibliography, index, 74 illustrations and 55 musical examples, the author has told the lute’s story with such a scholarly and visual depth that it will become a standard reference for this instrument for years to come.

Along with providing historical information, “A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance” is also ready reference guide, full of facts about all facets of this   interesting instrument. Readers will find out why European poets associated the lute with the lyre of ancient Greece, imbuing it with an almost mystical quality. They will learn the details about the early lute makers whose careful craftsmanship produced instruments of such delicate musical and physical beauty that they are worthy of emulation 500 years later. Readers will also explore the fascinating world of those ancient professional and amateur lute players whose music was the source for poetic and artistic celebration and whose legacy offers us only the merest hint of the lute’s musical glory. For the music student, the extensive biographical and stylistic reference material included for most known Renaissance lute players will make this edition an invaluable research tool.

In “A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance”, Doug Smith has successfully weaved these and many other related threads together to reveal the rich tapestry of the lute’s story in fascinating detail. His book is a must for the libraries of all interested persons. The Lute Society of America is pleased and honored to offer this thorough study if the instrument to our membership and the public.


© 2001 by The History of the Lute Developed by MacConsulting