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European Nations during the Middle Ages. Many representations of musical instruments of the middle ages have been preserved in manuscripts, as well as in sculptures and paintings forming ornamental portions of churches and other buildings. Valuable facts and hints are obtainable from these evidences, provided they are judiciously selected and carefully examined. The subject is, however, so large that only a few observations on the most interesting instruments can be offered here. Unfortunately there still prevails much uncertainty respecting several of the earliest representations as to the precise century from which they date, and there is reason to believe that in some instances the archaeological zeal of musical investigators has assigned a higher antiquity to such discoveries than can be satisfactorily proved.
It appears certain that the most ancient European instruments known to us were in form and construction more like the Asiatic than was the case with later ones. Before a nation has attained to a rather high degree of civilisation its progress in the cultivation of music, as an art, is very slow indeed. The instruments found at the present day in Asia are scarcely superior to those which were in use among oriental nations about three thousand years ago. It is, therefore, perhaps not surprising that no material improvement is perceptible in the construction of the instruments of European countries during the lapse of nearly a thousand years. True, evidences to be relied on referring to the first five or six centuries of the Christian era are but scanty; although indications are not wanting which may help the reflecting musician.