Harp , (Sax. hearpa, Ger. Harfe), a musical stringed instrument of a triangular shape, the chords of which are distended in parallel directions from the upper limb to one of the sides, and are set in vibration by the action of the thumb and lingers. Its origin cannot be ascertained; but it was familiar to the Hebrews in the time of the earlier prophets, and, as appears by the sculpture in a tomb near the pyramids of Gizeh, was known to the Egyptians probably as early as 2000 B. C. The researches of recent travellers show that the Egyptians attained great perfection in the construction of the harp, which was frequently richly ornamented and of elegant form, having from 4 to 21 chords, and in the later specimens strikingly resembled those in present use. In the Paris collection of Egyptian antiquities is a triangular harp of 21 chords, which, like all other Egyptian harps of which we have representations, has no pole or pillar to support the upper limb of the instrument. That the omission was intentional there seems no doubt; but it is difficult to conceive how the tension of the strings could have been resisted. To the Greeks it seems always to have been unknown, and the Romans probably had no knowledge of it in anything like its present form.
It was common to the northern races of Europe in the early centuries of the Christian era, and in the opinion of many antiquaries was original among them. In Ireland and in Wales harps of many strings and of elegant form were in use as early as the 5th and 0th centuries, and in the former it was adopted as the national emblem. In Wales it is still cherished as the national instrument, and annual trials of skill in its use take place. The introduction of pedals, whereby it became possible to modulate into all keys, first gave the harp a higher position than that of an instrument of accompaniment, and the improvements of Sebastien Erard have made it capable of performing any music written for the pianoforte. His double action harp, perfected in 1808, has a compass of six octaves, from E to E, with all the semitones, and even quarter tones. Its form and tone have long made it a favorite instrument for the drawing room. In the orchestra it is more sparingly used.
Harp , (harpa), a genus of gasteropod mol-lusks of the family of whelks or buccinidoe. The shell is ventricose, with numerous ribs at regular intervals, the shape and the ribs resembling the outline and the strings of a harp; the aperture is large, notched in front, and without operculum. The foot is very large, crescentshaped in front, and deeply divided from the posterior part. There are about a dozen species, inhabiting deep water and soft bottoms in the East Indies and the Pacific islands; they are carnivorous; the shells are finely colored and of elegant shape, generally about three inches long. Four fossil species have been found in the eocene strata of France.