Ptolemy’s fifteen-stringed canon

Ptolemy’s fifteen-stringed canon

Length 100cm, width 47cm, depth of sound box 4,5 cm

This fifteen-stringed Canon is a multi-stringed instrument used to measure musical intervals.

Ptolemy gives us an interestingly detailed description of the method he uses to adjust the strings of the fifteen-stringed Canon to the range of notes of the “dis diapason” or double-octave system: the strings are all of the same length, the first seven strings are intended for the lower octave and the remaining eight for the higher octave. This fifteen-stringed Canon provides the basic principles for the tuning of many multi-stringed instruments (including modern instruments). Among Byzantine musical theorists, Manuel Bryennios is of interest, as he studied, among other instruments, the fifteen-stringed Canon; the outcome of his work presented in “Harmonica” (circa 1320 A.D.), is very closely related to the conceptions of Ptolemy (D. Themelis, «The Kanonaki», p. 34).