memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

My Lyre of David

I have occasionally wondered about the relationship between Psalter, Lyre and Music.

(Get a life, will ya!)

The word psalms is derived from the Greek Ψαλμοί (Psalmoi), perhaps originally meaning music of the lyre or songs sung to a harp and then to any piece of music.

From psallein play upon a stringed instrument and then to make music in any fashion.

No historical personage comes more readily to mind than the biblical King David when the word harp is mentioned. Yet the instrument, kinnor, translated harp in the King James Version of the Bible, was not a harp at all, but a lyre. The other stringed instrument David played, nevel, translated as psaltery by the KJV, was likewise not a psaltery, and it may not have been a true harp either.

Vocal melodies and instrumental accompaniment at that time were commonly conducted using gestures of the hands and fingers. Apparently the Hebrew Scriptures were sung to melodies conducted by a gestural system, for a transcription of such gestures is still found in the Hebrew Masoretic Text. Indeed I believe that to this day the Torah is sung, rather than read, in some synagogues.

Be that as it may let us turn our attention to my copy of the LYRE OF DAVID

Of this my father recorded that:

Lyra Prophetica

Davidis Regis





… Londini MDCLXIV 


Inscribed: Gamaliel Milner (name also in Hebrew letters) and Westminster School.

A word by word analysis of the Psalms printed entirely in Hebrew and Latin, it was acquired by my grandfather while he was still at school; the book was already two centuries old (1664). He took his Hebrew studies very seriously and read from the Hebrew Bible regularly until the end of his life. (Not bad going for a Church of England vicar!) He has inserted the 18th century Milner book plate.

The print is clear, clean and crisp and easy to read although I doubt if it will appear on Kindle.

I had the book rebound in full leather at «my» book binders in Oporto in 2000 and as usual a very fine job they made of it.


I like to heft it in my hands, savouring that four-centuries-old-book smell and admiring the binding – this is good for another couple of centuries, I think.

Comments on: "My Lyre of David" (6)

  1. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this site. It’s simple, yet effective.

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  2. Hi Tom,
    What was the original binding? also leather?
    Happy new year 2014 may it bring you better health
    Cheers old buddy


  3. Beautiful old book. Your father sounds incredibly erudite! Go well, Thomas!


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