The harp, which is the national emblem of the Republic of Ireland, appears on
the country's coinage. The harpers of Ireland were greatly honored in Gaelic
society and were described as early as 1183-5. In the period of their decline they
traveled between houses seeking hospitality. All told some 14 early instruments
of different periods survived. One of he oldest surviving Irish Harps and one of
the treasures of Trinity College, Dublin, dates from the 14th century. The distinctive
features of the Irish harp are its sounding box hollowed from a single block of
willow. The neck was bound on either side by a metal band. The strings were
of thick brass held by metal pins on the left-hand side of the neck, twisted round
the wooden pegs inside the sound box. The harp was held on the player's left
shoulder and the strings were plucked with long fingernails.