FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Here we answer some of your questions. We also have a website search available on the navigation, and our glossary and articles may be what you are looking for.

Can I search for specific instrument types such as rebec, violin, lirone etc.?

No. Instrument type is not as clear cut as it might first appear. For instance just what is a rebec? Instrument classification is subjective rather than objective. BSIP has a policy of not including this subjective data, and therefore prejudicing research. Searches on these terms may yield some results based on the titles of works provided by museums and auctions houses. However, these titles should not be relied upon as they are frequently inaccurate.

As an example the definitions of rebecs from Barry Pearce, Christian Rault, Mary Remnant (Grove Dictionary entry author) and Margaret Banks (nee Downie) all differ. Whose definition should be used? Similar problems exist with definitions of the Lira da Braccio, is that a violin or a viola? A bass violin or a violoncello?

To avoid nomenclature and subjective classifications potentially prejudicing research it was made BSIP policy to avoid such judgments as far as possible. Sometimes we comment on titles where the title given by the museum or auction house is clearly incorrect. It has been a failing of musicology that nomenclature dominates. This problem was highlighted by Christopher Page in 1978:

“It is still considered legitimate, at least by English organologists, to arrange scholarly discussion of medieval instruments under names such as rebec, citole, etc, taken from literary sources. I have the gravest reservations about the procedure; for too long now these words have acted like charms lulling scholars into a greatly simplified view of the typology and terminology of medieval instruments”
Christopher Page. “Early 15th-Century Instruments in Jean de Gerson’s ‘Tractatus de Canticis.’” Early Music 6, no. 3 (1978): 339–49.

One might think the situation is better for more modern instruments, however the same problems exist. Going by the evidence of searches at museums one might think that the modern viola is never depicted (it is almost invariably classified as violin). Searching for "violin" at the British Museum is a good example of the problems faced by researchers and curators alike.

This tricky issue is one of the aspects of working with iconography. We are sorry that this might be frustrating, but advanced search can narrow the number of sources (by constraining dates and geographic locations), and stepping through a thousand sources on the IRP is exceedingly fast compared to trawling hundreds of places to obtain the data.

Can you identify an image please?

Yes! Get in contact and we can have a chat. There are plans to provide reverse image searching online in the future. Currently the image search facilities we have are very accurate but very processor intensive. Once Barry has re-written the image search to be based on Bag -of-Visual-Words (BoVW) we will be able to put the search online. Of course this also depends on all the available sources being online and currently there is only a subset available in the IRP due to the time it takes to create records. Until the vast majority of sources are online its a case of sending us the image so we can run an offline search against all 17000+ sources.

I have a data set of sources I would like to share. What do I need to do to share these with you and the wider community?

This is great . This is one of the core objectives of BSIP. Please contact us and we can start a dialogue to determine the best methods to get the data set included.

Do you have higher resolution / better copy of X?

All the images we have are included within the source, we do not hold back better quality or higher resolution images. Of course, should you obtain a better copy of the source we would really appreciate it if you  share it with us.

Can I download the images?

Yes, for those images which have a liberal licence, and therefore allow us to provide the download!

Where download is allowed, we provide a button in the image reference panel where the bsip reference and permalink for the image are displayed. The licence which applies to your use is that specified in the details section of the image panel. These downloads are restricted to a maximum of 2500 pixels on the longest side. Should you require a higher resolution please check the origin pages/organisations for these images (links provided). Always remember that you will need to evaluate the copyright and licensing terms with regard to your intended usage. 

Images which have copyright restrictions in place may not be downloaded. Please check the origin pages/organisations where links are provided.

Can you provide permission to use an image?

All requests for permissions to use should be directed to the right's holder. Requests regarding images noted "BSIP Founder Barry Pearce" can be made to BSIP via our contact form.


(Last modified 03.Mar.2021)