The mail quoted below comes from a discussion group. As it refers to work carried out by Arnold Dolmetsch as reported in an article by his second daughter, Cecile, I have reprinted it here.
Quite a while ago (about half a year), I asked for information about the crwth on this newsgroup. I know its a bit late, but I'd still like to thank people for replying. I did manage to find out some things about the crwth (pronounced crooth), but not very much is known about it. I concentrated on the crwth in the middle-ages, as that is the period I am studying. Actually one of the most useful articles was the entry in the New Grove. It only had five titles in its biography, and not all of them useful (as my Welsh is not at all fluent, to say the least). I have found some other articles in our library in Utrecht.
The crwth in its final form is a bowed instrument. It is rectangular in shape. The lower half is covered in to form the soundboard whilst the top half frames the head and fingerboard. The fingerboard has two large holes on either side. This facilitates holding the instrument (it is held more or less like a violoncello); the thumb and indexfinger can play the strings. The bridge has a shallow curve and one foot forms the soundpost by passing through the sound hole on the bass side. There are six strings, 2 of which are drone strings (most of this description is quoted from an article by Cecile Dolmetsch. Her father rebuild a crwth and played it).
One of the problems I ran into was that of terminolgy. In the middle ages there is mention of cruit, crowd, chrotta, hruozza, rota, rotta, and other similar names. It is not clear if the same instrument is meant (actually, a lot of things are not clear). These names have probably also been used for instruments like the lyre, the hurdy-gurdy and the harp. The cruit is an Irish instrument that is plucked, and it is not known if it is related to the crwth. The crwth was probably called crowd in England, and I have assumed it is the same instrument. The crwth appears in iconography from the ninth century onwards, but the number of strings and the size varies.
There are similar instruments in Scandinavia and the Baltic area, like the jouhikantele or jouhikko (by the way, thank you Arto) and the tallharpa. Their relationship to the crwth, if any, is not known. I have some more information and a bibliography is anyone is interested.
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Crwth Reference Index