Prior to the nineteenth century, written references to the Jew's harp are scarce and mention of named players is extremely rare. One source, however, that describes individuals and their circumstances can be found in criminal trial records. In fact, the first three players of the instrument whom tve can definitely identify were tried, convicted, and executed for one crime or another. That the ... [Show full abstract] accused were associated with the Jeiv's harp was coincidental and it had nothing to do with their convictions, but it was considered sufficiently unusual to be noted at their trials. This article considers what we know about the trials and how confident we can be that the information contained in court records and contemporaneous written accounts is correct. It also looks at the historical context in which each of the accused lived and the circumstances of their arrest, and how and why the Jew's harp was mentioned at the trial. It explores what tunes might have been played, how much Jew's harps might have cost and where they could have been purchased, and describes archaeological finds that show the kinds of instruments available. The overall evidence suggests that the Jew's harp was a widely distributed musical instrument throughout the period, but that exceptional performance skills on it were sufficiently unusual to invite comment.