Recorded as Arp, Arpe (English and German), Arpur German), Earp, Earpe, Harp, Harper, Harpur, Harpin (all English), Arpin (German), and Arpino (Italian), this ancient surname is occupational. It derives from the pre 7th century words harp, hearp, or harfe, meaning the musical instrument, the harp, and is found in England and Germany. In medieval times, the harper was one of the most important figures at baronial halls, festivals and fairs, and the Brehon laws of Scotland and Ireland ranked the playing of the harp as "the one art of music which deserves nobility".Early examples of the surname from England and Scotland include Henry le Harpur of Cambridgeshire, in the year 1273, and William le Harpur of La Lawe, in the county of Edinburgh, who rendered homage to King Edward 1st. of England in 1296. Other examples include Guilelmi Earpe, a witness at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on September 22nd 1561, Peter Arpe, the son of John Arpe, christened at the same church on September 20th 1608, and Anna Arp, who married Paul Paustian, at Probsteirhagen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, on February 1st 1662. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Robert le Harpur, which was dated 1186, in the "Pipe Rolls of Hampshire", during the reign of King Henry 11 of England, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.
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