The word bassoon comes from French basson and from Italian bassone (basso with the augmentative suffix -one). However, the Italian name for the same instrument is fagotto, in Spanish and Romanian it is fagot, and in German Fagott. Fagot is an Old French word meaning a bundle of sticks. The dulcian came to be known as fagotto in Italy. However, the usual etymology that equates fagotto with "bundle of sticks" is somewhat misleading, as the latter term did not come into general use until later. However an early English variation, "faget", was used as early as 1450 to refer to firewood, which is 100 years before the earliest recorded use of the dulcian (1550). Further citation is needed to prove the lack of relation between the meaning "bundle of sticks" and "fagotto" (Italian) or variants. Some think that it may resemble the Roman Fasces, a standard of bound sticks with an ax. A further discrepancy lies in the fact that the dulcian was carved out of a single block of wood—in other words, a single "stick" and not a bundle.
The range of the bassoon begins at B♭1 (the first one below the bass staff) and extends upward over three octaves, roughly to the G above the treble staff (G5). However, most writing for bassoon rarely calls for notes about C5 or D5; even Stravinsky's opening solo in The Rite of Spring only ascends to D5. Notes higher than this are entirely possible, but seldom written, as they are difficult to produce (often requiring specific reed design features to ensure reliability), and at any rate are quite homogeneous in timbre to the same pitches on cor anglais, which can produce them with relative ease. French bassoon has greater facility in the extreme high register, and so repertoire written for it is somewhat likelier to include very high notes, although repertoire for French system can be executed on German system without alterations and vice versa.
The extensive high register of the bassoon and its frequent role as a lyric tenor have meant that tenor clef is very commonly employed in its literature after the Baroque, partly to avoid excessive ledger lines, and, beginning in the 20th century, treble clef is also seen for similar reasons.
Although the primary tone hole pitches are a pitched perfect 5th lower than other non-transposing Western woodwinds (effectively an octave beneath English horn) the bassoon is non-transposing, meaning that notes sounded match the written pitch
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bassoon", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0
For those interested in more information, here's a list of resources on castrati: