1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Regal

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[ 35 ]

REGAL, a small late-medieval portable organ, furnished with beating-reeds and having two bellows like a positive organ; also in Germany the name given to the reed-stops (beating-reeds) of a large organ, and more especially the “vox humana” stop. The name was not at first applied to the small table instrument, but to certain small brass pipes in the organ, sounded by means of beating-reeds, the longest of the 8-ft. tone being but 5½ in. long. Praetorius (1618) mentions a larger regal used in the court orchestras of some of the German princes, more like a positive, containing 4-ft., 8-ft. and even sometimes 16-ft. tone reeds, and having behind the case two bellows. These regals were used not only at banquets but often to replace positives in small and large churches. The very small regal, sometimes called Bible-regal, because it can be taken to pieces and folded up like a book, is also mentioned by the same writer, who states that these little instruments, first made in Nuremberg and Augsburg, have an unpleasantly harsh tone, due to their tiny pipes, not quite an inch long. The pipes in this case were not intended to reinforce the vibrations of the beating-reed or of its overtones as in the reed pipes of the organ, but merely to form an attachment for keeping the reed in its place without interfering with its functions. The beating-reed itself in the older organs of the early middle ages, many of which undoubtedly were reed organs, was made of wood; those of the regal were mostly of brass (hence their “brazen voices”). The length of the vibrating portion of the beating-reed governed the pitch of the pipe and was regulated by means of a wire passing through the socket, the other end pressing on the reed at the proper distance. Drawings of the reeds of regals and other reed-pipes, as well as of the instrument itself, are given by Praetorius (pl. iv., xxxviii.).

There is evidence to show that in England, and France also, the word “regal” was applied to reed-stops on the organ; Mersenne (1636) states that “now the word is applied to the vox humana stop on the organ.” In England, as late as the reign of George III., there was the appointment of “tuner of the regals” to the Chapel Royal.

The reed-stops required constant tuning, according to Praetorius, who lays special emphasis on the fact that the pitch of the reed-pipes alone falls in summer and rises in winter.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the regal was a very great favourite, and although, owing to the civil wars and the ravages [ 36 ] of time, very few specimens now remain, the regals are often mentioned in old wills and inventories, such as the list of Henry VIII.'s musical instruments made after his death by Sir Philip Wilder (Brit. Mus. Harleian MS. 1415, fol. 200 seq.), in which no fewer than thirteen pairs of single and five pairs of double regals are mentioned. Monteverde scored for the regals in his operas, and the instrument is described and figured by S. Virdung in 1511, Martin Agricola in 1528, and Ottmar Luscinius in 1536, as well as by Michael Praetorius in 1618. (K. S.)