Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Virginal

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VIRGINAL, a stringed instrument played by means of a keyboard, like the modern pianoforte. It was in form like a box, or desk of wood without legs or supports, and was usually placed on a table or stand. The strings were of metal, one for each note, and the sound was made by means of pieces of quill, whalebone, leather, or occasionally elastic metal, attached to slips of wood called “jacks,” which were provided with metal springs. The compass was about three octaves. The virginal was a kind of oblong spinet, and the precursor of the harpsichord, now superseded by the pianoforte. The form virginals, a pair of virginals, is an old dual (as in organs, regals, a pair of organs) signifying a graduation or sequence.