1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flageolet

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FLAGEOLET, in music, a kind of flûte-à-bec with a new fingering, invented in France at the end of the 16th century, and in vogue in England from the end of the 17th to the beginning of the 19th century. The instrument is described and illustrated by Mersenne,[1] who states that the most famous maker and player in his day was Le Vacher. The flageolet differed from the recorder in that it had four finger-holes in front and two thumb-holes at the back instead of seven finger-holes in front and one thumb-hole at the back. This fingering has survived in the French flageolet still used in the provinces of France in small orchestras and for dance music. The arrangement of the holes was as follows: 1, left thumb-hole at the back near mouthpiece; 2 and 3, finger-holes stopped by the left hand; 4, finger-hole stopped by right hand; 5, thumb-hole at the back; 6, hole near the open end. According to Dr Burney (History of Music) the flageolet was invented by the Sieur Juvigny, who played it in the Ballet comique de la Royne, 1581. Dr Edward Browne,[2] writing to his father from Cologne on the 20th of June 1673, relates, “We have with us here one . . . and Mr Hadly upon the flagelet, which instrument he hath so improved as to invent large ones and outgoe in sweetnesse all the basses whatsoever upon any other instrument.” About the same time was published Thomas Greeting's Pleasant Companion; or New Lessons and Instructions for the Flagelet (London, 1675 or 1682), a rare book of which the British Museum does not possess a copy. The instrument retained its popularity until the beginning of the 19th century, when Bainbridge constructed double and triple flageolets.[3] The three tubes were bored parallel through one piece of wood communicating near the mouthpiece which was common to all three. The lowest notes of the respective tubes were Britannica Flageolet Lowest Notes of Triple Flageolet.png.

The word flageolet was undoubtedly derived from the medieval Fr. flajol, the primitive whistle-pipe. (K. S.)


  1. Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636), bk. v. pp. 232-237.
  2. See Sir Thomas Browne's Works, vol. i. p. 206.
  3. See Capt. C. R. Day, Descriptive Catalogue of Musical Instruments (London, 1891), pp. 18-22 and pl. 4; also Complete Instructions for the Double Flageolet (London, 1825); and The Preceptor, or a Key to the Double Flageolet (London, 1815).