1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Virginal

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VIRGINAL, or Pair of Virginals, a name applied in England, and also recognized on the continent of Europe, to the spinet, and more especially to the small pentagonal and to the rectangular models. The word virginal, bestowed because it was pre-eminently the instrument for girls, denotes before all a keyboard instrument, having for each note one string only, plucked by means of a quill attached to a jack.[1] The fine instrument in the Victoria and Albert Museum, known as Queen Elizabeth’s virginal, is an Italian pentagonal spinet, elaborately emblazoned with the coat of arms of the queen, and having a compass of just over four octaves. King Henry VIII. and his daughters, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, were all accomplished performers on the virginal.  (K. S.) 

  1. The mechanism is described under Pianoforte and Spinet.