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Copy of a Ruckers ‘spinett’ virginal

Made in Edinburgh by Grant O’Brien in 1981


Details of the original instrument

           This virginal copy is based on an original instrument made and signed by Ioannes Ruckers, Antwerp, c.1599 in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan (Castello Sforzesco Inv. Number 595).  The original virginal is a so-called ‘mother and child’ virginal.  These instruments were really two instruments in one:  the large ‘mother’ instrument had a small octave virginal (the ‘child’) tucked into the front of the instrument in the otherwise empty space at the side of the keyboard.  This copy was made only of the ‘mother’ without the ‘child’ virginal.


           The Ruckers family made two types of virginal.  The muselar virginal had the keyboard to the right-hand side of the instrument and the jacks plucked the strings about a third of the way along their length.  This produced an open fluty sound with a very strong fundamental and an unusual (for a keyboard instrument) quality of great charm.  The second type was called a spinett virginal and it had the keyboard towards the left-hand side of the instrument so that the jacks plucked the strings in a position similar that in the harpsichord.  The sound of these instruments is therefore more like the usual harpsichord sound with a strong attack, a shorter decay time and a quality more instantly recognisable as that of an early plucked stringed keyboard instrument.  This copy is of this second type.


           The keyboard has the usual C/E to c3 4-octave compass with a short octave in the bass.  As is normal with virginals there is only one choir of strings giving a 1 x 8' disposition.


           The stand under the instrument is a copy based on the stand of the 1650 Couchet muselar virginal in the Vleeshuis Museum in Antwerp.


           This instrument is currently owned by Mark Ransom and is for hire from him or from Claire Hammett, Harpsichord Services of London.


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