English, 17th century
By Adam Leversidge, London, 1666
Compass: four octaves, plus ten notes: GG/BB to f’’’
Length 168.7 cm; width 51.5 cm; depth of case 22.2 cm; octave span 16.5 cm
One manual with one choir of strings at 8-foot pitch
String scale: c’’ = 37.0 cm
The front of the jackrail is inscribed: “Adamus Leversidge Londini Fecit 1666”. The back of the nameboard is inscribed: “Restored by Chickering and Sons under the direction of Arnold Dolmetsch. Boston, U.S.A. 1909”. The coﬀered lid and case of oak (except for the spine, which is of pine) are stained dark on the outside. The interior is profusely decorated. The inside of the lid features a painting in tempera of the mall in St. James’s Park in London. The front interior, including the keywell, is ornamented with painted paneling separated by borders of fruitwood and embossed gilt pasteboard. Similar gilt pasteboard covers the entire perimeter of the instrument above the soundboard, which is decorated with painted flowers and arabesques, and a rose of carved wood and parchment. The stand of walnut is not original.
In the 16th and early 17th centuries the English used the word “virginal” to denote any plucked stringed instrument. By the time of this instrument by Leversidge the word was usually reserved for the oblong instruments while the term “harpsichord” was applied to the wing-shaped instruments and “spinet” to the “leg-of- mutton”-shaped, diagonally strung instruments.
Until the late 17th-century, it was common to build organs as well as stringed keyboard instruments with an abbreviated, or “short” octave in the bass. Accidental notes in the extreme bass were not used in music written in the restricted range of tonalities available in the unequally tempered tuning schemes in widespread use during the period. Accordingly, the lowest accidental keys were assigned to natural notes of the scale that were lower than their apparent keys: on this keyboard apparent low b-natural sounds as g, while c# and d# sound as “a” and “b” respectively.
The Belle Skinner Collection
Accession No. 4871.1960