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Look, think, do: The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

Description of this object or artwork

According to Suzanne Reynolds, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books, this was once known as Queen Elizabeth I's Virginal Book. This volume is one of the most important treasures in the music collection bequeathed by Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816), and is the richest anthology of sixteeth- and early seventeenth century English Keyboard music in existence. The Fitzwilliam Virginal contains nearly three hundred works dating between 1562 and 1612. It represents thirty of the greatest composers of the time, including John Bull, Orlando Gibbons, and Wiliam Byrd. It was copied out by hand onto beautiful handmade paper, and the manuscript is still in its original binding of leather with gold decoration.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book

London, early 17th century

Bequeathed by Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1816

Contains nearly 300 pieces for song and dance


Look carefully at this piece of music which can be played on a keyboard instrument called a virginal.

The patterns, shapes and marks make a musical score.


Can you follow the notes up and down?

Where are the fast notes? And the slow notes?

Imagine how the music might sound. 


You can watch someone playing a virginal and listen to music from this book in this video.

Can you make up a dance to this music? Perhaps you could clap or stamp along with the beat? 

Or try some of these ideas to make your own musical instrument?

Collections record

Collection record: 249110

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