Definition and background:
On an early keyboard instrument, especially an organ, harpsichord, virginal, spinet, or clavichord, a short octave is an arrangement of keys in the lowest octave to enable the performer to play lower notes than the size of the instrument would normally allow. In a short octave, certain tones of the scale that are rarely used are eliminated, and the tones remain are arranged thus: D E B-flat C F G A B C result of omitting certain low tones from the ranks of organs resulted in this special arrangement of the lowest keys, which enabled playing big intervals
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary