Sesquialtera Latin
Sesquialtra Latin?
Sexquialter (unknown)
Sexquintalter (unknown)
Flautt in 6ta Italian
Sesquialter Latin?
Sex Quintaltra (unknown)
Sexta (unknown)
Sollicinal German
Zynck (unknown)
Zynk (unknown)
Horn German?

The name Sesquialtera and its variants most commonly and properly denote a compound flue stop of two unbroken diapason ranks, speaking the 12th and 17th of whatever harmonic series the stop is intended to support. The most common examples support the 8' harmonic series, and thus have ranks at 2-2/3' and 1-3/5' pitch. (See Twelfth and Seventeenth.)

Historically, the composition of the Sesquialtera has not been so cut and dried. Williams dates the earliest German examples from the 16th century; these consisted of the two canonical ranks, and were used for both solos and choruses. Starting in the late 17th century, an additional rank or two was sometimes added, usually the 15th. Adlung, writing in the early 18th century, describes it as "everywhere and always". By the late 19th century, however, the original two-rank Sesquialtera had become rare, according to Hopkins & Rimbault.

As a single stop, the Sesquialtera was very rare in early French instruments, according to Douglass. Single-rank mutations at 2-2/3' and 1-3/5' were common enough, but were always of wider scale than the German stops.

Grove dates the English Sesquialtera from the late 17th century, where it started as a bass for the Cornet, and as a chorus mixture. The most common composition was 17-19-22. By the 19th century it had become the only mixture in the entire organ, but often lacked a third-sounding rank, especially when such a rank was available as a separate mutation. Wedgwood, writing at the turn of the 20th century, states that the name was then falling into disuse, and in 1923 Bonavia-Hunt called it "practically obsolete".


Sesquialtera IV, St. Mary's Church, Nottingham, England; Snetzler late 18th cent.
g#1 to top   8121517
G# to g112151719
CC to G15171922

Sesquialtera V, Parish Church, Doncaster; Harris & Byfield 1740
c#1 to top   812151719
CC to c11922242629

Sesquialtera III, Cathedral, Rochester, England; St. Katherine's, Regent Park, London, England; Green
treble c2   121517
middle c151719


The origin of the name Sesquialtera has never been determined with any certainty. Some sources derive it from the Latin word sextus, meaning "sixth", claiming that it refers to the interval of a sixth between the two ranks of the canonical form of the stop. Other sources point out the early (and incorrect) specifications of Quint 3' and Terz 2', and associate this apparent ratio of 3:2 with the meaning of the Latin word sesquialtera: "once and a half". Bonavia-Hunt goes so far as to suggest that this 3:2 ratio referred to the relation between the scales of the two ranks; Williams, however, maintains that the ranks usually had the same scaling.

In the 17th century the names Zynck and Zink were used as synonyms for the Sesquialtera, though the latter more commonly refers to a reed stop. Grove cites Hornli as a synonym, and Adlung cites Horn. The name Sollicinal is also defined by Grove and Williams as a synonym for Sesquialtera in Germany in the early 1720's, rather than as a synonym for Salicional as one might expect. Flautt in 6ta was a synonym from 17th-century Italy, according to Grove.


Grosse Sesquialtera  
Stentor Sesquialtera


No examples of Flautt in 6ta, Sex Quintaltra, Sexquintalter, Sollicinal, or Zynck are known.

Sound Clips

See the Sound Files appendix for general information.

Sesquialtera II (TC), Manual I University of Illinois, USA Buzard, 1986 arpeggio
Sesquialtera II + Holzgedeckt 8' (solo registration) University of Illinois, USA Buzard, 1986 St. Anne
Sesquialtera II, Hauptwerk Grace Lutheran Church, Champaign, Illinois, USA Casavant, 1975 arpeggio


Adlung[1]: §160 Horn, §189 Sedetze, §190 Sesquialter, §191 Sexta, §211 Zynk. Audsley[1]: Sesquialtera. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Sesquialtera. Bonavia-Hunt[1]: Sesquialtera. Douglass[1]: 86. Grove[1]: Horn; Salicet; Sesquialtera. Hopkins & Rimbault[1]: § 621-624, 1131-1132, 1134-1135, 1142. Irwin[1]: Sesquialtera. Locher[1]: Sesquialtera. Maclean[1]: Sesquialtera. Skinner[1]: 47; XII Sesquialtera. Sumner[1]: Sesquialtera; Zink. Wedgwood[1]: Sesquialtera. Williams[1]: Glossary: Salicet; Sesquialtera.
Copyright © 1999 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Sesquialtera.html - Last updated 13 December 2007.
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