sester

Various European units ultimately derived from the Latin sextarius. “Sester” is English and Germanic; the French versions are the setiers.

1

An Anglo-Saxon unit of capacity, 10th – 16th century. In the earliest records (11th century) it is a measure of honey.  R. D. Connor (1987) says it varied by commodity, and while originally about a pint, grew by the 13th century to be, for wine, 4 gallons.  By 1421 it is mentioned as a measure for ale; by 1521 at 14 gallons of ale to the sester.

A record from the 13th century speaks of “twenty sestiers of corn yearly.” In the 18th century Bishop Fleetwood wrote that a sester “was what we now call a quarter, or a seam, containing 8 bushels,” which is echoed in the Second Report (1820), where the commissioners say that “before the Conquest, [the sester] was a horse load,”¹ though it is unclear what evidence is available to support this equivalence. Certainly, however, there was a grain measure called a sester.

The sester in Scotland was originally a larger measure of capacity. In an act of approximately 1150 it is defined as containing 3 gallons of wine; in another of 1450 it is said to contain 12 gallons “of the ald met,” and to be the same as the “ald boll,” that is, a measure of grain. Perhaps we are dealing, not just with regional variation, but with two distinct units having the same name.

1. Second Report of the Commissioners... (1820), page 32.

2

In Trier, a unit of liquid capacity for wine and olive oil, = ¹⁄₁₉₅ Fuder = ¹⁄₃₀ Ohm = 4 Mass = 16 Schoppen = 5.1776 liters.

Noback, (1851) vol 2, page 1246.

3

Various units of dry capacity in German-speaking areas:

Baden, = ¹⁄₁₀ Malter = 10 Masslein = 100 Becher, = 15 liters.

Basel had two Sesters. The grosse Sester = ⅛ Vierzel or Vienzel = ¼ Sack = 2 kleine Sester, about 34.16 liter. The kleine Sester or Müdde = ⅛ Sack = 4 Köpflein = 8 Becher = 32 Mässlein, about 17.802 liters.

Noback, (1851) vol 1, page 91.

Fribourg, = ¹⁄₆ Viertel, about 18.21 liters.

Strasbourg, = 4 Vierling = 16 Mässel. There were two Sesters, one for the city and one for the country: the Stadtsester, about 18.3259 liters, and the Landsester, about 18.8986 liters.

Noback, (1851) vol 2, page 1177.

Trier, also called a Vierling, = ¹⁄₃₂ Malter = ¼ Virnzel = 4 Mässchen. The size varied with the commodity: wheat and rye, 6.66 liters; barley; 7.40 L; oats, 10.30 L.

Doursther, page 497.
Noback, (1851) vol 2, page 1246.

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