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


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.


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.


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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