About this Encyclopedia


This work is an attempt to produce a truly comprehensive and complete encyclopedia of pipe organ stops. If pure numbers are anything to go by, to date there are over 1100 distinct entries, and the index contains over 2600 stop names -- considerably more than either Audsley [1] or Irwin [1], the two most common stop dictionaries. Additionally, I have a list of about 300 stop names encountered in specifications and not mentioned in the literature, awaiting further research.

I have attempted to include every stop name that appears in “the literature” (see Bibliography). If the legitimacy of a particular stop name is suspect, I have included it regardless and made note of the fact, and leave it up to the reader and future researchers to form their own opinions. In addition, I plan to include any stop name that I find in specifications of two or more pipe organs that have actually been built. Specifically excluded are stop names which are inherently unique, especially those named after some local celebrity, such as the Jepsen Diapason in the organ in Woolsey Hall, at Yale University (unless they have been written up in “the literature”). Also excluded are most “stops” that do not control a rank of pipes, or at least some sound effect, such as couplers, blower signals, or the “Sonnenzug” used in some old German organs to set into motion an imitation sun suspended over the organ.

I have included nearly every alternate spelling I have encountered. Minor differences can be crucial; the alteration of a single character can result in a totally different meaning, and may not be a synonym.

This is essentially a scholarly work of research, rather than being based on personal empirical experience. When it comes down to it, in spite of having been paid often enough as a substitute, I am an amateur organist, not a professional, and I have not had the opportunity to personally experience a wide range of organs. I receive no funding for this work, though a few generous individuals have lent me some rare books.

It was not my goal to include as much information as I could find about each stop, particularly the more common ones: some sources go into exhaustive detail about construction and scaling that I did not see fit to reproduce here. For the more obscure stops, however, for which little information is available, I have erred on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion. For stops which I found described only briefly in a single source, I have quoted the original source completely, rather than dilute it by paraphrasing.

Overall, I have attempted to describe each stop within a useful historical, linguistic, musical, tonal, and mechanical context. Most of the authors that have come before me have had some sort of axe to grind, exalting one stop while denigrating another. I have tried to remain neutral in my descriptions (though I admit to having a strong preference for Baroque organ music); when I have been unable to resist the temptation to get up on a soapbox, I have tried to clearly indicate that it is my own opinion being voiced. Here at the turn of the millenium, more than ever before, all historical periods of organ-building have their enthusiasts. Little about tonal design can be said to be “right” or “wrong” without considering the context.

Even if nothing else can be said to recommend this work, three features should stand out as being worthwhile: First, the index is by far the most comprehensive assembled to date. All of the stop dictionaries that have come before have contained many stopnames buried in the entries for other stops, sometimes only in footnotes; having no collated entries of their own, they would require considerable searching to track down. Second, the bibliographies (one for each entry) should aid future research in this area. Third, this is the first stop dictionary ever to include sound clips.

Theatre Organs

While I have not intentionally slighted the theatre organ perspective, the simple fact is that there is considerably more literature to be found on the subject of classical organs than there is on theatre organs. To date I have found only one good source for theatre organ stop information (Strony).

Copyright © 1999 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
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