Charles Victor Mustel, a Parisian reed organ and pipe organ manufacturer invented the celesta in 1886. The original patent No. 176.530 is preserved in the Institut National de la Proprieté (inpi), Paris. Schiedmayer Celesta GmbH has a copy in its files.

The uniqueness of the new instrument, called “Celesta” by Victor Mustel, is in the method of sound generation. Through the activation of a piano-like keyboard, metal plates resting on top of felt wedges over wooden resonators, are struck from above with felt hammers.

Drawing from original patent celesta by Victor Mustel

Drawing from original patent celesta by Victor Mustel

Excerpt from the description in the patent application

“The invention, which is the subject of this patent application, involves a new musical instrument, which I have named “Celesta”. The attached drawing shows clearly the characteristic construction of the system. Illustration 1 is a two dimensional vertical cross section through the key, the escapement and the hammer; Illustration 2 shows a cross-section of a resonator with its two vibrating metal plates. The tone is created by metal plates A and B, which are made to vibrate, as in a piano, when struck by hammer C. The arrangement is, however, unique, since the stroke is not vertical, as in a piano with vertical strings, or from below, as in a grand piano, but from above, as can be seen in the attached illustration.”

This new orchestral instrument was quickly introduced into compositions of the 19th century. Among others, P.I. Tchaikovsky, became enthusiastic about the celesta, with which he became acquainted during a stay in Paris in 1891 and used it in his fairy-like “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” in the Nutcracker (Premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892).

The “heavenly” sound of the celesta, created through the unique, special mechanism described above by Mustel, has delighted composers, musicians and listeners of ass ages to this day. The celesta is used in symphonic and chamber music, as well as pop, film music, musicals, radio drama and advertisements.

Celesta No 1