University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

Time and its natural measurers,   pp. 1-14 ff. PDF (9.3 MB)

Page 4

The Year.
The length of the year is strictly expressed by
the space of time required for the revolution
of the earth round the
sun-namely,365 days,
5 hours, 48 minutes, 49
S\    seconds, and 7 tenths
1 of a second, for to such
C    a nicety has this time
been ascertained. But
for convenience in reck-
oning, it has been found
necessary to make the
year terminate with a
day instead of a frac-
tio4 of one, lumping the fractions together so as
to make up a day among themselves. About
forty-five years before Christ, Julius Coesar, hav-
ing, by the help of Sosigenes, an Alexandrian
philosopher, come to a tolerably clear under-
standing of the length of the year, decreed that
every fourth year should be held to consist of
366 days for the purpose of absorbing the odd
hours.  The arrangement he dictated was a
rather clumsy one. A day in February, the
sixth before the calends of March (sextilis), was
to be repeated in that fourth year; and each
fourth year was thus to be bissextile. It was as
if we were to reckon the 23d of February twice
over. Seeing that, in reality, a day every fourth
year is too much by 11 minutes, 10 seconds, and
3 tenths of a second, it inevitably followed that
the beginning of the year moved onward ahead
of the point at which it was in the days of
Cesar; in other words, the natural time fell
behind the reckoning. From the time of the
Council of Nice, in 325, when the vernal equinox
fell correctly on the 21st of March, Pope Gre-
gory found in 1582 that there had been an over-
reckoning to the extent of ten days, and now the
vernal equinox fell on the 11th of March. To
correct the past error, he decreed that the 5th of
October that year should be reckoned as the
15th, and to keep the year right in future, the
overplus being 18 hours, 37 minutes, and 10
seconds in a century, he ordered that every cen-
turial year that could not be divided by 4, (1700,
1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, &c.) should not be bissex-
tile, as it otherwise would be; thus, in short,
dropping the extra day three times every four
hundred years. The Gregorian style, as it was
called, readily obtained sway in Catholic, but
not in Protestant countries. It was not adopted
in Britain till the year 1752, by which time the
discrepancy between the Julian and Gregorian
periods amounted to eleven days. An act of par-
liament was passed, dictating that the 3d of Sep-
tember that year should be reckoned the 14th,
and that three of every four of the centurial
years should, as in Pope Gregory's arrangement,
not be bissextile or leap-years. It has conse-
quently arisen-1800 not having been a leap-
year-that the new and old styles now differ by
twelve days, our first of January being equivalent
to the 13th old style. In Russia alone, of all
Christian countries, is the old style still retained;
wherefore it becomes necessary for one writing
in that country to any foreign correspondent, to
set down his date thus: 1ILh March, or 2 athoeteber
28th December 1860o
or, it may be 9thiJanuary 1861
'The old style is still retained in the accounts
of Her Majesty's Treasury. This is why the
Christmas dividends are not considered due till
Twelfth Day, nor the midsummer dividends till
the 5th of July ; and in the same way it is not
until the 5th of April that Lady Day is supposed
to arrive. There is another piece of antiquity
visible in the public accounts. In old times, the
year was held to begin on the 25th of March,
and this usage is also still observed in the com-
putations over which the Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer presides. The consequence is, that the
first day of the financial year is the 5th of April,
being old Lady Day, and with that day the
reckonings of our annual budgets begin and end.'
-Times, February 16, 1861.
The Day.
-There came the Day and Night,
Riding together both with equal pace;
The one on palfrey black, the other white;
But Night had covered her uncomely face
With a black veil, and held in hand a mace,
On top whereof the moon and stars were pight,
And sleep and darkness round about did trace:
But Day did bear upon his sceptre's height
The goodly sun encompassed with beames bright.
The da of nature, being strictly the time
required or one rotation of the earth on its axis,
is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds, and 1 tenth of
a second. In that time, a star comes round to
appear in the same place where we had formerly
seen it. But the earth, having an additional motion
onits orbit round the sun, requires about3 minutes,
56 seconds more, or 24 hours in all, to have the
sun brought round to appear at the same place;
in other words, for any place on the surface of
the earth to come to the meridian. Thus arises
the difference between a sidereal day and a solar
day, between apparent and mean time, as will be
more particularly explained elsewhere.

Go up to Top of Page