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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 9

have come into England with our Danish invaders
and settlers many centuries before. The clog
bore the same relation to a printed almanac which
the Exchequer tallies bore to a set of account
books. It is a square stick of box, or any other
hard wood, about eight inches long, fitted to be
hung up in the family parlour for common refer-
ence, but sometimes carried as part of a walking-
cane. Properly it was a perpetual almanac,
designed mainly to shew the Sundays and other
fixed holidays of the year, each person being
content, for use of the instrument, to observe on
whlat day the year actually began, as compared
with that represented on the clog; so that, if
th   were various, a brief mental calculation of
addition or subtraction was sufficient to enable
him to attain what he desired to know.
The entire series of days constituting the year
was represented by notches running along the
angles of the square block, each side and angle
thus presenting three months; the first day of a
month was marked by a notch having a patulous
stroke turned up from it, and each Sunday was dis-
tinguishedbya notch somewhatbroaderthanusual.
There were indications-but they are not easily
described-for the Golden Number and the cycle
of the moon. The feasts were denoted by symbols
resembling hieroglyphics, in a manner which will
be best understood byexamples. Thus, a peculiarly
shaped emblem referred to the Circumcisio Domini
on the 1st of January. From the notch on the
13th of that month proceeded a cross, as indicative
of the episcopal rank of St Hilary; from that on
the 25th, an axe for St Paul, such being the in-
strument of his martyrdom. Against St Valentine's
Day was a true lover's knot, and against St David's
Day (March 1), a harp, because the Welsh saint
was accustomed on that instrument to praise God.
The notch for the 2d of March (St Ceadda's Day)
ended in a bough, indicating the hermit's life
which Ceadda led in the woods near Lichfield.
The 1st of May had a similar object with reference
to the popular fete of bringing home the May. A
rake on St Barnaby 's Day (11th June) denoted
hay harvest. St John the Baptist having been
beheaded with a sword, his day (June 24) was
graced with that implement. St Lawrence had
his gridiron on the 10th of August, St Catherine
her wheel on the 25th of the same month, and
bt Andrew his peculiar cross on the last of
November. The 23d of November (St Clement's
Day) was marked with a pot, in reference to the
custom of going about that night begging drink
to make merry with. For the Purification, An-
nunciation, and all other feasts of the Virgin,
there was a heart, though ' what it should import,
relating to Mary, unless because upon the shep-
herds' relation of their vision, Mary is said to
have kept all these things and pondered them in
her heart, I cannot imagine,' says our author.
For Christmas there was a horn, 'the ancient
vessel in which the Danes used to wassail or drink
healths, signifying to us that this is the time we
ought to make merry, cornua exrhaurienda notans,
as Wormius will have it.' The learned writer
adds: 'The marks for the greater feasts observed
in the church have a large point set in the middle
of them, and another over against the preceding
day, if vigils or fasts were observed before them.'
Mritten anb  rintzh glmanas.
The history of written almanacs has not been
traced further back than the second century of
the Christian era. All that is known is, that the
Greeks of Alexandria, in or soon after the time of
Ptolemy (100-150 A.D.), constructed almanacs;
and the evidence for this fact is an account of
Theon the commentator on Ptolemy, in a manu-
script found by Delambre at Paris, in which the
method of arranging them is explained, and the
materials necessary for them pointed out. The
Greek astronomers were not astrologers. That
pretended science appears to have been introduced
into Europe from the East, where it has prevailed
from time immemorial. Lalande, an assiduous
inquirer after early astronomical works, has stated
that the most ancient almanacs of which he could
find any express mention were those of Solomon
Jarchus, published about 1150. Petrus de Dacia,

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