Friday, December 27, 2013

Correcting the Calendar

By the time 1582 rolled around, the Julian calendar was no longer accurate and the refined Gregorian calendar was slated to become the daily planner of choice. Great Britain obviously thought that this required further study and waited until 1751 to pass an act "regulating the Commencement of the Year, and correcting the calendar now in use." In order to prevent widespread confusion and panic, the act decreed that January would become the "first month of the year 1752." Prior to this March had been the usual start of the new year.

We have a small pamphlet purportedly printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1751. It reproduces a London Society of Friends pamphlet that briefly explains the act, provides readers with a small conversion table for the calendar switch, and gives a history of the names of the months and the days of the week.

According to the pamphlet, January is named for the Roman god Janus, February for the rituals surrounding sacrifices to the "Heathen God Pan," March for the god Mars and so on. The historical provenance of the names of the days of the week are likewise discussed and the pamphlet notes, rather snidely, that the "continued Use of these Names of Days, derived from such gross Idolatry of the Heathen, is a demonstration, how little the Purity of the Christian Religion was understood by the Generality of those who came into the publick Profession of it." A bit of we now know better than the unwashed masses who came before.

To avoid this morass of heathen superstition, the pamphlet then goes on to recommend the use of numerical designations for months and days, something the authors claimed was the "most Ancient" and "the most plain, simple and rational" method.

The pamphlet is dated "the sixth Day of the Seventh Month, 1751."

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