A polemic on the reform of the Julian calendar

In a remarkably durable commitment to a plainly flawed system, Great Britain did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752, 170 years after its introduction in Catholic Europe by Pope Gregory XII in 1582. This impassioned tract on calendrical mathematics aims to chart a middle path, allowing for revision to the Julian system without conceding the superiority of the Gregorian one. The polemical title page offers a suggestive instance of the slippage between general and specific valences of the word ‘Reformation’, at once deploying the common-sense meaning of ‘change for the better’ as the author later defines it, and summoning an event called ‘the Reformation’ both to signal an ideological affiliation and to suggest a correspondence between historical narrative and calendrical time. A premodern distaste for novelty lingers in the author’s defense of himself against charges of innovation, as he figures the calendar as an ‘Ancient Landmark’ (citing Prov. 22:28) that he aims not to remove but to restore: ‘To reduce it to its Ancient Posture, is really to preserve it from being Removed’. To keep ‘Ancient Customs’, he argues further, cannot be done ‘otherwise than by a Return, or Reduction of them to their Pristine state’ (p. 11). ‘Reformation’, then, is an act of return, reduction in its literal sense: bringing back. BW

The reformed kalendar: or, an essay towards altering our Julian kalendar to a nearer conformity with truth and our Christian aera, than hath been yet done by the Gregorian regulation (London: Sam Manship, 1701).

YML: XV.L.15

Further Reading

Robert Poole, Time’s Alteration: Calendar Reform in Early Modern England (London, 1998).

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