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Friday 23 April 2021

World Book Night '21

Coming around, going around, with a Shakespearean twist of calling on a triumvirate for inspiration, courage and resolve through difficult times and challenges. World Book night, the Feast of St George and the birth (and death) day of Wiliam Shakespeare.

I hesitate to mention Shakespeare, a name like that can be a block on what follows. It is here because today is his birthday, and curiously the day he died. The birthdate appears to be tradition, rather than substantiated, various sources give his date of baptism as the 26th of April. The 23rd may not be wide of the mark, infant baptism is an ancient tradition in English culture and provided for in the Books of Common Prayer, initially in 1549 and the book which accompanied the authorisation of the King James Bible. 

Concerns about the health and well being of the child would have prompted the familiy to baptise quickly and for many, like William, the baptism would be a default record of the birth, without recoding the actual date.

Records of the day would be penned into a convenient book. Baptism, marriage and burial listed chronologically until the system became more organised and separate books were required, and onwards to the present system where the records are pro forma. Date of birth included.

Greater changes were under way in Shakespeare's lifetime, in his late teens, the process began to switch Europe from the Julian to the Gregorian calender.

France, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain changed in 1582, Austria and the Catholic German states in 1583.  Ten days were removed from the calendar. England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, Canada and the colonies (including the American Colonies) finally made the switch in 1752, and lost 11 days.

The  change over took almost three hundred years, Turkey being the last country to change in 1926/27, and 13 days dropped off the calendar.

The intricacies are fascinating, and the oddities, Sweden and Finland celebrated a 30 day February in 1712 with a double leap year.  Sweden's calendar had dropped the leapday in 1700, and an additional day in 1712 brought them back in line with the Julian calendar. They made the switch to the Gregorian calendar a year after the United Kingdom.

Life must have been interesting in Germany with the Protestant and Catholic areas working with different calendars within the same country, for decades at a time!

Consolation? Whatever is happening with the current state of lockdown, or whatever the current regulations permit, there is only one calendar, however disconnected I might feel from it!

If you have the time, check out what's on offer on World Book night, or maybe plunge into Shakespeare?

Stay safe