Cover image for Mapping time : the calendar and its history
Mapping time : the calendar and its history
Richards, E. G. (Edward Graham)
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xxi, 438 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1220 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CE11 .R5 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This fascinating book fully addresses a topic of much general interest by drawing together a wealth of diverse material on the much-trusted (and rarely disputed) phenomenon we know as the calendar. From the fundamentals of astronomy to the world's ancient time-keeping schemes, from the development of the modern-day calendar to the precise calculation of what happens when (as in, how does one arrive at the date for Easter Sunday?), this is a skillful yet approachable discussion of the calendar from both the historical and contemporary perspectives. Readers will even learn how to perform experiments and calculations for themselves by using such basic techniques as stargazing and simple mathematics.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Babylonian astronomers, Mayan priests, Roman emperors, Chinese oracles, and medieval monks have all needed to mark the cadence of the months and years. Richards celebrates the human ingenuity that has given them the remarkable invention necessary to do so: the calendar. He recounts the feats of science and mathematics that have given us the modern Gregorian calendar, now so essential to commerce, politics, and religion. He details the complexities of rival calendars (including the Islamic, the Saka, and the Chinese) still used by millions. And he explains how early cultures--including the Hebrew, the Hindu, and the Celtic--devised their own surprisingly exact calendars many centuries ago. For readers interested in converting dates from one calendar to another, Richards provides the necessary algorithms, as well as the alternate month and day names. His analyses also permit readers to assess the proposals for reforming the Gregorian calendar, including those briefly implemented during the French Revolution and those put forward by the World Calendar Association. But behind the varying versions of the calendar dividing faiths, cultures, and social movements, we glimpse a universal craving for chronological order to make holy days certain and social transitions predictable. Many readers will turn to this book to understand and to satisfy that craving. --Bryce Christensen

Library Journal Review

The approach of the millennium brings with it a heightened interest in the calendar‘its accuracy, origins, and impact on daily life worldwide. British academic Richards adds to the already vast body of literature in the field by providing rivers of information in an entertaining and well-organized format for the lay reader. An overview of astronomy, time, clocks, writing, arithmetic, and other theoretical issues lays the groundwork for a description of calendar systems from prehistory to the present. Illustrations, charts, and diagrams, including algorithms for the conversion of calendar systems, are also provided. The final chapter discusses Easter and the effort to determine its date. Though suggested reading follows the text, the book lacks bibliographic references‘a significant gap for an academic environment. Nevertheless, Richards has produced a substantial work, perhaps more useful as a reference tool than David Ewing Duncan's more story-oriented Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year (LJ 5/15/98). For academic libraries.‘Andy Wickens, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib. of the Health Sciences (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

It is common knowledge that we are approaching the end of a century and also of a millennium. But how many know when and how such reckonings arose, how the day and the week, the month and year came to be? Beyond the numbering of years as per the Christian era, how many people have even heard of other systems, past and still extant? In Richards's very interesting, informative, and relevant book, the reader will find answers to these and related questions. Time reckoning is as ancient as human civilization, and the sheer variety of calendars and eras is testimony to the fact that at one time, science was governed by local history and genius. They also remind us of the inquisitiveness and efforts of our ancestors to observe the skies and discover patterns, and to formulate general principles. The author has clearly delved into the lore and language of different peoples, and he presents a inclusive quilt that meaningfully reflects our cultural diversity. There are some technical discussions too, as in the chapters on calendar conversions. The names of the days of the week in various languages of the world are included. Glossary; extensive bibliography. Heartily recommended to all homes and libraries. All levels. V. V. Raman; Rochester Institute of Technology

Table of Contents

List of tables
List of algorithms
List of illustrations
Part I The Calendar in Theory
Ch 1 The Calendar
Ch 2 The Astronomical Background
Ch 3 Time and the Clock
Ch 4 Writing and Libraries
Ch 6 The Variety of Calendars
Ch 7 The Reform of the Calendar
Part II The Calendars of the World
Ch 8 Introduction
Ch 9 Prehistoric Calendars
Ch 10 The Calendars of Babylon and the Near East
Ch 11 The Egyptian Calendar
Ch 12 The Calendars of China and Eastern Asia
Ch 13 The Calendars of India
Ch 14 The Mayan and Aztec Calendars
Ch 15 Four European Calendars
Ch 16 The Roman and Julian Calendar
Ch 17 The Jewish Calendar
Ch 18 The Islamic and Bahai's Calendars
Ch 19 The Gregorian Calendar
Ch 20 The French Republican Calendar
Ch 21 The Week C
Part III Calendar Conversions
Ch 22 Calendar Conversions
Ch 23 Mathematical Notes
Ch 24 To Calculate the Day of the Week
Ch 25 The Conversion of Regular Calendars
Ch 26 The Jewish Calendar
Ch 27 The Maya Calendar
Part IV Easter
Ch 28 A Short History of Easter
Ch 29 The Date of Easter Sunday
Ch 30 A Book of Hours
I Astronomical Constants
II The Names of the Days of the Week
III The Names of the Days of the Year in the French Republican Calendar
IV Glossary
V Further reading