Cover image for The Oxford companion to the year
The Oxford companion to the year
Blackburn, Bonnie J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvii, 937 pages, 15 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, facsimiles ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1320 Lexile.
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CE73 .B553 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
CE73 .B553 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
CE73 .B553 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material

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The Oxford Companion to the Year explores the fascinating history of calendars in general and our own in particular. The calendar used in the West today is just one of a multitude of systems for parcelling up time and naming its divisions. Each of its days has over the centuries acquired its own peculiar significance: the feast day of a saint, the celebration of a historical event, the subject of prose or poetry,the commemoration of a significant historical figure. And for these feasts and seasons there has grown up a rich body of traditions, beliefs, and superstitions, many of them only half-remembered today. Now, for the first time, this body of knowledge is combined with a wide-ranging survey ofcalendars in an authoritative, absorbing Companion. The first section of The Oxford Companion to the Year is a day-by-day survey of the calendar year, revealing the history, literature, legend, and lore associated with each season, month, and date. The second part is a broader study of time-reckoning: historical and modern calendars, religious andcivil, are explained, with handy tables for the conversion of dates between various systems, and special attention is given to the calculation of Easter. There is a helpful index to facilitate speedy reference. This is a unique reference source, an indispensable aid for all historians and antiquarians, and a rich mine of information, inspiration, and delight for browsers.

Author Notes

Bonnie Blackburn, a musicologist, received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1970. She has written articles and books on Renaissance music, and is General Editor of the series Monuments of Renaissance Music (University of Chicago Press). She is a member of the Faculty of Music atOxford University.Leofranc Holford-Strevens, a classicist, received a D.Phil. from Oxford University in 1971. The author of Aulus Gellius (1988), he is a desk-editor with Oxford University Press. He has had a long-standing interest in calendars and chronologies.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Blackburn (Music, Oxford Univ.) and Holford-Strevens (Aulus Gellius) have produced an interesting reference work that can be seen as a modern version of the medieval Book of Days. Recognizing the significance that the recording of time has had for almost all known cultures, they set out to explain the origins of calendar construction, taking care to examine the significance of each day of the year. The book is divided into two parts. "Part I: Calendar Customs" is a day-by-day guide to the year as organized by the Western calendar. Here, the authors explicate the peculiar attributes each day of the year has acquired. "Part II: Calendars and Chronology" is an in-depth study of how time has been organized over the ages. The authors explain more than 18 calendar systems from Anglo-Saxon to Zoroastrian and also include tables for converting dates from one calendar system to another. This work should appeal to browsers and researchers alike and would be a useful resource for academic as well as public libraries. Recommended for both.--Robert James Andrews, Duluth P.L., MN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Intended to be a present-day version of Robert Chamber's Book of Days (1864, with numerous later versions), this first edition of Oxford is based on both folklore and historical documents. The inclusion of calendar events is selective and not meant to be comprehensive. The book has two parts, the first listing calendar customs, arranged by day within each month, followed by seasons, discussions of weeks (Judaeo-Christian, planetary), days (dog days, holy days), moveable feasts. and other holidays. Although there is some resemblance to Chase's Annual Events (1984- ), Oxford's entries are heavily illustrated with quotations from literary sources and the text is more scholarly. The second part, calendars and chronology, provides brief discussions of calendars (Muslim, Chinese, Roman) that describe their historical basis and calculation. A supplement consists of tables illustrating various calendars (Gregorian, Byzantine, Julian), followed by a glossary and a superb bibliography and index. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. B. F. Shore; formerly, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill