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The astronomical year consists of 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds of mean solar time—a period which prevents a regular division into twelve or any number of months, and which cannot be recognized in its entirety as a civil year. From the number of days, which cannot be equally divided by twelve, and which cannot all be of the same length, and from the fractional day, it is impossible for all the civil years to contain exactly the same number of days.
The Roman year had only ten months, opening with March. In the reign of Numa, who is said to have succeeded Romulus B. c. 716, two months were added— January at the beginning, and February at the end, of the year; and some two hundred and fifty years later February was given its present position in the year. Then the months had 29 and 30 days alternately, making the year 354 days in all. But as it would never do to have the year consist of an even number of days, one more was added for luck. But even then the year was 10 days and nearly 6 hours short; and to restore the coincidence between the solar and civil year Numa ordered an additional, or intercalary, month to be inserted every second year between the 23d and 24th of February, and consisting of 22 and 23 days alternately. This made the mean length of the year 366% days; but as this caused an error of 24 days in as many years, it was ordered that every third period of eight years should contain only three of these months, consisting of 22 days each, thus reducing the mean length of the year to 36574 days. But as the regulation of these intercalary months was not based on any fixed principle, and was left to the pontiffs, the years began to be lengthened and shortened in a most unaccountable manner, in order to hasten or postpone the elections for political purposes. As a result of these vaticinations, during the consulate of Julius Cæsar the civil equinox differed from the astronomical by three months.
In order to put an end to these irregularities, Cæsar, by the advice and with the assistance of Sosigenes, abolished the lunar year and intercalary month, and regulated the year entirely by the sun, fixing the mean length of the year at 3654 days, and decreeing that every fourth year should have 366 days, as at present. In order to restore the months to their proper places, he ordered that the year before the first under the new system should have two extra months of 33 and 34 days respectively; and as the intercalary month naturally fell into that year, this memorable year contained 445 days, and is known as the “last year of confusion.” It was followed by the first Julian year, the forty-sixth before the birth of Christ.
Cæsar also ordered that the months whose numbers were odd, beginning with January, should have 31 days each, and all others 30, with the
exception of February, which should have 29, except every fourth year, when it should have its full number.
Unfortunately for the stability of his system, however, Julius Cæsar named the seventh month, which had anciently been denominated Quintilis, after himself. His grand-nephew, Cæsar Octavius, after assuming the title Augustus, also named a month after himself, his choice falling on the eighth month, which then had but 30 days. He therefore determined that his month should be as long as his uncle's, and, taking one day from February, gave it to August; and that three months of 31 days each might not come together, September and November were reduced to 30 days each, and 31 given to October and December.
Even now the calendar was not perfect. The excess of 365/4 days above a true solar year amounts to a day in one hundred and twenty-eight years, and as the centuries rolled on until the year 1582, when the calendar was corrected by Gregory XIII., he found it necessary to direct the suppression of ten days, changing October the 5th into the 15th. To correct the error in the Julian intercalation, which was found to amount to three days in every four hundred years, he ordered the intercalations to be omitted in all the centenary years excepting those which are multiples of 400. According to the Gregorian rule of intercalation, therefore, every year of which the number is divisible by 4 without a remainder is a leap-year, excepting the centennial years, which are only leap-years when divisible by 400. Thus, 1600 was a leap-year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 are common years, while 2000 will be a leap-year, and so on.
Even according to this system the solar year is in excess by 26 seconds, which amounts to a day in 3323 years-an excess, however, that hardly need cause fear.
To return to the almanac, however. As has been stated, in the days of ancient Rome the preservation of the calendars was entrusted to the pontifices or priests, who arranged them somewhat after the manner of our modern almanacs. These calendars were known as the fasti, sacri, or kalendarii, and were kept secret by the priests, who were consulted by the people about the dates of festivals and the proper times to institute legal proceedings. The secret, however, was discovered about the year. 300 B. C. by Cn. Flavius, secretary to Appius Claudius, who, it may be said, published the first almanac when he exhibited the fasti on white tables around the Forum. From this time almanacs in various shapes seem to have been common.
Rude almanacs were in use in England toward the end of the seventeenth century. These were made of square blocks of hard wood, with notches along the corners corresponding to the days of the year. These
were called “clog almanacs.” Manuscript almanacs have been traced back as far as the twelfth century, and the British Museum contains one for the year 1292.
From the time of Elizabeth till about a century ago the sale of “almanacs and prognostications " was monopolized by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Stationers' Company jointly; but in 1775 one Carnan, who had disputed the right of the monopoly and published almanacs in three successive years, had the case decided in his favor in the Court of Common Pleas; since which time almanacs have not been uncommon.
ALMANAC, a book or table published from year to year, containing a calendar of the days, weeks, and months of the year, a register of ecclesiastical festivals and saints' days, and a record of various astronomical phenomena, particularly the rising and setting of the sun, the changes. and phases of the moon, eclipses of the sun and moon, the times of high water at particular ports, etc. In addition to these contents—which may be regarded as essential to the almanac—it generally presents additional information, which is more or less extensive and varied according to the many different special objects contemplated in works of this kind. The derivation of the word is doubtful. The first syllable is the Arabic definite article; the rest of the word has been variously derived from the Greek uñv, a “month;” the Anglo-Saxon mona, “the moon;" and (which appears the most probable derivation) the Arabic manah, to “reckon." (Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition, American Reprint.)
St. Louis, Mo., July 16, 1881. II. G. VENNOR, Esq. :
Dear SIR: We cannot stand this any longer. Name your terms for one or two weeks cool weather for this city, and address * * * *
St. Louis, Mo., July 22, 1881. · H. G. VENNOR, Esq. :
DEAR SIR: Your postal card, also the cool wave, duly to hand, for which accept sincere thanks. The “Fat Man's Club" as a body desire to express their thanks to you, and sincerely pray that you will continue the cool wave. I take pleasure in informing you that you have been elected an honorary member of the club.
* * * *
In times past, centuries before Meteorology became a science, unusual conditions of the weather from one cause or another assumed phases so important that they became embalmed in history. The following is perhaps the most complete record of noteworthy snow-storms and frosts yet published in one list; and, while it is impossible to corroborate each date and event, there can be no doubt that it is in the main correct, although there is no claim to its absolute correctness :
England was visited by a five months' frost in the year 220. Thirty years later the Thames was frozen over for nine weeks, and in 291 most of the English rivers were ice-covered for six weeks. But these seem trifling compared to the fact that in 401 the Black Sea was frozen over for twenty days. In 508 the Thames was frozen for two months; in 695 for six weeks, the ice being so strong that booths were built on it; and a frost beginning on October 1, 759, continued till February 20 in the following year. It is said that in 762 the Black Sea was frozen over from the terminal cliffs of the Caucasus to the mouths of the Dniester, Dnieper, and Danube, and that the quantity of snow which fell on the ice rose to the height of from thirty to forty feet, completely hiding the contour of the shores; and that on the breaking up in February the huge masses carried by the current into the Sea of Marmora reunited in one immense sheet across the Hellespont: no similar occurrence has since been recorded. In 806 the Rhone was frozen over, the thermometer ranging from 8 to 20 centigrade degrees below zero. In 827 hard frost continued in England for nine weeks, and in 923 the Thames was frozen for thirteen weeks. In 987, England was “frozen up” for one hundred and twenty days, and eleven years later the Thames was frozen for five weeks. On Midsummer Day, 1035, the corn and fruits were destroyed by a severe frost. In 1063 the Thames was frozen for fourteen weeks; thirteen years later the frost lasted from November to April ; and in 1114 several wooden bridges were carried away by the ice. In 1133 the Po was frozen from Cremona to the sea.
In 1234 loaded wagons crossed the Adriatic in front of Venice; in 1294 the Cattegat was frozen; in 1323 the Baltic was passable to travellers for six weeks; in 1324 it was possible to travel from Denmark to Lubeck and Dantzic on the ice; and ten years later the rivers of Provence and Italy were frozen, and the frost lasted at Paris for two months and twenty days. In 1407 frost lasted for fifteen weeks in England, and as it is recorded
that nearly all the small birds in the country died, we may be sure that there was plenty of snow as well as unusually intense frost; only the chroniclers do not seem to have regarded the snow of sufficient importance to honor it by any references. In 1434 the Thames was frozen down to Gravesend, the frost lasting for twelve weeks. In 1468 it was necessary to break up the wine with hatchets in Flanders in order to serve it out to the soldiers: no wonder that they “swore furiously" there. The winters of 1515, '44, '48, 64, '65, and '94 are recorded as the especially severe ones of the sixteenth century in Britain, but snowfalls are not especially referred to by the historian. In 1544 the wine was broken by hatchets in France. There was a succession of severe winters early during the seventeenth century in Europe, culminating in the years 1606 and 1607. We find on record the fact that in 1606 the snow was greater than ever before had been remembered, while in 1607, according to an old record, the winter was “such an extreme one for frosts as no man living doth remember or can speak of the like.” The year 1608 was one of storms and tempests; and this, again, was succeeded by a season of heavy rains, so that year after year passed by with wretched harvests, and the dearth was great. In 1657 the Seine was frozen over; ten years later it remained ice-bound for thirty-five successive days. In 1674 snow fell in England for ten days. In the winter of 1683-84 the Thames was frozen over from December 20 to February 6. The ice-bridge was so substantial, and the wonder so marvellous, that a great business-street was built from the Temple to Southwark. Hackney-coaches plied there as in the city. Large sledges were exhibited as a wonder, and all manner of games played, including the old-time sport of bull-baiting. An ox was roasted whole over against Whitehall, and King Charles and the queen ate part of it; and it is said the jolly monarch passed the whole night on the ice. It might be remarked, en passant, that these events are commonly credited to the year 1688, when James and William were contending for the British throne. The winter of 1683–84 is said to have been “terrible cold.” In the winter of 1708–09 there were three months of continuous “ frost and snow” in England, and the Mediterranean was frozen from Marseilles to Genoa. In 1717 shops were again erected on the Thames, and two years later heavy snow-storms prevailed in
many parts of Europe. On the border-lands of Sweden and Norway some 7000 soldiers are said to have perished. England was visited by nine weeks' severe frost in 1739, and the Seine was frozen over in 1742, '44, '66, and '68. Christmas Day, 1749, ushered in, in England, a most severe frost, continuing without intermission for several weeks. Travellers were frozen to death in coaches, and foot-passengers in London