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What are the halcyon days? On what date do the dog days begin? What is Hansel Monday? How do Chinese, Muslim, Mesoamerican, Jewish, and Babylonian calendars differ from Christian calendars? The answers to these and hundreds of other intriguing questions about the way humans have marked and measured time over the millennia can be found in The Oxford Companion to the Year.
The desire to set aside certain periods of time to mark their significance is a transhistorical, transcultural phenomena. Virtually all cultures have marked special days or periods: the feast day of a saint, the celebration of a historical event, the turning of a season, a period of fasting, the birthday of an important historical figure. Around these days a rich body of traditions, beliefs, and superstitions have grown up, many of them only half-remembered today. Now, for the first time, Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens combine this body of knowledge with a wide-ranging survey of calendars across cultures in an authoritative and engaging one-volume reference work. 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 day. The second part provides a broader study of time-reckoning: historical and modern calendars, religious and civil, are explained, with handy tables for the conversion of dates between various systems and a helpful index to facilitate speedy reference.
The Oxford Companion to the Year is a unique and uniquely delightful reference source, an indispensable aid for all historians and antiquarians, and a rich mine of information and inspiration for browsers.
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The Oxford Companion to the Year is one of those splendid volumes that should have a permanent place in every personal reference library, next to a well-thumbed Brewer's.
The main body of the book gives a huge amount of historical and folkloric information on every day of the year (including, yes, February 30, which has happened three times); the days of the week, months and seasons; and the major feast days and festivals in a wide variety of different cultures. This is the section that most readers will find the most fascinating; its 658 pages provide endless browsing.
The second part concentrates on the making of calendars over the centuries: how our own complex calendar evolved with its irregular month lengths and its rules for when leap years occur, plus details of the calendars of many other cultures--Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, and many more--all trying to find a regular system that can cope with the fact that the roughly 29-and-one-half-day lunar month and the roughly 365-and-one-quarter-day solar year simply can't be meshed.
Bonnie Blackburn and Leofranc Holford-Strevens must be congratulated on the huge amount of work this book must have taken, and on such splendid results. --David V. Barrett, Amazon.co.ukAbout the Author:
Bonnie Blackburn is General Editor of the series Monuments of Renaissance Music and a member of the Faculty of Music at Oxford University. Leofranc Holford-Strevens is a classicist and desk-editor with Oxford University Press. He is the author of Aulus Gellius. Both authors live in the United Kingdom.
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