Calendar : Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year


The adventure spans the world from Stonehenge to astronomically aligned pyramids at Giza, from Mayan observatories at Chichen Itza to the atomic clock in Washington, the world's official timekeeper since the 1960s. We visit cultures from Vedic India and Cleopatra's Egypt to Byzantium and the Elizabethan court; and meet an impressive cast of historic personages from Julius Caesar to Omar Khayyam, and giants of science from Galileo and Copernicus to Stephen Hawking. Our present calendar system predates the ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (1) from $20.00   
  • Used (1) from $20.00   
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any coupons and promotions
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:



New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

0613171268 Ex-library book with usual markings. Clean text. SATISF GNTD + SHIPS W/IN 24 HRS. Sorry, no APO deliveries. Ships in a padded envelope with free tracking. 5154p


Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Sort by
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.
Sending request ...


The adventure spans the world from Stonehenge to astronomically aligned pyramids at Giza, from Mayan observatories at Chichen Itza to the atomic clock in Washington, the world's official timekeeper since the 1960s. We visit cultures from Vedic India and Cleopatra's Egypt to Byzantium and the Elizabethan court; and meet an impressive cast of historic personages from Julius Caesar to Omar Khayyam, and giants of science from Galileo and Copernicus to Stephen Hawking. Our present calendar system predates the invention of the telescope, the mechanical clock, and the concept ol zero and its development is one of the great untold stories of science and history. How did Pope Gregory set right a calendar which was in error by at least ten lull days? What did time mean to a farmer on the Rhine in 800 A.D.? What was daily life like in the Middle Ages, when the general population reckoned births and marriages by seasons, wars, kings'' reigns, and saints' days?
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Duncan, producer for ABC News and author of books on subjects ranging from medical training (Residents) to de Soto's exploration of the Southeast (Hernando de Soto), meticulously recounts the development of our Gregorian calendar, which begins on January 1, has 12 months of 28 to 31 days each and usually adds a leap day every four years. He explains how Julius Caesar's affair with Cleopatra led to the Julian calendar used in Europe until 1582; why the Venerable Bede was venerated for his work on the calendar; how the dating of Easter and other religious holidays kept a flicker of scientific investigation burning throughout the so-called Dark Ages; and why March 24 used to be New Year's Eve. This extensively researched book is more than a history of our calendar and the determination of the precise length of the year, however. It is also an absorbing essay on the cross-pollination of ideas, as the astronomical and mathematical knowledge of the classical Greeks was carried by Alexander's armies to India, from whence it returned to ignite the rebirth of learning in Europe during the Middle Ages. In well-positioned asides, Duncan explains the impact of the Indian development of our 10-digit number system on determining an accurate year, and the influence of Islamic culture (although Muslims still live by a different calendar). Duncan overwrites at times, and his work is overwhelmingly Eurocentric, with African and Native American calendar systems mentioned only in passing and Asian ones given scant attention. Nevertheless, this accomplished interdisciplinary work will appeal to all readers tyrannized by the date book.
Library Journal
Both of these books are devoted to the question of how the world came to agree on what day it was. Both are written for a general audience although Richards is an academic, and his book is the more scholarly. Richards also has a more global perspective, whereas Duncan focuses on the calendar in the West. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
From prehistoric bone carvings to the present cesium-based atomic clock, the development of calendar systems has undergone constant revision and scrutiny. Journalist Duncan (Residents, LJ 2/1/96) chronicles the evolution of human attempts to chart time accurately and reviews the time periods, events, and principle figures involved in this process. Introductory material includes a short "Calendar Index" containing statistics, a comparison of major calendar systems, and a brief timeline of Gregorian calendar development. Although Duncan touches on Islamic, Chinese, Indian, and other contributions to the development of the calendar, his work emphasizes the European context. Written in a storylike manner, this book is well documented (mainly secondary sources) and, in addition to being entertaining, is suitable as an informational resource for school and public libraries.Andrew Wickens, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews
Time flows inevitably, but the calendar is a human institution—and its history is a colorful mix of science, whim, and pure chance. Ancient peoples recognized that certain natural phenomena (the phases of the moon, the seasons of the year) recurred in a regular pattern. Our earliest record of a firm date comes from Egypt, where the annual rise and fall of the Nile gave a clear marker of the most crucial time of the year: spring planting. Other societies (Hebrews, Greeks, Romans) established years based on lunar cycles or arbitrary counting systems, some of which still survive. But the movements of earth, moon, and sun exist in no simple ratio to one another, and so all these early calendars needed frequent adjustment—with inevitable uncertainty and confusion. At last Julius Caesar scrapped the Roman calendar for one based instead on advanced Alexandrian science, with alternating months of 30 and 31 days, and a leap year to accommodate the odd fraction. His successors almost immediately began tinkering with it, changing the names and the lengths of months; for a while, they even had trouble remembering when to insert leap years. Thirteen centuries after Caesar's reforms, Roger Bacon, an inquisitive English friar, saw that the calendar was still not accurate, and informed the pope of the fact. The Church had downplayed exact measurement of time (why bother when the Second Coming is expected at any moment?) but the fact that Easter was now two weeks distant from the correct date proved a sufficient spur to reform. Two centuries later, the Church accepted Bacon's findings and instituted a new calendar, essentially the one we use today. Veteran science writer and NPRcommentator Duncan (Residents: The Perils and Pleasures of Educating Young Doctors, 1996) provides vivid portraits of the various figures who played roles in this process and of their times in which they lived. A fascinating cross-section of history.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613171267
  • Publisher: Sagebrush Education Resources
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Format: Library Binding

Meet the Author

David Ewing Duncan is the author of five books, including the international bestseller Calendar, and writes for Wired, Discover, and The Atlantic Monthly. He is a freelance producer and correspondent for ABC's Nightline, and a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. He also writes the popular "Biotech and Creativity" column for the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2003, he won the Magazine Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He lives in San Francisco, California.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

A Net Cast Over Time

The . . . silent, never-resting thing called time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing ocean tide . . . this is forever very literally a miracle; a thing to strike us dumb.

Not long ago I met a well-known surgeon dying in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia. He was a distressingly emaciated figure, his face a mask of skin over his skull, his hands a pale shade of purple from weeks of intravenous needles. Yet his voice remained deep and powerful, his eyes lively. When a friend asked how long he was going to be in the hospital this time, the surgeon said he didn't know, that time was becoming irrelevant to him. "It's ironic," he said, smiling weakly. "I lived by the calendar for sixty years. Beepers, schedules -- these things ruled my life. Now I have no idea what day it is, and this doesn't bother me. It's as if I am floating," he said, leaning back on crisp hospital sheets and almo st whispering the words.

Our obsession with measuring time is itself timeless. After self awareness, it may be our most distinctive trait as a species, since undoubtedly one of the first things we became self-aware about was our own mortality-the fact that we live and die in a set period of time.

Yet even in an age of measuring femtoseconds and star clusters 11 billion light-years away, time defies true objective measurement. It can seem to go slow and even stall out at certain moments only to brashly and breathlessly rush forward at others. Time can be wasted, kept, saved, spent, killed, lost, and longed for. To the Nuer herdsmen of southern Sudan, time is tot and mai, wet and dry, depending on the season. For Hesiod,the ancient Greek poet, time is harvesting cereals in the mouth when the cuckoo sings, and a low sex drive for men during the late summer, when "goats are at their fattest and the wine tastes best."

Consider the geometry of how we measure time. It can be divided into circle time and square time: clock time and calendar time. Clock time chases itself like Ouroboros, the hands or flashing numbers returning to the place where they started in a progression that has no beginning or end. It will continue in its cycle whether or not people are around to watch the hands and glowing numbers. In contrast, calendar time is made up of small boxes that contain everything that happens in a day, but no more. And when that day is over, you cannot return to that box again. Calendar time has a past, present, and future, ultimately ending in death when the little boxes run out.

Still, in modem times we take the mechanism of the calendar for granted, as we do breathing and the force of gravity. Passing through years, months, weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds without we seldom thinking about where these things carne from, or why we have chosen to divide time one way and not another.

It has not always been so. For thousands of years the effort to measure time and to create a workable calendar was one of the great struggles of humanity, a conundrum for astronomers, mathematicians, priests, kings, and anyone else who needed to count the days until the next harvest, to calculate when taxes were due, or to figure out the exact moment a sacrifice should be made to appease an angry god. A case can be made that science itself was first sparked by a human compulsion to comprehend the passing of time, to wrestle down the forward motion of life and impose on it some sense of order...

The effort to organize and control time continues unabated today. It is one of humankind's major collective efforts as we hedge our future and try to comprehend the past. In the stock market an investor sells a microchip stock short or long based on a broker's reading of the company's sales history. In river valleys we build dams and levees to prepare for 10-, 50-, and 100-year floods. We celebrate Easter, Passover, and Ramadan on prearranged dates just as our ancestors did centuries ago, and we expect our children will for centuries more to come.

We are a people of the calendar. Forward-and backward-looking, we are uncomfortable with the present in a way that our ancestors who tilled fields and lived and died according to the great cycles of nature would never have comprehended.

What are you doing at one o'clock tomorrow? Can you book me on the 2:06 flight to Memphis next Thursday? When will the inventory ship? Ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one-zero: blastoff!

Holding the surgeon's wasted hands in that Richmond hospital, I thought about my schedule for the rest of the day. Meetings, engagements, phone calls to make, a plane to catch to fly back home. I needed to pick up a small present for my eight-year-old, and I had to remember to put gas in my rental car before I turned it in at the airport. In a way I envied the doctor because he could let go and I could not. This is our blessing and our curse: to count the days and weeks and years, to calculate the movements of the sun, moon, and stars, and to capture them all in a grid of small squares that spread out like a net cast over time: thousands of little squares for each lifetime. How this net was woven over the millennia, and why, is the subject of this book.

Calendar. Copyright © by David Duncan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Which Year?
Prelude: A Net Cast Over Time
1 A Lone Genius Proclaims the Truth About Time 1
2 Luna: Temptress of Time 8
3 Caesar Embraces the Sun 22
4 A Flaming Cross of Gold 40
5 Time Stands Still 55
6 Monks Dream While Counting on Their Fingers 77
7 Charlemagne's Sandglass 94
8 The Strange Journey of 365.242199 110
9 From the House of Wisdom to Darkest Europe 128
10 Latinorum Penuria (The Poverty of the Latins) 140
11 The Battle Over Time 154
12 From the Black Death to Copernicus 171
13 Solving the Riddle of Time 187
14 Ten Days Lost Forever 209
15 Living on Atomic Time 233
Time Line: The Calendar 242
Illustrations 249
Bibliographic Note 251
Acknowledgments 255
Index 257
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)