The Calendar Nonsens
Review of the book by D. E. Duncan
Uwe Topper
Berlin · Sept. 2000

The International Bestseller, "The Calendar", by David Ewing Duncan (London 1998), is concerned with "The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens - and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days"

This book has been praised as "scholarly" and "indispensible" by the Observer, so we might have a look into it.
The 360 page book starts with a Calendar Index where already in the second line he brings a dubious information, to say the least:
"Time that the year slowed since AD 1: 10 seconds."
Who measured the length of the year in AD 1 so exactly?
Did anyone measure the year in AD 1?
When was AD 1?

Even if the author meant to say that mathematically calculating with an "Average decrease in the year due to gradual slowing of the earth's rotation: ½ second per century" (which can only have been deduced from measurements of this bygone century) he would arrive at a diminishing of 10 seconds in 2000 years, supposing that would get him back to AD 1, this is a very rough estimate, and using as a base the extremely questionable hypothese that earth has moved ever since 2000 years by the same speed without any interruption or change whatsoever.

I do not want to question for a start other assumption the author makes here, merely advertise that he doesn't take his own figures for credible, as in the same paragraf he says "Date Caesar changed Roman year to Julian calendar: 1 January 46 BC" whereas on page 4 it is simply "1 January 45 BC" as everybody learnt in school.

But now, as we get deeper involved in his text, we should recalculate the dates he gives (p. 5) as those of a certain Roger Bacon in his "Opus Maior":

"He sets the true date of the equinoxe for the year he was writing, 1267, on . . . 12 March - a nine-day difference." This can be observed by any layman with the eye, he adds. And as for the future, in 1361, the calendar would be out of proportion by one day more, mounting up to ten days. The rule he adopted was quite accurate: Every 125 years one day has to be dropped (we reckon today 128 years). His knowledge of the length of the year in comparison to that employed in the Julian calendar is by any means highly exact.

But the dates given to his ponderations are completely wrong! By simple way of addition one can reach at the conclusion, that the actual difference of the Julian calendar and the equinoxe in 1267 must have been 7.3 days (not nine as told), or say roughly 2.5 days before Pope Gregors XIII reformation of the calendar (which amounted to ten days). Looking at it the other way - i.e. taking for granted that Bacon did not lye when he said that he observed the equinoxe on March 12 as every layman can - he must have lived somewhere near 1467 AD (or later) and therefore the retrocalculation of his book by two hundred years is a mere hoax.
Now, why does the author not understand his own calculations? Is he dumbfolded or does he want to dumb us?

On page 7 he gives another clue:
The reaction of pope Clement to whom Bacon had suggested the correction of the calendar was disappointing, as the pope did not read his proposal or at least not comment on it. The following popes did the same: "The Holy See . . . ignored him. Clement's successor, Gregory X, never mentions Bacon or bis books; nor does anyone else at St Peter's."
Maybe nobody at all ever read that book before modern times. Or at least: It had no reception before the final calendar reform in 1582. So I would think that the book was written somewhere after this date, roughly three hundred years after the proposed date on it's cover.

Regarding the other contents of that book - e.g. a geography of the Holy Land (!) - we had long ago doubted the date it was composed. Yet the author concludes (p. 8):
"Centuries later Bacon became a posthumous hero of late Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers, who were astonished by the modernity of his ideas."
No word of redating this suspicious book.

In order to give more insight into the author's thoughts and portraying of history we shall quote another passage refering to Roger Bacon (p.192):
"A traveller trekking from the caliph's court (at Baghdad) to Aachen in the year 800 would have laughed at the idea that these foul-smelling barbari, ruled by an emperor who could not write, whose scholars copied old manuscripts rather than reading them, and whose mathematicians still counted with their fingers, would four centuries later produce a Roger Bacon."
Sorry, this is not to be taken as cynical caricature of English historiography, the author means what he says!

He goes on (p.193):
"In Frankland an intrepid Arab traveller might have met the teacher, theologian and scholar Rabanus Maurus (c. 780-856), a student of Alcuin and prolific writer who spent many years of his long life fussing over how to divide the hour into ever smaller units: a useful idea, except that one has to ask why anyone in the ninth century would need to use, say, his atom, which he declared to be 1/22560 of an hour. Also, how would one measure the passage of such an infinitesimal moment of time with a water clock?"

The author gives no answer whatsoever, he simply leaves the reader with his question and absurd view of history. Couldn't he at least have stated that all this nonsense cannot be more than history-fiction written during the Renaissance or later? No, he doesn't even see this possibility. He continues his timetable as extracted from theologian treatises and even wants to make us believe that already monk Abbo of Fleury (945-1004) "proposed a change in Dionysius Exiguus's chronology using anni Domini, substituting the old Latin style of passing from year 1 to year -1 to a timeline that added a place-holder in the zero position. To designate this 'new' year he used the symbol for null, since zero itself had not yet reached Europe." (p. 194)

Now what does he mean by this elaborate formulation?
How can a year be designated by the symbol for null without introduction of zero?
"This suggested change was ignored, however. … But Abbo was an anomaly …" and so on.
The author doesn't give any hint or clue to these anomalies, he just produces them. That means adding more nonsense into an already haevily laden nonsense history.

As this International Bestseller of Duncan is throughout of the same quality I save the audience with further excerpts. I did only want to draw attention to the nonsense written and catered to the unaware which by this way troubles our field of decade-long honest search and investigation.

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