Double-dated newspapers: the Julian and Gregorian calendars…

April 9, 2009 by  
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london_gazette_issue_1601If you have some 1600’s newspapers in your collection you may have a few with dates showing years as “1683/4″ or 1686/7”, or perhaps you have a few issues from a single year where a later date has an issue number lower than an earlier date, and you’ve wondered “how could this be?” Well, it’s due to the calendar, or more specifically which calendar was in use at the time.

Although the differences between the older Julian calendar and our current Gregorian calendar are many and very complicated and can be understood by visiting this site, the short answer is that in the latter part of the 17th century  & a portion of the 18th century both calendars were in use in England, and the date of the issue would reflect which calendar was in use.

london_gazette_issue_1602The new year of the older Julian calendar began on March 21, so an issue dated March 17, 1675 would be followed by the next weekly issue dated March 24, 1676.  This would also mean that an issue dated December 31, 1675 would be followed by an issue dated January 7,1675. This was how the London Gazette dated it’s issues for much of the 17th and early 18th centuries. At first glance one would think that the issue of Jan. 7, 1675 was older than one dated December 31, 1675, but the opposite was true.

observator_double_datedOther titles were a bit more helpful in noting the year of publication by dating issues from January 1 thru March 20 with a double-dated year such as “1684/5” or “1686/7” so the reader would know that it was from the year 1684 under the Julian calendar, or 1685 under the Gregorian calendar.

Some American newspapers of the 18th century have similar double dates, but by the beginning of the 19th century–if not reasonably before–newspapers had converted exclusively to the Gregorian calendar. The same was true with most of the Western world, while other portions of the globe adopted the Gregorian dating system much later.

Hopefully this answers a few questions  you have had. Be in touch if we can be more helpful!

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One Response to “Double-dated newspapers: the Julian and Gregorian calendars…”

  1. Jeremy D'Entremont on March 31st, 2011 6:01 pm

    Just found this interesting blog as I try to solve a riddle related to the Julian and Gregorian calendars. I’m wondering which calendar the Boston News-Letter was using in 1720. Specifically, I’m trying to figure out if a report of a pirate attack on a ship coming from Ireland, reported as July 17, 1720, in the News-Letter a few weeks later, could possibly be July 17 under the new (Gregorian) calendar. This is very important to a book I’m writing. Thanks for any info you might be able to provide!

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