On This Day: 20 March 1706

On 20 March 1706, Cornelio Agostin Giovan Teylingen wrote to Bowrey from Venice with an account for the sale and disposal of goods sent from London. Whilst interesting for demonstrating that Bowrey did not restrict his trading to England and the East Indies, these documents also demonstrate the difficulties when studying Bowrey’s papers of dates.

Until 2 September 1752, England used the Julian  calendar. One aspect of this calendar was that year started on 25 March. It became the convention to write dates between 1 January and 25 March in the form 1 January 1705/06. When documents do not follow this convention, as in this case, the exact year is unclear unless it can be determine from the context.

The disadvantage of the Julian calendar is that it was less accurate than the Gregorian and, by the time England made the change, the two were out of sync by eleven days and the date jumped from 2 September 1752 to 14 September 1752. The dissatisfaction of “losing” eleven days is another subject.

Other countries switched calendars on other dates. Thus, in addition to the problem of which year, when documents are sent from overseas, it cannot be certain which calendar is being used. Bowrey’s correspondence from Prussia used dates in the form 3/14 March 1705/06. This correspondence from Venice does not and, hence, the difficulty.

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