World Book Day


World Book Day
23 April 2017

A word about World Book Day before it is over: April 23 is the death date of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. While the dates are the same, the days are not. Spain used the Gregorian Calendar, but England used the Julian calendar, with the result that Cervantes died on the same date as Shakespeare, but ten days before him.

The connection between these dates was made in Catalonia in 1925 and it was there that the death of Cervantes was celebrated. Don Quixote, after all, decided to travel to Barcelona, rather than Zaragoza, in the second part of Don Quixote (1615). The link to the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (author of the Comentarios reales) linked two continents and three great, very original authors.  In 1995, UNESCO declared April 23 to be World Book and Copyright Day.

The conflict between the two calendars (Julian and Gregorian) also complicates the dates mentioned in the various ships engaged in the Spanish Armada that sailed for England in 1588. Battles took place on different day and different dates, according to the not always accurate logs of the two navies.

Two complicate things further, time at sea was very difficult to judge and candles, water clocks, sandglasses, and lanterns were all very unreliable and gave great differing times for the different actions that took place during the engagements.

In 1988, for the three hundredth anniversary of the event, instead of days and hours, the ships’ actions were logged into a computer along with the retro-calculated tidal tables. What emerged was a seaman’s account of time and tide in which actions were seen in the light of the actual sea environment. As a result, very different picture of that famous series of sea battles emerged.

19 thoughts on “World Book Day

  1. What fun – same day, different dates, resolved by the tides… You have reminded me of a philocoughical favourite: when I was teaching coastal navigation, I indulged in the fancy that the place where we sailors sailed , I.e. the surface of the salt water, wasn’t really “there”, as the tides (on the NS Atlantic coast) rise and fall through a range of 6 feet, on average, twice daily but not at the same time each day, of course, because of the moon…so if the police ask where you were on the afternoon of July 1st, you could honestly say “I could tell you (by calculation) but it isn’t there.”

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautiful, Jan. You do have a different outlook on the world. I love it. The tactics of Drake, for example, were governed by the fierce rip tides that he had worked with but about which the Spaniards in the Armada knew very little. It’s a fascinating study, as you can imagine.


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