4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

We are ruled by time, from the accurate time that GPS relies on to the less accurate timescales that the trains seem to run to. Slicing the year into even portions in the hope that we can get a handle on it has been a thing that we humans have done for years. It works too, if you were going to attend an event on a particular day at a specific time, then it helps if everyone uses the same system, so you can all be there together at the same time.

But how has humanity divided these portions of time up? It depends on the culture, but most seem to have decided on days, months and years with a whole variety of different starting times. To communicate this official time to their local populations, artists designed all manner of different almanacks and calendars to help people determine the time of year.

In this book, Alexandra Harris explores all sorts of different interpretations of time and how people back in time divided it up. There is a whole world of calendars out there, but she has concentrated on calendars from England specifically. She has included examples of psalters, standing stones, perpetual calendars and even an Anglo Saxon woodcut. Some of these show significant dates or events that were expected to be undertaken at that particular time of year.

This is another beautifully produced little book from Little Toller, that diverges a little from their usual output of classic and contemporary natural history books. It does touch on rural life as Harris looks at the that artists tried to limit time onto a single beautiful page. She has also asked four modern artists, Jo Sweeting, Kurt Jackson and Jem Southam and Alison Turnball to devise their own interpretation on dividing time in the modern age. Their results are very different and all beautiful. But there is more to this book than just that, it made me think about how I see time now compared to a few years ago. I am still tied to the regular clock and calendar, I have a job after all. But I now have a greater sense of the seasons as a time period than I did at the age of 18, I now see time as it passes the solstices and equinoxes. You cannot beat a book that makes you think.

Spread the love