Old Style Dates

In Great Britain before 1752 the first day of the year was March 1.* On December 31, 1680, an Englishman would know tomorrow would be January 1, 1680 (not 1681). On March 23, 1712, he would know tomorrow was March 24, 1713.

Having years that began in March creates a problem for readers accustomed to thinking of the year as beginning on January 1. How shall we describe days in January and February, and in March before the 24th, in years that began on March 24? Over the past few centuries several different formats have been used to represent such dates, and are referred to as “old style”. For example, the day we today would call January 10, 1665 (and which people at the time called January 10, 1664, has been written

Since the days after March 23 would be the same year as we would now assign them, no special formatting of the year numeral is needed for them.

Another notation was to add the initials “O.S.” after a date to indicate it belongs to the older system. So, for example, “January 10, 1664 (O.S.)” is the day we would call January 10, 1665.

*In 1751 the English Parliament passed a law adopting the Gregorian calendar, making the day after the 2nd of September, 1752, the 14th of September, and making January 1 the first day of the year.

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