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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 481 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PRINCIPLE OF STUDY.—I. Limits of Variation in Different Copies, Places and Times.—Unfortunately, so very little is known of the ages of weights and measures that this datum—most essential in considering their history—has been scarcely considered. In measure, Egyptians of Dynasty IV. at Gizeh on an average varied I in 350 between different buildings (27). Buildings at Persepolis, all of nearly the same age, vary in unit I in 450 (25). Including a greater range of time and place, the Roman foot in Italy varied during two or three centuries on an average -o--o- from the mean. Covering a longer time, we find an average variation of 2-1,-f, in the Attic foot (25), rya in the English foot (25), 1-h in the English itinerary foot (25). Se we may say that an average variation of ~h by toleration, extending to double that by change of place and time, is usual in ancient measures. In weights of the same place and age there is a far wider range; at Defenneh (29), within a century probably, the average variation of different units is 21ei 2'2, and 21 i the range being just the same as in all times and places taken together. Even in a set of weights all found together, the average variation is only reduced to 'o, in place of 21-6 (29). Taking a wider range of place and time, the Roman libra has an average variation of 216 in the examples of better period (43), and in those of Byzantine age 212- (44). Altogether, we see that weights have descended from original varieties with so little intercomparison that no rectification of their values has been made, and hence there is as much variety in any one place and time as in all together. Average variation may be said to range from -a1ff to -,lb- in different units, doubtless greatly due to defective balances. 2. Rate of Variation.--Though large differences may exist, the rate of general variation is but slow—excluding, of course, all monetary standards. In Egypt the cubit lengthened Th in 1 These figures refer to the authorities at the end of this section.
SIR JOHN PRINGLE (1707–1782)

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