Saturday, October 26, 2013
Temperance adjusting a clock. Christine de Pizan, Épître d’Othéa. Paris, c.1406
By the late 14th century, mechanical clocks were common enough to be used as metaphors for temperance in poetry, but the first recorded use of minute as a unit of time is 1392 in French and 1393 in English, although the word had been used to describe a 60th of a degree since Ptolemy in geography and astronomy. It is probably not a coincidence that the usage appeared not long after clock dials began to appear in Europe.
It's important to remember this if you're doing first person medieval living history. Earlier, men would speak of a paternoster while, the time it took to say a paternoster, for a short period of time. It takes me about 20 seconds to say it.