Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Measuring the Land (part 1)

One of the first things you might want to do with this land and earth is to measure it.  According to the law books of Hywel Dda, "Dyfnwal Moelmud" [Dyfnwal the Bald!] was king over the land "Before the crown of London and the sceptre were taken by the English...".  He measured the island in "...order to know its tribute and its mileage and its journeys by days."  The method he used was not changed by Hywel himself "...for he was the best of measurers".  The method he used is described as follows:

"And this measure Dyfnwal measured from the barleycorn. 

Three lengths of the barleycorn in the inch;"

[Apparently, the kernels of the barleycorn were uniquely the same size.  Each kernel would be 1/3 of an inch, and could be used as a standard instrument of measurement.  Barleycorn was a standard food source and would have been readily available for use.]

"three inches in the palmbreadth;"

[Nine kernels of barleycorn place in the palm of the hand would equal three inches.]

"three palmbreadths in the foot;"

[This would make what was called "the foot" around nine inches in length plus or minus.]

"three feet in the step;"

[This would give a method to step off a segment of land that could easily be check by another.]

"three steps in the leap;"

[So a leap would be roughly nine foot, which would be around 81 inches, or 243 lengths of barleycorn!]

"Three leaps in the land: a land in newer Welsh in a selion;"

[Leaps setting the bounds called a selion.  I wonder if this is where the saying "leaps and bounds" has its origin?]

Finally, "and a thousand lands if the mile. And this measure is still used here."

Wow, 3000 leaps in the Welsh mile.  Let's get to work.

The information outlined above is taken from p. 120 in the book translated and edited by Dafydd Jenkins titled Hywel Dda The Law, Gomer Press, 1990.  The legal acre is next!