It was first defined in law by a document thought to date from 1266-1303 known variously as the Composition of Yards and Perches, Compositio Ulnarum et Perticarum, or The statute of ells and perches. The text from the manuscript known as BL Cotton MS Claudius D 2 (as published in Ruffhead's Statutes at Large) reads:
It is ordained that 3 grains of barley dry and round do make an inch, 12 inches make 1 foot, 3 feet make 1 yard, 5 yards and a half make a perch, and 40 perches in length and 4 in breadth make an acre.
An alternative reading from Liber Horn (as published in Statutes of the Realm) states:
And be it remembered that the iron yard of our Lord the King containeth 3 feet and no more, and a foot ought to contain 12 inches by the right measure of this yard measured, to wit, the 36th part of this yard rightly measured maketh 1 inch neither more nor less and 5 yards and a half make a perch that is 16 feet and a half measured by the aforesaid yard of our Lord the King.
The Composition of Yards and Perches belongs to a class of documents known as Statutes of uncertain date generally thought to be from c. 1250 to 1305. Although not originally statutes, they gradually acquired the force of law. In some early statute books Composition of Yards and Perches was appended to another statute of uncertain date, the Statute for the Measuring of Land also known as Statutum de Admensuratione Terrase, An Ordinance for Measuring of Land, sometimes (erroneously) listed as 33° Edward I. st. 6. (1305). The Composition of Yards and Perches was repealed by the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 (5 George IV c. 74, par. 23).
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“Psychology keeps trying to vindicate human nature. History keeps undermining the effort.”
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)
“It would be naive to think that peace and justice can be achieved easily. No set of rules or study of history will automatically resolve the problems.... However, with faith and perseverance,... complex problems in the past have been resolved in our search for justice and peace. They can be resolved in the future, provided, of course, that we can think of five new ways to measure the height of a tall building by using a barometer.”
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“To care for the quarrels of the past, to identify oneself passionately with a cause that became, politically speaking, a losing cause with the birth of the modern world, is to experience a kind of straining against reality, a rebellious nonconformity that, again, is rare in America, where children are instructed in the virtues of the system they live under, as though history had achieved a happy ending in American civics.”
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