Historical metrology

Historical metrology is the science that is dealing with the fundamental units of measurement, systems of units formerly in use in various countries, and the development of monetary units throughout their history.

Antiquarianism movementEdit

The interest for historical metrology began by the early antiquarianism movement in Europe during 16th -17th centuries, when studies of the measurement systems in various ancient cultures became common, e.g. De Mensuris et ponderibus Romanis et Graecis, published in 1533 by Georgius Agricola (1494–1555). From the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century a plethora of books, with the aims to collate and clarify the relationships between different measurement systems and compile systems used in ancient cultures as well as in modern time, were published.

Research effortsEdit

Research efforts were later also used to investigate measurement system in certain cultures or countries. Here it is appropriate to mention Hultsch,[1] who published two monumental works, Griechische und römische Metrologie (1862) and Metrologicorum scriptorium reliquiae, collegit, recensuit, partim nunc primum edidit Fridericus Hultsch (1864/66).

Other works by scholars worth mentioning, is by:

  • Aravaca y Torrent [2] (Spain, 1867),
  • Balbin [3] (Argentina, 1881),
  • Falkman [4] (Sweden, 1884/85),
  • Ferrand[5] (Portuguese Territories of Indian Ocean, 1920),
  • Hinz[6] (Islamic world, 1955),
  • Wu [7] (China, 1957),
  • Skinner[8] (Britain, 1967),
  • Rasmussen[9] (Denmark, 1967),
  • Zupko[10] (Britain, France and Italy, 1968–90),
  • Pankhurst[11] (Ethiopia, 1969/70),
  • Шостьин[12] (Russia, 1975),
  • Witthöft[13] (Germany, 1979-1994),
  • Bogdán[14] (Hungary, 1990),
  • Charbonnier[15] (France, 1990-2006),
  • Donaldson[16] (Oman, 1994),
  • Petersen [17] (Denmark, 2002),
  • Grönros et al.[18] (Finland, 2003),
  • Seabra Lopes [19] (Portugal, 1998-2005), and
  • Connor and Simpson [20] (Scotland, 2004).

Published reportsEdit

For some countries, principal divisions of executive governments have published reports that compile formerly used weights and measures. For example, this has been done for Bolivia, Great Britain, Costa Rica, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Tanzania and the United States. In 1954, 1955,[21] and 1966, the United Nation compiled reports that were aimed at giving an overview of the non-metric units then in use in different parts of the world.[22] In 2018, the first of three volumes of the book "Encyclopaedia of Historical Metrology, Weights, and Measures", was published. The book addresses the myriad units of measurement that have arisen through the ages, from weights used by ancient cultures to the scientific units of the modern world.[23]


Among the representatives of historical metrology since the second half of the 20th century may be mentioned, among others Chengluo Wu, Florian Huber, Harald Witthöft, István Bogdán, Jan Gyllenbok, Jean-Claude Hocquet, Luís Seabra Lopes, Pierre Charbonnier, Richard Keir Pethick Pankhurst, Rolf C A Rottländer, Ronald Edward Zupko and Walther Hinz.


  1. ^ Hultsch, Friedrich Otto. Metrologicorum scriptorium reliquiae, collegit, recensuit, partim nunc primum edidit Fridericus Hultsch. 2 volumes. 1864/1866. (Reprinted 1971 by B. G. Teubner, Stuttgart.) and Hultsch, Friedrich Otto. Griechische und Römische Metrologie. 2nd ed. Berlin: Weidmann, 1882.
  2. ^ Aravaca y Torrent, Antonio. Balanza métrica, ó sea Igualdad de las pesas y medidas legales de Castilla, las de las cuarenta y nueve provincias de España, sus posesiones de Ultramar, isla de Cuba, Puerto-Rico y Filipinas, y las de Francia, Inglaterra y Portugal: todas con el sistema métrico y viceversa ... Valencia: Impremia de José Domenech, 1867.
  3. ^ Balbin,Valentín (Departamento de ingenieros civiles). Sistema de medidas y pesas de la República Argentina. Buenos Aires: Tipografia de M. Biedma, 1881.
  4. ^ Falkman, Ludvig B. Om mått och vigt i Sverige: historisk framställning – Den nyare tiden från och med år 1606 till och med år 1739. Stockholm, 1885.
  5. ^ Ferrand, Gabriel. 1920: Les poids, mesures et monnaies des mers du sud aux XVIe et XVIIe siécles. Journal asiatique (11th series) 16, 5-150 and 192-312.
  6. ^ Hinz, Walther. Islamische Masse und Gewichte, umgerechnet ins metrische System. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1955; Hinz, Walther. Islamische Währungen des 11. bis 19. Jahrhunderts. Umgerechnet in Gold. Ein Beitrag zur islamischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1991.
  7. ^ Wu, Chengluo. Zhongguo dulianghengshi (xiudingben). (A history of Chinese length, capacity and weight measures (revised edition)). Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1957.
  8. ^ Skinner, Frederick George. Weights and Measures: Their Ancient Origins and Their Development in Great Britain up to AD 1855. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1967.
  9. ^ Rasmussen, Poul. Mål og Vægt. Dansk Historisk Fællesforenings Håndboger. Copenhagen: Dansk Historisk Fællesforenings, 1967.
  10. ^ Zupko, Ronald E. A Dictionary of English Weights and Measures from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Nineteenth Century. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968; British Weights and Measures: A History from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977; French Weights and Measures Before the Revolution: A Dictionary of Provincial and Local Units. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978; Italian Weights and Measures: The Later Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century. Philadelphia, PA: the American Philosophical Society, Memoirs #145, 1981; A Dictionary of Weights and Measures for the British Isles: The Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia, PA: the American Philosophical Society, Memoirs #168, 1985; Revolution in Measurement: Western European Weights and Measures Since the Age of Science. Philadelphia, PA: the American Philosophical Society, Memoirs #186, 1990;1977: The Weights and Measures of Scotland before the Union. The Scottish Historical Review 56, 162, 119-145.
  11. ^ Pankhurst, Richard Keir Pethick. 1969: Preliminary History of Ethiopian Measures, Weights and Values, Journal of Ethiopian Studies 7,1, 31-54; Pankhurst, Richard Keir Pethick. 1969: Preliminary History of Ethiopian Measures, Weights and Values. Part 2, Journal of Ethiopian Studies 7,2, 99-164; Pankhurst, Richard Keir Pethick. 1970: Preliminary History of Ethiopian Measures, Weights and Values. Part 3, Journal of Ethiopian Studies 8,1, 45-85.
  12. ^ Шостьин, Н. А. Очерки истории русской метрологии XI—XIX века. [Essays on the History of Russian metrology XI-XIX century.] М.: Издательство стандартов [Moscow: Standards Publishing House], 1975.
  13. ^ Witthöft, Harald. Handbuch der Historischen Metrologie. Band 3. Deutsche Masse und Gewichte des 19. Jahrhunderts, nach Gesetzen, Verordnungen und autorisierten Publikationen deutscher Staaten, Territorien und Städte. St. Katharinen, 1994.
  14. ^ Bogdán, István. Magyarországi Hossz- és foldmértékek a XVI. század végéig. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1978; Bogdán, István. Regi magyar mértékek, Budapest. Budapest: Gondolat Zsebkönyvek, 1987. Series: Gondolat zsebkönyvek, 0133-0489; Bogdán, István. Magyarországi hossz- és földmértékek, 1601-1874. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1990. Serie: A Magyar Országos Levéltár kiadványai. 4, Levéltártan és történeti forrástudományok.
  15. ^ Charbonnier, Pierre. Les Anciennes Mesures Locales du Massif-Centrale, d'après les Tables de Conversion. Clermont-Ferrand: Institute d'études du Massif central, 1990; Charbonnier, Pierre. Les Anciennes Mesures Locales du Midi Méditerranéen, d'après les Tables de Conversion. Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal, 1994; Charbonnier, Pierre and Abel Poitrineau. Les Anciennes Mesures Locales du Centre-Ouest, d'après les Tables de Conversion. Clermont-Ferrand: Presses Universitaires Blaise-Pascal, 2001; Charbonnier, Pierre. Les anciennes mesures locales du Centre-Est d'après les tables de conversion. Clermont-Ferrand: Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2006.
  16. ^ Donaldson, W. J. 1994: The pre-metric weights and measures of Oman in the 1970s. New Arabian Studies 1, 83-107, ed. Robin L. Bidwell., G. Rex Smith and R. B. Serjeant, University of Exeter Press.
  17. ^ Petersen, Kurt. Mål og vægt i Danmark. Copenhagen: Polyteknisk Forlag, 2002.
  18. ^ Grönros, Jarmo, Arja Hyvönen, Petteri Järvi, Juhani Kostet, Heikki Rntatupa, and Seija Väärä. Tiima, tiu, tynnyri miten ennen mitattiin: suomalainen mittasanakirja. 4th ed. Turku: Turun maakuntamuseo, 2005.
  19. ^ "O Moio-medida e o Moio dos Preços em Portugal nos Séculos XI a XIII", Anuario de Estudios Medievales, vol. 35 (1), Barcelona, 2005, p. 25-46; "Sistemas Legais de Medidas de Peso e Capacidade, do Condado Portucalense ao Século XVI", Portugalia, Nova Série, vol. XXIV, Porto, 2003, p. 113-164; "Medidas Portuguesas de Capacidade: duas Tradições Metrológicas em Confronto durante a Idade Média", Revista Portuguesa de História, vol. 34, 2000, Coimbra, p. 535-632; "Medidas Portuguesas de Capacidade. Do Alqueire de Coimbra de 1111 ao Sistema de Medidas de Dom Manuel", Revista Portuguesa de História, vol. 32, 1997-1998, Coimbra, p. 543-583; a more recent work: "As Pilhas de Pesos de Dom Manuel I: Contributo para a sua Caracterização, Inventariação e Avaliação", Portugalia: Nova Série, vol. 39, Universidade do Porto, 2018, p. 217-251.
  20. ^ Connor, Robert Dickson. and A. D. C. Simpson. A. D. Morrison-Low, ed. Weights and Measures in Scotland. A European Perspective. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland and Tuckwell Press, 2004.
  21. ^ World Weights and Measures: Handbook for Statisticians, ST/STAT/SER. M/21, UN Publication No. 1955.XVII.2, New York: Statistical Office of the United Nations, 1955.
  22. ^ United Nations, Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. Glossary of commodity terms including currencies, weights and measures used in certain countries of Asia and the Far East. New York: United Nations. Department of Economic Affairs, 1954; United Nations. Statistical Office of the United Nations in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United . World Weights and Measures. Handbook for Statisticians. New York, 1955. Provisional edition. Series: Statistical papers - United Nations. M, no. 21. (ST/STAT/SER.M/21 May 1955); United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Statistical Office of the United Nations. World Weights and Measures. Handbook for Statisticians. Statistical Papers. New York. 1966. Series: M, no. 21 Revision 1. (ST/STAT/SER.M/21/rev.1).
  23. ^ https://www.springer.com/gb/book/9783319575964