You can see a beautiful manuscript edition of an Armenian translation
of the Gregorian
calendar from 1584, printed by the Vatican press. The front
page shows, beneath the title, the coat of arms of Gregory XIII's
family, the Boncompagni. The image comes from the online exhibition
The Vatican Library & Renaissance Culture, one of many Exhibitions.
What is uncertain is how the calendar change became the basis for
the holiday. In the 16th century, because news traveled so slowly,
many people did not hear that a new calendar had been established.
It is believed that those in the know played tricks and mocked those
who were still celebrating New Year’s on April 1.
In France today, the holiday is called Poisson d’Avril, or
April Fish, because schoolchildren tape a paper fish to a classmate’s
back, and when he or she discovers it, they yell “April Fish!”
In Scotland, the butt of an April Fools’ joke is called a
gowk, or cuckoo. The British brought the custom with them
to the States.
A short film in the Library’s collections showing a young
boy playing a trick on his grandfather can be seen at the April
Fools' Day “Jump Back in Time” page in America's
Library, a Web site for kids and families. Another film, “Little
Mischief,” shows a girl teasing her father. More than 60 motion
pictures, including these two, are in the Variety
And more than 300 motion pictures by the inventor of the kinetophone,
which loosely synchronized sound and film, can be viewed at Inventing
Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of
the Edison Companies.
Most of these films are from the Paper
Print Film Collection at the Library of Congress. Because the
copyright law did not cover motion pictures until 1912, early film
producers seeking protection for their work sent paper contact prints
of their motion pictures to the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library
of Congress. Some motion picture companies, such as the Edison Company,
submitted entire motion pictures--frame by frame--as paper prints.
The Edison films available here were reconstructed from the paper
prints, which have long outlasted the films themselves. For more
information on film preservation, visit the Moving
Image Collections at the Library of Congress Web page.
A. "A Fool's Cap and a Plate of
Ice Cream." Pen and ink wash drawing from Harper's Bazaar,
April 4, 1896, by Peter Newell, artist. Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress. Reproduction information: This item may be
restricted. Contact the Prints and Photographs Reading Room at (202)
707-6394 for information on reproduction rights available in the
Restrictions Statement. Call Number: CAI - Newell, no. 10 (A size)