Where does the phrase “time is of the essence” come from and What does it mean?

No doubt those who are accustomed to think of “essence” as being connected only with extracts of one kind or another, as essence of turpentine, essence of roses, find themselves at a loss when encountering this expression.

But some eighty years ago, especially in the phrase “of the essence”, it was a legal term, and its meaning was virtually that of “essential.”

Hence, when you sign a contract containing the term, “time is of the essence,” it would be well to understand that time is of the utmost importance in the fulfillment of that contract.