ALMANAC

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ALMANAC ; a table or calendar, in which are set down the revolutions of the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the most remarkable conjunctions, positions and phenomena of the heavenly bodies, for every month and day of the year; also the several fasts and feasts to be observed in the church and state, &c. The history of A., and even the etymology of the word, are involved in considerable obscurity. By some, it is derived from the Arabic al manach, to count. Verstegan, who has written on the antiquities of Great Britain under the title of Restitution of decayed Intelligence concerning Britaine, makes the word of German origin, almonat, and says that the Saxons were in the habit of carving the annual courses of the moon upon a square piece of wood, which they called almonaught. The modern almanac answers to the fasti of the ancient Romans. There are several very splendid English almanacs of the 14th century existing in MS., particularly in the British museum. A very curious specimen is in the library of Corpus Christi college, Cambridge. Almanacs became generally usedin Europe within a short time after the invention of printing; and they were very early remarkable, as some are now in England, for the mixture of truth and falsehood which they contained. In 1579, their effects in France were found so mischievous, from the pretended prophecies which they published, that an edict was promulgated by Henry III, forbidding any predictions to be inserted in them relating to civil affairs, whether those of the state or of private persons. No such law was ever enacted in England. It is singular, that the earliest English almanacs were printed in Holland, on small folio sheets; and these have occasionally been preserved, from having been pasted within the covers of old books. In the reign of James I, letters patent were granted to the two universities and the Stationers' Company for an exclusive right of printing almanacs. These, in 1775, were declared to be illegal. During the civil wars of Charles I, and thence onward to our own times, English almanacs became conspicuous for the unblushing boldness of their astrological predictions, and their determined perpetuation of popular errors. At the present day, the almanacs of the continental states are generally free from misleading matters of this nature; and the almanacs most similar to some of those extensively circulated amongst the English are produced in Persia. A modern Persian almanac is thus described in the Encyclopedia Metropolitana: "The first page contains a list of fortunate days for certain purposes; as, for example, to buy, to sell, to take medicine, to marry, &c.; then follow predictions of events, as earthquakes, storms, political affairs, &c, after the manner of Moore's Almanac, except being apparently more concise." This resemblance between the productions of a highlycultivated nation, and one which is noted for its general ignorance, is a remarkable instance of the permanency of vulgar errors. The first almanac at Constantinople is said to have been printed in 1716, under the direction of Abdonaham. Regiomontanus was the first person in Europe, who prepared almanacs in their present form with the exception of their predictions, which were, in all probability, introduced into Europe from the Persians.Some of the almanacs in the U. States still contain predictions respecting the weather. There is, perhaps, no class of books, which bea* so obviously the stamp of the age, and of the spirit of different countries, as aim? nacs. At present, they become every year more full of statistical matter. Once they were almost entirely filled with subjects of a religious character. At another time they overflowed with astrological calculations and predictions. In the time of Napoleon, an almanac was published in France, in which, to every day, an achievement of the emperor, or something else relating to him, was added. Almanacs, in the petty principalities of Germany, exhibit the endless genealogical tables of the princes. Some almanacs in modern Greek, printed at Venice, where, formerly, all books in this language were published, we found full of astrological superstition, and matters relating to the Greek church. One of the most curious almanacs which we have seen is an Italian one for 1822, exhibiting, in a striking manner, the Italian vivacity. To the 30th of July is added, Sudano ancora le ossa ! to the 11th of August, Oh! eke noja; to July 12, Cascano le braccia; to January 2, Stivali e Ombrello! In Germany, almanack is the name given to annuals like those which appear in England, and the U. States of America, under the names of Souvenir, Forget me not, &c. In France, a work appears annually under the title of Almanack des Gourmands, which is conducted with much spirit, and is in high repute among epicures.