An almanac (also spelled almanack and almanach) is an annual publication containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar. Astronomical data and various statistics are also found in almanacs, such as the times of the rising and setting of the sun and moon, eclipses, hours of full tide, stated festivals of churches, terms of courts, lists of all types, timelines, and more.


The word "almanac" was borrowed into English from the "al-manakh". The ultimate origin of the word is unknowncite book | last=Chabás | first=José | coauthor=BernardR. Goldstein| year=2000 | title=Astronomy in the Iberian Peninsula | url=,M1|] , but both Arabic "manah"cite book|title=The Museum of Science and Art|author=Dionysius Lardner|year=1855|publisher=Walton and Maberly|url=,M1|page=2] , "to reckon", and Egyptian "almenichiata" [George W. H. Lampe, "A Patristic Greek Lexicon" (Oxford, 1961) : 78] , "the supernatural rulers of the celestial bodies", have been suggested.

Early almanacs

The origin of the almanac can be traced back to ancient Babylonian astronomy, when tables of planetary periods were produced in order to predict lunar and planetary phenomena.Harv|Glick|Livesey|Wallis|2005|p=29]

The precursor to the almanac was the Hellenistic astronomical and meteorological calendar, the "parapegma," an inscribed stone, the days of the month indicated by movable pegs inserted into bored holes. According to Diogenes Laertius, "Parapegma" was the title of a book by Democritus. Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer (2nd century) wrote a treatise, "Phaseis"—"phases of fixed stars and collection of weather-changes" is the translation of its full title—the core of which is a "parapegma", a list of dates of seasonally regular weather changes, first appearances and last appearances of stars or constellations at sunrise or sunset, and solar events such as solstices, all organized according to the solar year. With the astronomical computations were expected weather phenomena, composed as a digest of observations made by various authorities of the past. "Parapegmata" had been composed for centuries. Similar treatises called Zij were later composed in medieval Islamic astronomy.

Ptolemy believed that the astronomical phenomena caused the changes in seasonal weather; his explanation of why there was not an exact correlation of these events was that the physical influences of other heavenly bodies also came into play. Hence for him, weather prediction was a special division of astrology.Cite web|url=|title=Ptolemy's Astronomical Works (other than the Almagest)|accessdate=2007-04-16]

The modern almanac differs from Babylonian, Ptolemaic and Zij tables in the sense that "the entries found in the almanacs give directly the positions of the celestial bodies and need no further computation", in contrast to the more common "auxiliary astronomical tables" based on Ptolemy's "Almagest". The earliest known almanac in this modern sense is the "Almanac of Azarqueil" written in 1088 by Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm al-Zarqālī (Latinized as Azarqueil) in Toledo, al-Andalus. The work provided the true daily positions of the sun, moon and planets for four years from 1088 to 1092, as well as many other related tables. A Latin translation and adaptation of the work appeared as the "Tables of Toledo" in the 12th century and the "Alfonsine tables" in the 13th century. [Harv|Glick|Livesey|Wallis|2005|p=30]

After almanacs were devised, people still saw little difference between predicting the movements of the stars and tides, and predicting the future in the divination sense. Early almanacs therefore contained general horoscopes, as well as the more concrete information. In 1150 Solomon Jarchus created such an almanac considered to be among the first modern almanacs. Copies of 12th century almanacs are found in the British Museum, and in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1300 Petrus de Dacia created an almanac (Savilian Library, Oxford). This was the same year Roger Bacon, OFM, produced his as well. In 1327 Walter de Elvendene created an almanac and later on John Somers of Oxford, in 1380. In 1386 Nicholas de Lynne, Oxford produced an almanac. In 1457 the first printed almanac was published at Mainz, by Gutenberg. Regio-Montanus produced an almanac in 1472 (Nuremberg, 1472), which was continued in print for several centuries in many editions. In 1497 the "Sheapheard’s Kalendar", translated from French (Richard Pynson) is the first English printed almanac. Richard Allestree's almanac is one of the first modern English almanacs (London ; William Stansby, 1633). In British America William Pierce of Harvard College published the first American almanac entitled, "An Almanac for New England for the year 1639" Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard became the first center for the annual publication of almanacs with various editors including Samuel Danforth, Oakes, Cheever, Chauncey, Dudley, Foster, et alia. An almanac maker going under the pseudonym of Poor Richard, Knight of the Burnt Island began to publish ["Poor Robin's Almanack"] one of the first comic almanacs that parodied these horoscopes in its 1664 issue, saying "This month we may expect to hear of the Death of some Man, Woman, or Child, either in Kent or Christendom." Other noteworthy comic almanacs include those published from 1687-1702 by John Tully of Saybrook, Connecticut. The most important early American almanacs were made from 1726-1775 by Nathaniel Ames of Dedham, Massachusetts. A few years later James Franklin began publishing the Rhode-Island Almanack beginning in 1728. Five years later his brother Benjamin Franklin began publishing, "Poor Richard’s Almanack" from 1733-1758. The best source for American almanacs is Milton Drake, "Almanacs of the United States", 2 volumes.

Contemporary almanacs

Currently published almanacs such as "Whitaker's Almanack" have expanded their scope and contents beyond that of their historical counterparts. Modern almanacs include a comprehensive presentation of statististical and descriptive data covering the entire world. Contents also include discussions of topical developments and a summary of recent historical events. Other currently published almanacs (ca. 2006) include "TIME Almanac with Information Please", "World Almanac and Book of Facts", "The Farmer's Almanac" and "The Old Farmer's Almanac".

Major topics covered by almanacs (reflected by their tables of contents) include: geography, government, demographics, agriculture, economics and business, health and medicine, religion, mass media, transportation, science and technology, sport, and awards/prizes.

Modern or contemporary use of the word almanac has come to mean a chronology or time-table of events such as "The Almanac of American Politics" published by the National Journal, or "The Almanac of American Literature", etc..

Almanacs by Country of Publication

* Quid

* Fischer Weltalmanach

United Kingdom
* Whitaker's Almanack
* Wisden Cricketers' Almanack

United States of America
* New York Times Almanac
* Old Farmer's Almanac
* TIME Almanac with Information Please
* World Almanac and Book of Facts

ee also

* Yearbook
* List of almanacs
* Gazetteer
* "Tonalamatl", the Aztec divinatory almanac
* Panchangam
* Panjika, Hindu astrological almanac in Assamese, Bengali and Oriya
* Encyclopedia



*Harvard reference
first1=Thomas F.
first2=Steven John
title=Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia

External links

* [,,28949--,00.html American Almanac Collection - Ball State University Archives and Special Collections Research Center]

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