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almanac, originally, a calendar with notations of astronomical and other data. Almanacs have been known in simple form almost since the invention of writing, for they served to record religious feasts, seasonal changes, and the like. The Roman fasti, originally a list of dies fasti (days when legal business might be transacted) and dies nefasti (days when legal business should not be transacted), were later elaborated into various lists, some of them resembling modern almanacs.

The almanac did not become a really prominent type of reading matter until the introduction of printing in Western Europe in the 15th cent. Regiomontanus produced one of the famous early almanacs (his Ephemerides), incorporating his astronomical knowledge. Most early almanacs were devoted primarily to astrology and predictions of the future. Prediction of the weather has persisted in many modern almanacs, but the crude and sensational magic began to disappear early, to be replaced by more or less scientific information. Late in the 18th cent. truly scientific almanacs appeared—notably the British Nautical Almanac (founded 1767; see ephemeris), which was the inspiration for the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac (founded 1855).

The popular almanac, however, developed in the 17th and 18th cent. into a full-blown form of folk literature, with notations of anniversaries and interesting facts, home medical advice, statistics of all sorts, jokes, and even fiction and poetry. The first production (except for a broadside) of printing in British North America was an almanac for the year 1639. One of the best colonial almanacs was the Astronomical Diary and Almanack begun by Nathaniel Ames in 1725, and this was the forerunner of the most famous of them all, Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanack (pub. by him 1732–57), which in its title recalled one of the most popular and long-lasting of English almanacs, that of “Poor Robin” (founded c.1662). The most enduring of all American almanacs was first published in 1792 by Robert Bailey Thomas; it came later to be called The Old Farmer's Almanac[k].

The best types of present-day almanacs are handy and dependable compendiums of large amounts of statistical information. Noteworthy American almanacs include The World Almanac and Book of Facts (first pub. as a booklet in 1868, discontinued 1876, revived 1886), and the Information Please Almanac (first pub. 1947, now the Time Almanac). There are also useful almanacs devoted to particular topics, such as sports, health care, Native Americans, and specific countries, or designed for specific audiences, such as children.

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The four sides of the clog almanac are shown extended to reveal the marks for each day. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

An almanac is a book or booklet containing sets of tables, particularly calendrical tables, announcing astronomical or astrological events (such as Moon phases, eclipses, and beginnings of seasons) and carrying historical facts, information on planting by the signs, and other types of data. Older almanacs (the almanac tradition has been traced as far back as the Hellenistic period) contained prophetic announcements, a tradition carried on by modern almanacs, which usually predict the day-by-day weather on the basis of meteorological astrology. In U.S. history, the most well-known example was Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732–1757), which was issued by Benjamin Franklin. The Old Farmer’s Almanac remains popular in rural areas.


DeVore, Nicholas. Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1947.
Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Astrology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.
Thomas, Robert B. The Old Farmer’s 1991 Almanac. Dublin, NH: Yankee Publishing, 1990.
The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) A nonperiodic collection containing information from various fields of public activity such as literary news, scientific achievements, legislative changes, and so forth. Such almanacs are similar in type to so-called calendar-reference books.

(2) Literary almanac—a collection of literary works that are often united by some feature—theme, genre, school of thought, and so forth. They first appeared in Western Europe (France) in the middle of the 18th century and in Russia at the end of the 18th century.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(science and technology)
A book that contains astronomical or meteorological data, arranged according to days, weeks, and months of a given year, and may also contain diverse information of a nonastronomical character.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
(2) The contract specified forty-eight duodecimo pages, to be entitled the Farmer's Almanack. Thomas also suggested "filler" to the printer; for example, suggesting inserting a "correct list of the Senators & Representatives of the present Congress of the United States" in 1796, with a note pointing to the problems of news and information gathering, "if such a one can be procured." (3) Thomas also enquired a few weeks earlier how the almanac was progressing, wanting the printer to "furnish a few good Anecdotes if possible." (4) After they were published in October 1796, Thomas wrote rather anxiously to the printer asking for his copies, "as I feel anxious to know something about them." (5) Such correspondence is typical of printers and their almanac-makers.
Ames's Almanack for 1766 included a note from the printers, stating that such corrections could be sent free of charge if one would "send a Line to Richard and Samuel Draper." (2) Benjamin Larkin corresponded regularly with the printer John Mycall.
In response, The Navigator's Kalendar, or Nautical Almanack, for 1783 [New York, 1782], the first nautical almanac in America, was resolutely patriotic.
(1.) Daniel Leeds, An Almanack for the Year of Christian Account 1687: Particularly Respecting the Meridian and Latitude of Burlington, but May Indifferently Serve All Places Adjacient, quoted in Hall, Cultures of Print, p.121.
I imagine Anthony will be the best Hand to go upon the Dutch Almanack as he understands Dutch a little....
(3.) The Navigator's Kalendar, or Nautical Almanack, for 1783 [New York, 1782] [AAS; Ear 1, digital supplement 49903].
(5.) William Goddard's Pennsylvania, Delaware Maryland, and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of our Lord, 1787 (Baltimore: Printed and sold, wholesale and retail, by William Goddard, [1786]) [AAS, Canals 061 Opin 1835; Evans 18687].
(3.) See Priscilla Holyoake's diary in Ames's Almanack Revised and Improved for 1766 [AAS].
(4.) The Virginia Almanack for the Year of Our Lord God 1774 ...
(5.) Those that survive are often interleaved, and contain M S S notes, e.g., An Almanack and Register for Jamaica for ...