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Almanac

almanacs, published, time, manuscript, contained, stationers and astronomy

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' ALMANAC. The derivation of this word has given some trouble to gram marians. The most rational derivation appears to be from the two Arabic words al, the article, and mana or manah, to count.

An almanac, in the modern sense of the word, is an annual publication, giving the civil divisions of the year, the move able and other feasts, and the times of the various astronomical phenomena, in cluding not only those which are remark able, such as the eclipses of the moon or sun, but also those of a more ordinary and useful character, such as the places of the sun, moon, and planets, the position of the principal fixed stars, the times of high and low water, and such informa tion relative to the weather as observation has hitherto furnished. The agricul tural, political, and statistical information which is usually contained in popular almanacs, though as valuable a part of the work as any, is comparatively of mo dern date.

It is impossible that any country in which astronomy was at all cultivated could be long without an almanac of some species. Accordingly we find the first astronomers of every age and country employed, either in their construction or improvement. The belief in astrology, which has prevailed throughout the East from time immemorial, rendered alma nacs absolutely necessary, as the very foundation of the pretended science con sisted in an accurate knowledge of the state of the heavens. With the almanacs, if indeed they had them not before, the above-mentioned absurdities were intro duced into the West, and it is only within these few years that astrological predic tions have not been contained in nine almanacs out of ten. It is not known what were the first almanacs published in Europe. That the Alexandrine Greeks constructed them in or after the time of Ptolemy, appears from an account of Theon, the celebrated commentator upon the Almagest, in a manuscript found by M. Delambre at Paris, in which the me thod of arranging them is explained, and the proper materials pointed out. It is impossible to suppose that at any period almanacs were uncommon : but in the dearth of books whose names have come down to us, the earliest of which Lalande, an indefatigable bibliographer, could obtain any notice, are those of Solomon Jarchus, published in and about 1150, and of the celebrated Purbach, published 1450-1461. The almanacs of Regio

montanus, said by Bailly, in his History of Astronomy,' to have been the first ever published, but which it might be more correct to say ever printed, appeared be tween 1475 and 1506, since which time we can trace a continued chain of such productions. (Bibliographic Astrono migue of Lalande, and Hutton's Mathema tical Dictionary, article Ephemeris!) The almanacs of Regiomontanus, which simply contained the eclipses and the places of the planets, were sold, it is said, for ten crowns of gold. An almanac for 1442, in manuscript, we presume, is pre served in the Bibliotheque du Ror at Paris. The almanacs of Engel of Vienna were published from 1494 to 1500, and those of Bernard de Granolachs of Bar celona, from about 1487. There are va rious manuscript almanacs of the four teenth century in the libraries of the British Museum, and of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The first astronomical almanacs pub lished in France were those of Duret de Montbrison, in 1637, which series con tinued till 1700. But there must have been previous publications of some simi lar description ; for, in 1579, an ordon nance of Henry III. forbade all makers of almanacs to prophesy, directly or in directly, concerning the affairs either of the state or of individuals. In England James I. granted a monopoly of the trade in almanacs to the Universities and to the Stationers' Company, and under their patronage astrology flourished till beyond the middle of the last century, but not altogether unopposed ; the humorous at tack of Swift, under the name of Bicker staff, upon Partridge's almanac, is well known, both from the amusement which the public derived from the controversy and the perpetuation of the assumed sur name in the Tatter.' But though Swift stopped the mouth of Partridge, he could not destroy the corporation under whose direction the almanac was published. The Stationers' Company (for the Uni versities were only passive, having ac cepted an annuity from their colleagues, and resigned any active exercise of their privilege) found another Partridge, as good a prophet as his predecessor; nor have we been without one to this day.

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