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Calendarium cracoviense, an almanac for the year 1474.

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 etymology of "almanac" is hazy. It was borrowed into English from Old French almanach or Medieval Latin almanachus, from the Spanish-Arabic word al-manakh[1] "calendar, almanac", citing the "Kitab al-Manakh," a 13th century publication by eminent Moroccan scholar, mathematician and astronomer, Ibn al-Banna al-Marrakushi.[2] This word is probably from Late Greek almenichiakon "calendar"[3], akin to Patristic Greek almenichiata[4], "the supernatural rulers of the celestial bodies", from Coptic. However, the ultimate origin of the word is unknown[5]. The Arabic manah[6], "to reckon" has been suggested. Most sources do not trace much beyond the Greek and Latinate etymologies, thus ignoring significant evidence of the word's usage in Egyptian or Arabic languages.

Early almanacs

A page from the Almanac for the Hindu year 1871-72.

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.[1]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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 (eight years before the famous Bible). 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. By the second half of the sixteenth century, yearly almanacs were being produced in English by men such as Anthony Askham, Thomas Buckminster, John Dade and Gabriel Frende. In the seventeenth century, English almanacs were bestsellers, second only to the Bible; by the middle of the century, 400,000 almanacs were being produced annually (a complete listing can be found in the English Short Title Catalogue). Richard Allestree (who is not the same as Richard Allestree) wrote one of the more popular English almanac, producing yearly volumes from 1617 to 1643, but his is by no means the earliest or the longest-running almanac. 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 (1962), 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 statistical 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. In 2007, Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine launched the first Canadian Almanac, written in Canada, with all-Canadian content. There are almanacs with "Canadian Edition" or "For Canada" on the cover, but these are American books, which simply "spill" into Canada, with a few pages of Canadian weather predictions, etc. added.

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, The Almanac of British Politics, etc..

List of almanacs by country of publication


  • Harrowsmith's Truly Canadian Almanac (1st Edition, September 2007)


  • Almanaque Bristol


  • De Druivelaar


  • Quid


  • Fischer Weltalmanach


  • Enkhuizer Almanak
  • Deventer Almanak
  • Nieropper Almanak

United Kingdom

  • Whitaker's Almanack
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
  • Schott's Almanac
  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestling Almanac

United States of America

  • New York Times Almanac
  • Old Farmer's Almanac
  • TIME Almanac with Information Please
  • World Almanac and Book of Facts
  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated Wrestling Almanac


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

Almanac calculators

  • Dirck Rembrantsz van Nierop
  • Pieter Rembrantsz van Nierop
  • Jan Albertsz van Dam
  • Dirck Jansz van Dam
  • Meyndert van Dam
  • Jacob de Gelder
  • Mattheus van Nispen
  • Isaac Haringhuysen
  • Lucas Jansz Sinck
  • Andreas van Luchtenburg
  • Jan van Dam
  • Theodor Caesmes



  • Glick, Thomas F.; Steven John Livesey & Faith Wallis (2005), Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia, Routledge, ISBN 0415969301

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