ALMOST as popular (and useful) as the Bible!

We recently acquired four (4) late eighteenth-century almanacs, two printed in Newport, and two in Worcester, MA. The Newport almanacs came from an auction in New York City, but were in fact (ironically, as these things go) de-accessioned as duplicates from a Providence library which is less than three miles away. The Worcester almanacs came from a dealer in Pennsylvania. All are destined for the Rhode Island collection.

Milton Drake, who compiled the standard bibliography, Almanacs of the United States, 1639-1875 (1962), rightly stated that “any portrait of early American life that does not include the almanac as a vital part of its fabric is severely deficient. Imagine a picture of life in the period, 1925-1945, without an important place for radio broadcasts . . . or the mid-20th century without paperback books.”
I highly recommend his short but thorough introduction to anyone delving into almanacs. Most telling (in terms of their vital importance) to me is his citation of an article written by Samuel Low in 1768:

“It is easy to prove that no book we read (except the Bible) is so much valued, and so serviceable to the community. Almanacks serve as clocks and watches for nine-tenths of mankind; and in fair weather are far more sure and regular than the best time-piece manufactur’d here or in London. Twenty gentlemen in company will hardly be able, by the help of their thirty-guinea watches, to guess within two hours of the true time of night. One says it is nine o’clock, another half after eight—a third, half after ten; whilst the poor peasant, who never saw a watch, will tell the time to a fraction, by the rising and setting of the moon, and some particular stars, which he learns from his almanack.”


One thought on “ALMOST as popular (and useful) as the Bible!

  1. Don't forget my great uncle's tome! Great for almanac lovers: America and Her Almanacs
    Wit, Wisdom, & Weather, 1639-1970.
    by Robb Hansell Sagendorph. (Dublin, N.H: Yankee, 1970)

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