views updated

almanacks were booklets, of varying length, containing astronomical and astrological information, details of weights and measures, a calendar, and other matters of practical use. They frequently included predictions of political events or natural disasters, proverbs, and other moral sayings, while some of the longer ones were designed to be of use to specific trades or callings. The almanack was therefore useful, and, from about 1650, might also be entertaining, as the astrological aspects became taken less seriously and almanack writers began to satirize the genre. What is clear is that almanacks were sold in vast numbers: some 400,000 a year in England in the 1660s, which suggests that one in every three families might own one. Many were published annually, and some almanack writers, especially in the 17th cent., enjoyed a steady living. The almanack gradually became more utilitarian, and as such remained in use well into the 19th cent.

J. A. Sharpe