New Year’s Day & Almanacs—January 1st

From the Kalendar of Shepherdes (illus. 1529)

Alcohol poisoning might mean this is not the day to think about the New Year and make our resolutions but we might turn to an almanac to see what the year has ahead. Newspapers and the web have now taken over largely from almanacs. They print articles about the upcoming highlights of the Sporting Year or the Musical year and so one. But almanacs are still produced and arguably grew from medieval manuscript Books of Hours and, in particular, the 1493 Kalendar of Shepherds which was published in Paris. Each month was described with the addition of important information for farmers. By the 1600’s almanacs were the most published form of book other than the Bible. Lauren Kassell in ‘Almanacs and Prognostications’ reports estimates that by 1660 one third of every household had one.

ebay advert screenshot for Old Moore's Almanac 2024
ebay advert screenshot for Old Moore’s Almanac 2024

Originally, they had a Calendar for each month, and information about the phases of the month, the tides, predictions of the weather, and health issues likely to occur at that time of the year. Astrology was an important element of them. London Almanacs contained further information about the year, its ceremonies and elections of officials. And this informational side to the almanac grew, they began to include lists such as lists of monarchs, and interesting stories, verse foretelling the weather, recipes and cures. Almanacs are the source of most of the quotes used in blogs such as mine which look at all things calendrical.

Cover page of the Illustrated london almanack for 1867

Here, is a verse about January from the Kalendar of Shepherds

Verse about January from the Kalendar of Shepherde's (translated from the 1493 Paris edition)
January from the Kalendar of Shepherde’s (translated from the 1493 Paris edition)

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

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