Do You Still Have an Almanac?
When my children were young, I had two almanacs.
One I kept near the dining room table. I had little tolerance for arguing over facts that were known.
I had no problem with people expressing different opinions and defending them.
But, when it came to “This is true.” “No, this is true,” I wouldn’t let the discussion get too far before I’d pull out the almanac and look it up.
My kids were annoyed and neither of them became lawyers.
But, both of them became software engineers, a world where, to be sure, you have to figure out how to talk to computers in their own language.
But, there is no ambiguity.
If you do it right, the computer does what you want it to.
In the car, I kept an almanac that had colored pictures of the flags of the world.
We live near Washington, DC.
When a head of state from another country visits, the city puts out their flag next to the U.S. and District of Columbia flags.
If I were driving in the city and saw a flag, I wanted to know who was visiting.
The almanac told me.
Where Did Almanacs Come From?
Almanacs were originally designed to tell farmers when to plant.
They had seasonal weather information, tides and sunrise times.
Almanacs trace their origins to Greek astronomical and meteorological calendars. Early almanacs included horoscopes.
Everyone is familiar with Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, published annually between 1732 and 1758.
Franklin included weather information, but also puzzles and what are now well-known advice sayings, such as “A stitch in time saves nine,” and “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Many of these sayings were collected and published in a single booklet, under the title, The Way to Wealth, in 1758, at the end of the almanac’s run.
How Are Modern Almanacs Different?
You can still get almanacs.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac, whose 2012 edition marks its 220th consecutive edition, having started in 1792, still offers weather forecasts, tide and sunrise information and where the best fishing spots are.
It also advises you on how to use a broom properly (short strokes) and how to attack kudzu.
But, most modern almanacs, such as the last one I bought, the one I used to keep in the car, the Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac 2004, do not contain weather, sunrise or tide information.
The World Almanac is my other favorite, the one I used to keep next to the dining room table.
Modern almanacs are a compilation of facts about celebrities and newsmakers, and awards in sports and movies.
They include information about nature and science.
They include summaries of information about countries. My Encyclopedia Britannica almanac includes color plates of the flags of all the countries of the world.
They describe a brief history of the United States, a list of Presidents, a copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence and an overview of the population and size of each state.
Perhaps it is no surprise that it is the major encyclopedia publishers that write almanacs.
It’s like having an encyclopedia in one book.
And, just like reading an encyclopedia, you never know what interesting things you are going to learn while on your way to looking something up.
Click here to get The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2012.
Click here to get Time Almanac 2012, Powered by Encyclopedia Britannica
Click here to get The Old Farmers’ Almanac 2012
What are your favorite sayings from Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac?
Where do you get sunrise and tide information?
How do you know when to plant your garden? Go fishing?
To you and sharing with your grandchildren how to find things out.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
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