The New Student's Reference Work/Almanacs
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Almanacs (al′ mā́-năks), or books in which information is given about the seasons, the sun and moon, eclipses and other phenomena of astronomy, are at least as old as the fifth century after Christ, when they were in use in Alexandria. They may be much older, and of Asiatic origin. With the invention of printing they became common in Europe. They generally contained predictions, the most famous of which was one that happened to be correct, in which Nostradamus foretold the death of Henry II of France. In America the best known almanac was that of Franklin, called Poor Richard’s, and begun in 1732. Until 1828, when the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge issued a valuable English almanac, most of those which were sold were either useless for practical purposes or else full of coarse and superstitious remarks. Since that date, however, almanacs have either been published for their practical utility or else for advertisement. In the former class may be mentioned firstly the Nautical Almanac, published by the British Government since 1767, which is quite necessary to navigators; secondly, the French Connaissance des Temps; thirdly, the German Astronomisches Jahrbuch; and finally the United States American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. Very good almanacs are published yearly by some of the great American newspapers; such as the World and the Tribune; and in these may often be found the exact date of events which are remote enough to be forgotten, but too recent to be readily found in books of reference.