A page from the Almanac for the Hindu year
An almanac (also spelled almanack) is an annual publication containing tabular information in a particular field or fields often arranged according to the calendar. Astronomical data and various statistics are also found in almanacs, such as the times of the rising and setting of the sun and moon, eclipses, hours of full tide, stated festivals of churches, terms of courts, lists of all types, timelines, and more. The word almanac comes from the Arabic ألمناخ al-manaakh, meaning "the climate".
 Early almanacs
The precursor to the almanac was the Greek weather-calendar, the parapegma. Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer (2nd century) wrote a treatise, Phaseis—"phases of fixed stars and collection of weather-changes" is the translation of its full title—the core of which is a parapegma, a list of dates of seasonally regular weather changes, first appearances and last appearances of stars or constellations at sunrise or sunset, and solar events such as solstices, all organized according to the solar year. With the astronomical computations were expected weather phenomena, composed as a digest of observations made by various authorities of the past. Parapegmata had been composed for centuries.
Ptolemy believed that the astronomical phenomena caused the changes in seasonal weather; his explanation of why there was not an exact correlation of these events was that the physical influences of other heavenly bodies also came into play. Hence for him, weather prediction was a special division of astrology.
When almanacs were first devised, people still saw little difference between predicting the movements of the stars and tides, and predicting the future in the divination sense. Early almanacs therefore contained general horoscopes, as well as the more concrete information. One almanac, Poor Robin's Almanack (not to be confused with Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac) parodied these horoscopes in its 1664 issue, saying "This month we may expect to hear of the Death of some Man, Woman, or Child, either in Kent or Christendom." This sort of almanac still exists as Old Moore's Almanac, although their more mainstream modern descendants are the Your Year in the Stars supplements in the New Year edition of some newspapers and magazines.
The origin of the word almanac is unclear. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that it is of uncertain medieval Arabic origin, comparing it to the modern Arabic word for weather, al-manakh. Other dictionaries have it from the Greek almenikhiaka for ephemeris, via the Medieval Latin almanach and the Middle English almenak. Richard Verstegan in his A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence (1605) says that the word originates in the Old Saxon Al-mon-aght, which he translates as "Al-mon-heed, to wit, the regard or observation of all the moons". He says that the Saxons would mark the new and full moons on an engraved square stick which they used to predict seasons and festivals - the stick was the Al-mon-aght.
 Contemporary almanacs
Currently published almanacs such as Whitaker's Almanack have expanded their scope and contents beyond that of their historical counterparts. Modern almanacs include a comprehensive presentation of statististical and descriptive data covering the entire world. Contents also include discussions of topical developments and a summary of recent historical events. Other currently published almanacs (ca. 2006) include Information Please Almanac and The Old Farmer's Almanac.
Major topics covered by almanacs (reflected by their tables of contents) include: geography, government, demographics, agriculture, economics and business, health and medicine, religion, mass media, transportation, science and technology, sport, and awards/prizes.
Specialized almanacs also are being published, such as The Almanac of American Politics published by the National Journal.
 See also
- ^ Ptolemy's Astronomical Works (other than the Almagest). Retrieved on 2007-04-16.
 External links