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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

Time and its natural measurers,   pp. 1-14 ff. PDF (9.3 MB)

Page 10

about the year 1300, published an almanac, of
which there is a manuscript copy in the Savilian
Library at Oxford. In this almanac the influence
of the planets is thus stated:
'Jupiter atque Venus boni, Saturnusque malignus;
Sol et Mercurius cum Luna sunt mediocres.'
The ' homo signorum' (man of the signs), so
common in later almanacs, is conjectured to have
had its origin from Peter of Dacia.
During the middle ages, Oxford was the seat of
British science, mixed as that science occasionally
was with astrology, alchemy, and other kinds of
false learning; and from Oxford the standard
almanacs emanated; for instance, that of John
Somers, written in 1380, of Nicolas de Lynna,
published in 1386, and others.
An almanac for 1386 was printed as a literary
curiosity in 1812. It is a small 8vo, and is thus
introduced: 'Almanae for the Year 1386. Tran-
scribed verbatim from the Original Antique Illum-
inated Manuscript in the Black Letter; omitting
only the Monthly Calendars and some Tables.
Containing many Curious Particulars illustrative
of the Astronomy, Astrology, Chronology, History,
Religious Tenets, and Theory and Practice of
Medicine of the Age. Printed for the Proprietor
by C. Stower, Hackney, 1812. The Manuscript
to be disposed of. Ap y to the printer. Entered
at Stationers' Hall.' he contents are-1. The
Houses of the Planets and their Properties; 2.
The Exposition of the Signs; 3. Chronicle of
Events from the Birth of Cain; 4. To find the
Prime Numbers; 5. Short Notes on Medicine;
6. On Blood-letting; 7. A Description of the
Table of Signs and Movable Feasts; 8. Quanti-
tates Diei Artificialis. Of the information given
under the head, 'Exposycion of the Synes,' the
following extract may serve as a specimen: 'Aqua-
rius es a syne in the whilk the son es in Jany,
and in that moneth are 7 plyos [pluviose] dayes,
the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 15, 19, and if thoner is heard in
that moneth, it betokens grete wynde, mykel
fruite, and batel.  Aquarius is hote, moyste,
sanguyne, and of that ayre it es gode to byg cas-
tellis, or hous, or to wed.' The clumsy method
of expressing numbers of more than two figures,
shews that the Arabic notation had been but
recently introduced, and was then imperfectly
understood; for instance, 52mcc20 is put for
Almanacs in manuscript of the fifteenth century
are not uncommon. In the library at Lambeth
Palace there is one dated 1460, at the end of
which is a table of eclipses from 1460 to 1481.
There is a very beautiful calendar in the library
of the University of Cambridge, with the date of
The first almanac printed in Europe was prob-
ably the Kalendarium Novum, by Regiomontanus,
calculated for the three years 1475, 1494, and 1513.
It was published at Buda, in Hungary. Though
it simply contained the eclipses and the places of
the planets for th respective years, it was sold,
it is said, for ten crowns of gold, and the whole
impression was soon disposed of in Hungary,
Germany, Italy, France, and England.
The first almanac known to have been printed
in England was the Sheapheards Xalendar, trans.
lated from the French, and printed by Richard
Pynson in 1497.   It contains a large quantity of
extraneous matter. As to the general influence
of the celestial bodies, the reader is informed that
'Saturne is hyest and coldest, being full old,
And Mars with his bluddy swerde ever ready tc
Sol and Luna is half good and half ill.'
Each month introduces itself with a description
in verse. January may be given as an example:
'Called I am Januyere the colde.
In Christmas season good fyre I love.
Yonge Jesu, that sometime Judas solde,
In me was circumcised for man's behove.
Three kinges sought the sonne of God above;
They kneeled downe, and dyd him homage, with love
To God their Lorde that is mans own brother.'
Another very early printed almanac, of unusu-
ally small size, was exhibited to the Society of
Antiquaries on the 16th of June 1842. Dr Bliss
brought it with him from Oxford. It had been
found by a friend of Dr Bliss at Edinburgh, in
an old chest, and had been transmitted to him as
a present to the Bodleian Library. Its dimen-
sions were 21 inches by 2 inches, and it consisted
of fifteen leaves. The title in black letter, was
Almanacke for XII. Yere. On the third leaf,
'Lately corrected and emprynted in the Flete-
strete by Wynkyn de Worde. In the yere of
the reyne of our most redoubted sovereayne Lorde
Kinge Henry the VII.'
Almanacs became common on the continent
before the end of the fifteenth century, but were
not in general use in England till about the
middle of the sixteenth. Skilful mathematicians
were employed in constructing the astronomical
part of the almanacs, but the astrologers supplied
the supposed planetary influences and the pre-
dictions as to the weather and other interesting
matters, which were required to render them
attractive to the popular mind.  The title-pages
of two or three of these early almanacs will suffi-
ciently indicate the nature of their contents.
A Prognossicacion and an Almanack fastened
together, declaring the Dispocission of the People
and also of the Wether, with certain Electyons and
Tymes chosen both for Phisike and Surgerye, and
for the husbandman.    And also for Hawekyng,
Huntyng, Fishyng, and Foulynge, according to
the Science of Astronomy, made for the Yeare of
our Lord God M.D.L.. Calculedfor the Merydyan
of Yorke, and practiced by Anthony Askham. At
the end, 'Imprynted at London, in Flete Strete,
at the Signe of the George, next to SayntDunstan's
Church, by Wyllyam Powell, cum privilegio ad
imprimendum solum.' Then follows the Prognos-
tication, the title-page to which is as follows:
A Prognossicacion for the Yere of our Lord
M.CCCCC.L., Calculed upon the Merydyan of
the Towne of Anwarpe and the Country thereabout,
by Master Peter of Moorbeeke, Doctour in Phy.
sicke of the same Towne, whereunto is added the
Judgment of M. Cornelius Schute, Doctour in
Physicke of the Towne of Bruges in Flanders,
upon and concerning the Disposicion, Estate, and
Condicion of certaine Prynces, Contreys, and
Regions, for the present Yere, gathered oute of kis
Prognossicacion for the same Yere. Translated

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