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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 11

ALMANACS.
oute of Duch into Englyshe by William Harrys.
At the end, ' Imprynted at London by John Daye,
dwellyne over Aldersgate, and Wyllyam Seres,
dwellyne in Peter Colledge. These Bokes are to
be sold at the Newe Shop by the Lytle Conduyte
in Chepesyde.'
'An Almanacke and Prognosticatyon for the
Yeare of our Lorde MDLI., practysed by Simon
Henringius and Lodowyke Boyard, Doctors in
Physike and Astronomye, 4c. At Worcester in
the Hygh Strete.'
' A Newe Almanacke and Prognostication, Col-
lected for the Yere ofour Lord MDL VII., wherein
is expressed the Change and Full of the Moone,
with their Quarters.  The Yarietie of the Ayre,
and also of the Windes throughout the whole Yere,
with Infortunate Times to Bie and Sell, take
Medicine, Sowe, Plant, and Journey.  c. Made
for the Meridian of Norwich and Pole Arcticke
LII. Degrees, and serving for all England. By
William Kenningham, Physician. Imprynted at
London by John Daye, dwelling over Alders-
gate.'
Leonard Digges, a mathematician of some emi-
nence, and the author of two or three practical
treatises on geometry and mensuration, was also
the author of a Prognostication, which was several
times reprinted under his own superintendence,
and that of his son, Thomas Digges.* It is not
properly an almanac, but a sort of companion
to the almanac, a collection of astrological ma-
terials, to be used by almanac-makers, or by the
public generally. It is entitled 'A Prognostication
everlasting of Right Good Effect, fructfully aug-
mented by the Author, containing Plaine, Briefe,
Pleasant, Chosen Rules to judge the Weather
by the Sunne, Moon, Starres, Comets, Rainbow,
Thunder, Clowdes, with other Extraordinary
Tokens, not omitting the Aspects of Planets, with
a Briefe Judgement for ever, of Plentie, Lacke,
Sicknes, Dearth, Warres, 91c., opening also many
naturall causes worthie to be knowne. To these and
other now at the last are joined divers generall
pleasant Tables, with many compendious Rules,
easie to be had in memorie, manifolde wayes pro-
fitable to all men of understanding. Published
by Leonard Digges. Lately Corrected and Aug-
mented by Thomas Digges, his sonne. London,
1605.' The first edition was published in 1553;
the second edition, in 1555, was 'fructfully aug-
mented,' and was ' imprynted at London within
the Blacke Fryars.' In his preface he thus
discourses concerning the influence of the stars
(the spelling modernised) : 'What meteoroscoper,
yea, who, learned in matters astronomical, noteth
the great effects at the rising of the star called
the Little Dog? Truly, the consent of the most
learned do agree of his force. Yea, Pliny, in his
History of Nature, affirms the seas to be then
most fierce, wines to flow in cellars, standing
waters to move, dogs inclined to madness. Fur-
ther, these constellations rising-Orion, Arcturus,
Corona-provoke tempestuous weather; the Kid
and Goat, winds; Hyades, rain. What meteor-
ologer consenteth not to the great alteration and
mutation of air at the conjunction, opposition, or
* L. Digges's Prognostication was published 1553 1555,
1556, 1567, 1576, 1578, 1605.
quadrant aspect of Saturn with either two lights ?
Who is ignorant, though poorly skilled in astro-
nomy, that Jupiter, wi th Mercury or with the sun.
enforces rage of winds? What is he that perceives
not the fearful thunders, lightnings, and rains at
the meeting of Mars and Venus, or Jupiter and
Mars ? Desist, for shame, to oppugn these judg-
ments so strongly authorised.   All truth, all
experience, a multitude of infallible grounded
rules, are against him.'
In France, a decree of Henry III., in 1579,
forbade all makers of almanacs to prophesy, di-
rectly or indirectly, concerning affairs either of
the state or of individuals. No such law was ever
enacted in England. On the contrary, James I.,
allowing the liberty of prophesying to continue
as before, granted a monopoly of the publication
of almanacs to the two Universities and the Com-
pany of Stationers. The Universities, however,
accepted an annuity from their colleagues, and
relinquished any active exercise of their privilege.
Under the patronage of the Stationers' Company,
astrology continued to flourish.
Almanac-making, before this time, had become
a profession, the members of which generally
styled themselves Philomaths, by which they
probably meant that they were fond of mathema-
tical science; and the astrologers had formed
themselves into a company, who had an annual
dinner, which Ashmole, in his Diary, mentions
having attended during several successive years.
The Stationers' Company were not absolutely
exclusive in their preference for astrological al-
manacs. Whilst they furnished an ample supply
for the credulous, they were willing also to sell
what would suit the taste of the sceptical; for
Allstree's Almanac in 1624 calls the supposed
influence of the planets and stars on the human
body 'heathenish,' and dissuades from astrology
in the following doggrel lines:
'Let every philomathy
Leave lying astrology;
And write true astronomy,
And I'll bear you company.'
Thomas Decker, at a somewhat earlier period,
evidently intending to ridicule the predictions of
the almanac-makers, published The Raven's Al-
manacke, foretelling of a Plague, Famine, and
Civill Warr, that shall happen this present yere,
1609. With certaine Remedies, Rules and Receipts,
&c. It is dedicated 'To the Lyons of the Wood,
to the Wilde Buckes of the Forrest, to the Harts
of the Field, and to the whole countr that are
brought up wisely to prove Guls, and are born
rich to dye Beggars.' By the Lyons, Buckes, and
Harts, are meant the courtiers and gallants, or
'fast young men' of the time.
There was perhaps no period in which the pro-
phetic almanacs were more eagerly purchased
than during the civil wars of Charles I. and the
parliament. The notorious William Lilly was
one of the most influential of the astrologers and
almanac-makers at that time, and in his autobio-
graphy not only exhibits a picture of himself
little creditable to him, but furnishes curious
portraits of several of his contemporary almanac-
makers, Dr Dee, Dr Forman, Booker, Winder,
Kelly, Evans, and others.    The character of
11
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