The almanac (from the Arabic al-manākh, "climate" or the place where the camels stopped to unload and load goods and supplies) is an annual publication similar to the calendar, but with additional information, such as astronomical indications (the hours of the rising and setting of the Sun and the Moon, geographic and statistical).
The almanac was born in the Middle Ages. The first recorded almanacs date back to 1088, and at the beginning they were made up of astronomical tables that made it possible to obtain the day of the week or convert dates from one era to another; later they became a multisectoral periodical publication that provided news and information of various kinds.
They gave astronomical information useful to farmers and sailors, such as the position of stars, planets and constellations visible month by month, therefore the alternation of the seasons.
Other news included weather forecasts, future events, births, deaths and marriages in royal families, crop and livestock prices, dates and locations for fairs. There were also rudimentary notions of medicine, as well as reports and tales of events that took place in the world and written in a popular version.
In the 16th century, the advent of the press favored the further success of the almanacs, as they represented the main (sometimes the only) means of cultural diffusion among the peasant and artisan population. In the 18th century, almanacs were particularly in vogue. The publication of the ephemeris turned out to be an economic affair that the sovereigns of France and England, who held the monopoly, granted only to duly authorized publishers. The subsequent diffusion in popular neighborhoods and in the countryside was provided by street vendors who often read it in the squares to an illiterate public.
Famous is the Nostradamus almanac, Centurie astrologica, published in 1550, still consulted today by astrologers and seers. Among the other most important almanacs are: the Almanac of Gotha, published in Germany, which since 1763 contains the genealogical trees of princely families and the European nobility; the Nautical Almanac published since 1766 in England for astronomers and sailors; the Almanac of the Muses, well known in France and Germany, in which literary reviews of poetry were published; Poor Richard's Almanac (1732), very famous in the United States of America, founded and written for twenty-five years by Benjamin Franklin.
Nowadays in Italy some almanacs faithful to popular tradition are very widespread such as the Barbanera di Foligno and the Schieson Trevisan, both of eighteenth-century origin, or the religious one of Frate Indovino, which has been published since 1945. On television it went on air until the nineties the Almanac of the day after, characterized by a symbol with a medieval flavor, which became part of the collective imagination.
Among the other information present, are traditionally reported: the main holidays, news on fairs and markets, short stories, historical and geographical curiosities, proverbs and pastimes.
A similar approach is followed by sports almanacs, yearbooks that collect numbers and chronicles of the competitive year.
In Giacomo Leopardi's Operette Morali we find the Dialogue of an almanac seller and a passenger.
The almanac in the memory of the UNESCO world
In 2015 UNESCO indicated a collection of Italian almanacs, namely a collection of 356 lunar and Barbanera almanacs preserved in Umbria, as a symbol of the entire almanac literature of every time and place. The collection has been included in the Memory of the world Register, testifying to the role of literacy and dissemination of knowledge historically played by popular almanacs