Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated]


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Because almanacs were so important to colonists, printers would pay an astrologer a lot of money to do the calculations -- almost as much as a Justice of the Peace was paid. Benjamin Franklin was a man of science who was able to do his own calculations. You can see how widely these almanacs circulated by looking at the list of courts Franklin published —- Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

His almanacs could probably be found as far south as Georgia.


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The most important use of an almanac was to predict the weather and to help people know when to plant their crops. There were no weathermen in the colonial period, no daily forcasts to read or listen to. People relied on their almanacs to know the best time to plant their crops and whether it was going to be a wet spring or a dry summer. But without modern science to rely on, people predicted the weather using astrology -- studying the movements of the planets and stars in the belief that they influenced events on earth.

Even an illiterate person could read the astrological symbols because it was so important to the agriculture of the colonial period. The monthly pages of the almanac also contain poems, advice, and historical information. Transcriptions of excerpts are below each image. In the eighteenth century, printers freely republished works from other sources -- poems, newspaper reports, and even whole books were reprinted without any formal permission from the author or the original publisher.

Additionally, many works were published anonymously or under a pseudonym a "pen name" such as Franklin's "R. Saunders" , and so no one would have known whom to credit. As a result, we have no idea who wrote this poem or where it might have come from. Whilst in their Folds the harmless bestial sleep. The furious Lion roams in quest of Prey. Again the Sun his morning Beams displays, and fires the eastern Mountain with his Rays.

This is the symbol for the sun, so this column lists times of the sunrise, and the next lists the sunset. Note that times are printed without any punctuation, so there is simply a space where we would put a colon in In times like , there is no 0, so sunrise for January 23 is listed simply as 7 9.

This column lists the placement of the moon in the sky. Astrologers divide the sky into twelve regions, each "ruled" by one of the constellations of the zodiac. Since the moon rises at a different time each night, it appears to progress through the zodiac over the course of the month. According to astrology, days when the moon is in a particular sign of the zodiac may be affected by that sign. The crescent moon symbol, of course, represents the moon.

In this column Franklin notes the locations in the sky of the planets and of other non-zodiac constellations. These, too, had astrological significance that we won't attempt to explain here. The planets Uranus, Neptune, and the dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres hadn't been discovered yet. Circumcision Among other things in this column, Franklin lists important days in the Christian calendar.

Benjamin Franklins Poor Richard's Almanacks - Illustrated by Norman Rockwell

The Feast of the Circumcision marks the eighth day after Jesus' birth, the day on which he would have been circumcised. Epiphany Epiphany is the twelfth day after Christmas, in Christian tradition the day the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus. An epiphany is a sudden and dramatic realization, and Epiphany in the Christian calendar marks the day when Jesus was revealed as the son of God. The Sun and Moon, the most conspicuous to us of all the celestial Bodies, are the only ones mentioned in the sacred Text Franklin is referring to the Bible.

Until the s, Europeans, following the writings of the ancient astronomer Ptolemy, believed that sun, moon, planets, and stars revolved around a motionless earth. In , Nicolaus Copernicus published his theory that the earth and the five planets then known -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn -- revolved around the sun. Copernicus' ideas were highly controversial in Europe, because they opposed the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Galileo, famously, was arrested for publishing works agreeing with him after Galileo used his telescope to see the moons of Jupiter in orbit around that planet. Other astronomers and scientists refined these ideas, and they gradually gained acceptance. It's interesting that his explanation of astronomy continues in the next paragraph with definitions of highly technical language. In an age when few people went to school at all, Franklin's almanac was an important source for this kind of educational material -- and, apparently, his readers were interested in learning some "real" science!

As this may probably fall into the Hands of some, who have not Leisure or Opportunities of reading Books of Astronomy, the following brief View of our System, and of the Immensity of the Creation, according to the Theory of the Moderns, may not be unacceptable. It is proper, in the first Place, just to mention, That the real Magnitude , Distances, Orbits, and other Affections In this context, affection means a property, quality, or attribute. Both were known for their bravery and patriotism. Plutarch Plutarch was a Greek historian who lived from 46 C. Europeans became interested in science and scientific exploration in a way that they had not been during the previous centuries.

As part of this explosion of ideas and interest in scientific thought, people became fascinated with the Greeks and the Romans. Europeans believed they were living in a time that was similar to the golden ages of Rome and Greece.

They created works of arts that depicted famous people and scenes from Roman history, and they sometimes painted contemporary people, including men such as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, as though they were Roman and Greek heroes. Because of the popularity of Greek and Roman history and mythology, Franklin's audiences would have been familiar with these stories and characters.

Like much of what appears in the alamanac, this story seems to have been chosen for its moral or political message. On the 1st of this Month, February, A. Self-Sufficiency exposed The Honour which Science and Genious Genius confer, results not merely from literary Attainments, and the Talents of the Mind, but the good Use made of them; for a Man may be adorned with the Knowledge of every Thing that is most curious and exquisite in the Sciences, and yet be a bad Man.

This makes a Man learned, but does not make him good. And if a Man be only learned Although we tend to think of colonial America as a deeply religious place, church attendance actually decreased throughout the colonial period. By , fewer than 15 percent of adults belonged to a church. Church attendance was at its lowest point just before the Revolution. But although people did not attend church, Christianity was part of the popular culture.

Most people, white and black, would have been familiar with biblical stories and poems even if they might not know the finer points of Christianity. Because people did not belong to any particular church, they were open to blending different traditions into a popular culture that had pagan influences, such as palm reading and astrology, as well as Christian traditions such as the baptism of children.

Almanacs blended the Occult and Christian traditions. You can see the pagan influences in the astrological symbols in the pages above and in the Man of Signs, below; and the Christian influence is clear from the quotations from the Bible. The Man of Signs is perhaps the most confusing image in almanacs. Before the s, people had a very different understanding of the body. People believed that the world was made up of four elements -- water, fire, earth, and air. The human body had four humors -- fluids -- that controlled its function, each corresponding to one of the four elements: blood air , phlegm water , black bile earth , and yellow bile fire.

Each humor was in turn related to a particular temperament, so a person with more yellow bile fire might have a warmer body and a temper, while a person who had more phlegm water might be cooler in temperament. If the humors or elements became unbalanced, disease might be the result. The four elements also corresponded with astrological signs.

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Parts of the body were also believed to be governed, or more powerful, at different parts of the year. People read these astrological signs to know how their health might change throughout the year. Transcriptions of these pages are below.

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To know where the Sign is. Then finding the Sign here, it shews the Part of the Body it governs.


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Courteous Reader, This is the twentieth Time of my Addressing thee in this Manner, and I have reason to flatter myself my Labours have not been unacceptable to the Publick. Obviously, on any given day somewhere on the planet it is raining or snowing or the sun is shining. In the s, it was becoming clear to Europeans that the Julian calendar they had used since the days of the Roman Empire was slowly getting out of sync with the seasons. But after years, that tiny difference added up. To correct that error, the Gregorian calendar eliminates the leap year in years ending in 00, unless they are divisible by The Gregorian calendar is accurate to within 26 seconds a year.

To make up the days lost over the centuries, when Pope Gregory ordered the new calendar to be implemented in , he also ordered that ten days simply be dropped. Once again, the calendar was in sync with the seasons. I have only added a Column in the Second Page of each month, containing the Days of the Old Stile opposite to their corresponding Days in the New, which may, in many Cases, be of Use; and so conclude believing you will excuse a short preface, when it is to make Room for something better.

Thy Friend and Servant, R. Saunders was a pseudonym an alias or pretend name used by an author of Benjamin Franklin. The original Richard Saunders was a well-known astrologer who lived in England during the s. The use of this name by Franklin shows us how much colonists in America shared with people of England.

Awake, my Soul! Shines forth, and cheers his Universe around. Who with a radiant Veil of heavenly Light Himself conceals from all created Sight. One of the most important events in colonial America were court dates. The artist was Robert Dighton, an illustrator and caricaturist who frequently worked with Bowles. The revised American version was produced by Samuel A. Holland with the same basic layout except that the portrait of Franklin was replaced, enlarged and moved to the center, the title omitted the reference to Bowles, typefaces were updated, and foliate decoration was added between the ovals.

Perry, Boston. D and F.

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Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated] Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated]
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Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated] Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated]
Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated] Poor Richard’s Almanack [Illustrated]
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