ABSTRACT

In 1596, Thomas Nashe wrote that selling almanacs was ‘readier money than ale and cakes’.1 Almanacs in England flourished from the 1550s until about 1700, although they also had quieter lives before and after these dates.2 The market was crowded, frantic and profitable: almanacs constituted a lucrative and vigorously defended monopoly for the Stationers’ Company. These texts sold in numbers so large they scarcely seem credible: ‘in the sixteenth century, hundreds of thousands were printed; in the seventeenth century several millions.’3 Many almanacs were updated and reprinted for many years: the almanac initially printed by John Dade in 1589 continued to be revised annually until the eighteenth century. Indeed, almanacs at times acquired a kind of cultural invisibility in the seventeenth century due to their sheer ever-presentness; the ways readers responded to these texts were often similarly naturalized.