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Oldest But Perennially New

We got our copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2010, from that highly reputable book distributor, Kroger, yesterday. It is the oldest continuously published serial in American history! Its founder, Robert B. Thomas (about whom precious little is available beyond his grand opus), published the first issue in 1792, George Washington then president and polls not yet invented. Since then the book has appeared every year since—today, as in the early days, perforated with a hole in its upper left corner so that the user can hang it from a string in daily use. Two hundred and eighteen annual editions—a remarkable publishing achievement! We are inspired. As usual the almanac is brimful of entertaining trivia, useful hints, severe astronomical tables, weather predictions, humor, old pictures, new pictures, quotes, recipes, games, old-fashioned sentiment. Pause for breath. The Classifieds alone are worth the purchase price ($5.99); they are the fun-to-read old-fashioned kind and tell us that people still believe in magic, miraculous crystals, spells, and in finding brides by reading the small print. And more, much more. We were surprised to find in this book a two-page advertisement titled “Write Children’s Books.” It contains the interesting fact that the children’s book market is a $3 billion-a-year industry, a fact that we can now add to others presented earlier in attempts to give some detail to the $10.2 billion total of the book market (2008). So children’s literature is another slice. We know because The Old Farmer’s Almanac told us so.

We get the following fascinating fact about the value of the almanac’s astronomical and weather work from Wikipedia’s article on this publication, available here. We quote Wikipedia:

During World War II, a German spy was apprehended in New York with a copy of the 1942 Almanac in his pocket. From 1943 through 1945, to comply with the U.S. Office of Censorship’s voluntary Code of Wartime Practices for press and radio, the Almanac featured weather indications rather than forecasts. This allowed the Almanac to maintain its perfect record of continuous publication.

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