When shopping in second-hand stores, I always check out the book section, but I never really look at the magazine/whatever paper stuff was left lying around section. Sometimes that’s just because there is no such section in the store, which is most often the case. But when there is one I usually don’t find the selection of magazines enticing. They’re usually the boring standard magazines everyone gets (Time, National Geographic, etc.), and I have a hard time finishing those when they show up in my mail box. All of that is a lead-up to the fact that I took a shot recently and looked at the magazine area in my local thrift store. And this time I actually lucked out. Sitting there were two reprints of old Farmer’s Almanacs, and for a quarter apiece they were hard to pass up. But what really sealed the deal was the interesting coincidence that they were dated exactly one century apart. Curious coincidences often influence what I buy; so I purchased them and took them home.
And maybe that would have been the end of it for me. Sure, I would have flipped through the books and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t looking much deeper than that. That’s when, while explaining what had enticed me to buy the books, it was pointed out to me that not only were they 100 years apart from each other, but they were 100 years apart from the current year. Here I had nearly missed a golden opportunity to have 3 almanacs published exactly 100 years apart. I rushed out to buy a current one, as the year was coming to a close and they might’ve soon not been available. In my haste I purchased the first “Farmer’s” almanac I found (which in that late-September period is actually kinda difficult), but when I got home I noticed a few peculiar dissimilarities. This turned out to be because I had picked up the “Farmers’ Almanac” (apostrophe after “s”) and not the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” (apostrophe before the “s”). The Farmers’ Almanac was started about 25 years after what became the “Old” Farmer’s Almanac, and it has modernized in a way I’m not a particular fan of (and unfortunately I must say that I don’t like the format all the modern almanacs I’ve seen have taken on). But now to get my match, having exhausted all the local stores, I had to purchase one on the internet (which is a strange idea for a farmer’s almanac).
When I got them all together, I could see that the Old Farmer’s Almanac is quite a bit thicker (it’s 300 pages, 6 times as large as it was 100 years ago) and after flicking through it, I’m not quite sure how they managed to fill so much space. It’s still a nice, and somewhat useful little thing, but it has formatting problems and includes so much irrelevant fluff that my brain kinda turns off looking at it. In my lifetime, almanacs have always looked like this, and perhaps that’s why I never really got interested in them. But seeing these older versions (of what is now the longest running publication in North America) made me realize why people bought them in the first place. They aren’t necessarily pretty, but they are jam-packed with words, most of which are interesting or useful. And there is a beauty to that old-timey design that wasn’t laid out for aesthetics but for expense. Seeing the three sitting next to each other, if nothing else, gives one a perspective on how advanced paper manufacturing and binding has become in the last 200 years.