Monday, January 11, 2021

On (Virtual) Display in the State Library

Last January, our library display case featured a selection of almanacs published by Isaiah Thomas. This year, we are continuing our trend of starting the year with a historic almanac by featuring Fleet's Pocket Almanack for the year of our Lord 1789: Being the First after Leap Year and the Thirteenth of American Independence. Though we are not on-site and can’t physically change our display case, we’re happy for the opportunity to virtually share this item from our collection.

As represented in its name, Fleet’s Pocket Almanac was published by brothers Thomas and John Fleet and sold in their shop, The Bible and Heart, in Cornhill, Boston. Thomas and John were also the printers of the Boston Evening-Post, a newspaper that they took over from their father and ran until it ceased publication in April 1775. In The History of Printing in America (originally published in 1810), Isaiah Thomas wrote of the brothers that, “their father gave them a good school education; they were correct printers, very attentive to their concerns, punctual in their dealings, good citizens, and much respected.” They continued printing together until Thomas’ death in 1797. To read even more anecdotes and references to the Fleet brothers, be sure to check out their tag on Boston1775.

Fleet’s Pocket Almanac provides much of the same information that you’d expect to find in an almanac. There are entries on the year’s upcoming eclipses, the roads from Boston, and dates for the four seasons. Each month has a page for its moon phases and weather, along with “remarkable dates” of important anniversaries and holidays, like “Tea destroyed in Boston, 1773” for December 16 and Valentine’s Day on February 14. But there are also a few less traditional dates included, for example, the phrase “the dog days of summer” is commonly known as a way to describe the hottest days of summer, and in the almanac the “dog days” are noted as starting on July 25 and ending on September 3. 

But what is unique about Fleet’s publication is that after the almanac pages is the Massachusetts Register, which was published annually by various Boston printers from 1767 to 1878. It was published under the Fleet name from 1779 to 1800, at which point it was taken over by William Manning and James Loring. The Register was a comprehensive publication, similar in nature to a directory and almanac but also with a plethora of additional information. It would be a lengthy list to include everything found in the publication, but a sampling is that it provided statistics and data on currency, directions for the entrance of Boston Bay and sailing in and out of Plymouth, a tide table, as well as listings of various elected and appointed officials, religious assemblies, schools, attorneys, and sheriffs - it was truly a thorough annual resource.

While just the cover is shown here, you can virtually flip through the whole almanac and Register on DSpace! And click here to revisit our almanac post from last January, about Isaiah Thomas’s New England Almanac

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian