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Astrology and the Popular Press: English Almanacs, 1500-1800 [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Bernard Capp
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 1979

Apart from the Bible, almanacs were the most influential and widely dispersed for of literature in Tudor and Stuart England. At their zenith in the later seventeenth century, they sold at a rate of 400,000 copies a year. They were read by many people who read little else, and the works of Shakespeare and Jonson, among others, have numerous references to them. Professor Capp's fascinating book (Faber, 1979) is the first to study their history in depth. It is full of vivid detail, and shows clearly how relevant they were to almost every aspect of life, social, intellectual, religious, political. As well as being a powerful force in revolutionary times, they played a central part in spreading scientific progress and medical learning, and in the development of popular journalism and printing.

Possessing some of the characteristics of both pocket encyclopaedia and sermon, they conveyed information and/or moral commentary on such diverse topics as attitudes to rich and poor, agriculture, gardening, weights and measures, food , drink, sex, sleep, dress, bodily cleanliness, games, fairs, holidays, the weather, the state of the roads, posts, freemasonry, omens, witchcraft, will-making and even the sale of wives - in addition to making dramatic astrological prophecies about the likelihood of plague, famine and war in the year ahead.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 452 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; illustrated edition edition (May 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571113796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571113798
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 14.5 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,332,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Bernard Capp is Professor of History at the University of Warwick, where he has taught since 1968. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the author of five books: The Fifth Monarchy Men (Faber, 1972), Astrology and the Popular Press: English Almanacs 1500-1800 (Faber, 1979); Cromwell's Navy (OUP, 1989), The World of John Taylor the Water-poet (OUP, 1994) and When Gossips Meet: Women, Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (OUP, 2003). He is currently writing England's Culture Wars: Puritan Attempts to Impose Godly Reformation and Discipline on the English People in the Wake of the Civil Wars. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Our Stars 11 May 2011
By Jocko
Format:Paperback
This is one of those precious and hugely enjoyable books that takes a subject many might think would appeal only to a few specialists and turns it into a revelation. Capp shows that if you want to understand the popular consciousness of England in the "long" 17th century, almanacs are an essential source. The resulting book is a masterpiece of scholarship, profoundly informative and richly entertaining.

We have a pretty good idea of the mindsets of the driving figures of the era, but they tend to occupy the ideological extremes. The interest of the almanac is that it gave voice to the vast, bewildered majority, caught in an age of extraordinary change. Amongst their wonderfully bizarre range of content, I found something particularly poignant and suggestive in a list of the great villains of history running from Mother Shipton, Dr Faustus and Robin Hood through the Witch of Endor, Tom Thumb and Richard III to John Lilburne and Copernicus. This was a shifting, uncertain world, with one foot in legend and the other in modernity. These little tracts reveal what it felt like to live in it. Capp lets their diverse voices speak for themselves, and marshals his material with wit, aplomb and encyclopedic knowledge. This is a fascinating, wholly unique, book!
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