Navigating the year

What happens when you have to try making your way through all the almanacs you've gathered?

The previous newsletter on almanacs was what I think of as one of my more formal ones—a newsletter that gets turned into “Featured Content” on ( Because it ends up on the website, I want it to focus on items that are on the site as well, which means nice institution-produced images and a coherent presentation of information. But the other newsletters give me a chance to do something different, so let’s dive into one of my favorite rabbit holes!

I mentioned in “Turning the leaf” ( that people could buy a set of different almanacs all for the same year but with maybe different locations or different emphases. Here’s an example: a collection of almanacs all from 1696 and bound together into a single fat volume, helpfully stamped with “ALMANACKS MDCLXXXXVI” on the spine (Folger 252- 594.17q; catalog record).

I didn’t do a great job of including a ruler or reference point to give a sense of its size (failing my own rules for picture taking—the shame!) but it’s included in the Folger’s Binding Image Collection and described there as being 156 x 94 x74mm (image). It’s almost as fat as it is wide!

How in the world would you navigate your way through that thing? With finding tabs!

Sew in vellum strips at the start of each almanac and stagger them so they’re easy to locate, and you’re set.

This isn’t unique: here’s a picture of another sammelband of almancs showing super curly tabs (Folger A1754a; image):

And here’s a collection of 27 almanacs for 1680, also demarcated with tabs. If you look closely, you’ll see what looks like bits of writing on them—the tabs are recylcled vellum from a discarded manuscript was cut up and reused to create tabs (Folger A1913; image).

Here’s a glimpse of another book that uses recycled manuscripts to create navigation aids, this time from a 1503 book of hours (Folger STC 16177 copy 1; image):

I think I’ll leave it there—short and sweet with plenty of pictures to look at. If you want something more of a wrap-up, I’ll just say that I love how this one feature shows what is so true in material ways in bindings as well as more metaphysical ways in our words and lives: the past is always with us.

Some notes

I apologized last time for not being able to disable the cruft that Substack adds to links. I’ve tried this time to more clearly indicate what I’m linking to so that you can have a sense of where you’re going. I tried writing out the urls themselves, but just coudn’t handle how ugly it looked ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m also still working out how large the images I include should be—I hate it both when they’re too big and when they’re too small, and of course every delivery system and platform is going to display them differently ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thanks and see you soon!

As always, I’m grateful you take the time to read these newsletters. I’m happy to hear your thoughts and feedback. You should be able to reach me by replying to this email or by sending messages directly to

Here’s to finding our way through disjointed times; just mind your p’s and q’s along the way!