The great French Enlightenment astronomer Jérôme Lalande must have been busy working on his two most important works—the Histoire Céleste Française, his momumental star chart, and the Bibliographie astronomique—when this little almanac was published around 1801. Lalande's Almanac des physiciens is compelling as representive of a kind of evolutionary step in the idea of almanacs as principally compendia of useful and universal facts and figures, rather than dated calendars good for a year—indeed Lalande's almanac has no calendar, and no publication date, giving it an enduring utility without an expiration date. Moreover, Lalande's almanac breaks entirely with the zodiacal tradition of European and colonial almanacs—nary does a reader encounter an astrological reference. Much of the almanac comprises information culled from other printed sources, but Lalande does contribute one original section, on the the speeds of various moving objects (pp. 46-51). Bound at the end of our copy are fifty pages of highly legible manuscript additions, in several hands, mostly from the 1840s, including mortality tables, data on locomotives, brief and amusing characterizations of geographic locales, the sizes and weights of the brains of famous French figures, prison statistics, biographies of aeronauts, and much else. A most interesting and readable "newfangled" almanac for the scientifically minded at the dawn of 19th-century France, copiously expanded in manuscript by an amateur at midcentury.
Paris: Claude-François Laurens, 1801.
12mo in half sheets, 131 x 90 x 21 mm (binding), 129 x 86 x 17 mm (text block). π2, 1-86, 6; , 108 pp. Bound in contemporary tree-sheep, smooth spine gilt, green morocco skiver lettering piece titled in gilt: PHYSI | CIENS. Worn at extremities, headcap abraded, a few minor épidmûres to boards, tiny wormholes to spine, which do not reach the text block. Interior: Some foxing to prelims, a few gatherings somewhat toned, otherwise sound.