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Whitaker's Almanack is a reference book, published annually in the United Kingdom. The book was originally published by J Whitaker & Sons from 1868 to 1997, then by The Stationery Office until 2003, and then by A & C Black which became a wholly owned subsidiary of Bloomsbury Publishing in 2011.
Joseph Whitaker began preparing his Almanack in the autumn of 1868. He postponed publication of the first edition on learning of the resignation of Benjamin Disraeli on 1 December 1868, so that he could include details of the new Gladstone administration. At the same time, Whitaker continued to expand the information so that the initially planned 329 pages grew to 370. The first edition of the Almanack appeared on 23 December 1868, priced at 1 shilling, introduced by a short editorial piece written by Joseph Whitaker. It began "The Editor does not put forward this Almanack as perfect: yet he ventures to think that he has succeeded in preparing a work which will commend itself to those who desire to see improvement in this direction." It concluded by inviting critics to suggest ways in which improvements could be made. The Manchester Guardian, reviewing the first edition, described it as "the largest of the cheap almanacks" to appear, and noted it contained a great deal more valuable information than other such works.
The largest section is the countries directory, which includes recent history, politics, economic information and culture overviews. Each edition also features a selection of critical essays focusing on events of the previous year. Extensive astronomical data covering the forthcoming year is published at the rear of the book.
Whitaker's was prized enough that Winston Churchill took a personal interest in the continued publication of the book after its headquarters were destroyed in The Blitz; a copy is also sealed in Cleopatra's Needle on the north bank of the River Thames.
Each year the Almanack is published in two formats - the Standard Edition and a shortened Concise Edition. In previous years, a larger-format of the Standard Edition, bound in leather, was produced for libraries. Both editions were redesigned in 1993 and 2004 to increase the page size and improve legibility.
The Almanack's current Executive Editor is Ruth Northey, whilst former editor Hilary Marsden continues to contribute.
Editors since 1868
- Whitaker's Almanack 1900 (Facsimile ed.). London: The Stationery Office. 1999. ISBN 0-11-702247-0.
- Whitaker's Almanack 2013. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-1-4081-7207-0.
In popular culture
- In the short story "A Holiday Task" by Saki, a titled amnesiac looks through the list of peers in Whitaker's in an unsuccessful attempt to remember who she is.
- Whitaker's Almanack provides the key to a crucial book cipher message at the beginning of Arthur Conan Doyle's 1915 Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear.
- Whitaker's Almanack is mentioned in chapter 2 of Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is also mentioned in Virginia Woolf`s short story "The Mark on the Wall".
- "Whitaker's Almanack" (advertisement), The Times, 21 December 1868, p. 14.
- "Advertisement", "An Almanack For the Year of Our Lord 1869. By Joseph Whitaker.", J. Whitaker, 1868, p. 6.
- "Almanacks", Manchester Guardian, 27 December 1868, p. 3.