Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica : Journal of the Malta Historical Society. 1(1953)2(114-115)
GATT, Ġużè: Nuqqas ta’ Kotba ta’ Malta fil-Bibljoteka: Kalendarji u Almanakki. In “Il-Berqa,” January 7 and 8, 1953.
This informative article was prompted by a correspondence appearing in Il-Berqa of the 24th December, 1952. The writer is well known for his various writings on local historical topics and he treads the byways of Maltese history with an assurance bred of long familiarity with the subject matter of his research.
In the present article he traces the development of Maltese calendars and almanacs from the days of the Order of St. John. As the story unfolds the reader is presented with material at once fascinating and rich in detail. With the introduction of the printing press in 1642 the importation of almanacs was prohibited, ostensibly with the object of encouraging the local printer Pompeo del Fiore. After a few years, however, the press closed down and it was not re-established before 1756. Meanwhile the restriction was removed and foreign almanacs once more flowed into the island under a system of State monopoly whereby the Order gave the sole and exclusive right to sell almanacs to certain individuals who held the privilege at the pleasure of the Grand Master. For the use of the Clergy there were the calendars known as “Ordo,” printed in Latin, while the almanacs were in Italian. The writer refers to an almanac in French purporting to have been printed in Malta in 1741 and shows how this is evidently a false imprint as the printing press was only re-introduced in 1756. With the re-introduction of the printing press in 1756 these publications, which used to be printed in Italy, or, more rarely, in France, began to be printed locally at the Government Press. The first “Ordo” appeared on the 29th August, 1756, 250 copies being printed for the use of the Clergy in St. John’s. This was followed on the 16th September by the more popular kind of almanac known as“Lunario.” During the French Occupation two almanacs, for 1799 and 1800 respectively, were published, besides a Calendario Perpetuo della Repubblica Francese col confronto del giorni secondo il sistema del Martirologio Romano,of which one copy is known to exist in the private collection of Dr. Joseph Galea. Following the expulsion of the French the printing of almanacs in Italian was resumed in 1801, and this continued to appear up to and immediately following the introduction of the freedom of the Press in 1838. The first almanac in English appeared in 1844 under the title Muir’s Almanack for 1844, followed in 1849 by the Calendarju tal-Bidui — the first almanac in Maltese.
By far the best part of Mr. Gatt’s article is his account of calendars and almanacs issued in Maltese. From the material he collected it is possible to set out a list of such calendars from 1849 to 1923:—
tal-Bidui (In Maltese and in Italian)
1861-1871 L’Almanacc Malti
1866 Pronostcu Universali tal Gran Pescatore ta Chiaravalle (translated)
1870-1872 L’Anterna — Almanacc Malti
1873-1922 Il Ħabib Malti
1876 Don Basilio — Almanacc Profeticu
1887-1888 San Paul
1888-1890 Il Calendarju Nisrani għall’usu ta' li nsara
1890 Strina Maltija għall 1890
1890-1898 Various almanacs issued under saints’ names by Messrs. Giov. Muscat.
1891 Mannarinu — Almanacc ta’ Malta
1897 Il Ħabib ta’ Malta — Almanacc
1898- Il-Pronostku Malti — Almanakk ta’ Malta u Għawdex
1900-1901 February issues of “Kari mill’Annali tal Propagazjoni tal Fidi”
1900 Il Ħabib tal-Maltin
1900-1907 Il Profeta Ħabib tal Maltin
1902 Il Ħabib Almanacc Nisrani
1903 Il Ħabib tal-Poplu Malti
1904 Pio X — Almanakk ta’ Malta u Għawdex
1908- San Gusepp — Almanakk Malti
1909 Il Ħabib tal-Maltin
1914 Bin il Ħabib Malti and L’Almanacc il ĠGdid
1915 Il Ħabib tal Poplu and Il Pronostcu ta’ Malta
1916 Il Calendarju għal Parroċċa tal-Ħamrun
1917-1921 L’Almanakk tal “Malta Tagħna”
1919 L’Almanacc tal Paci and Il Veru Almanacc Malti u Għaudxi
1923 San Paul — Almanacc ta l’Istitut tal Missjoni
For each of the above almanacs Mr. Gatt gives information regarding printer and publisher, when available.
It is a pity that Mr. Gatt could not bring the list up to date. However, one feels grateful to the writer for having opened up such a fresh and original field of research.
J.[oseph] C.[assar] P.[ullicino]