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The weblog of Samuel Pepys

Wednesday 8 January 2003

Last year I pointed out Michael Stillwell’s website containing excerpts from Samuel Pepys’s diary. I called it a proto-blog.

Now Phil Gyford is publishing Pepys’s diary, day by day, in true weblog form. He has signed up to a job that will run to the end the diary — nine years. Much of the heavy work has already been done by the remarkable David Widger, who produced the digital text from the 1893 edition of the diaries.

Phil Gyford has used movable type to publish the diaries. The usual blog comments become annotations to the text, allowing readers to ask and answer questions and otherwise add value to the text. I’ll show you an example. The diary starts on 1 January 1660 with this entry:

This morning (we living lately in the garret,) I rose, put on my suit with great skirts, having not lately worn any other clothes but them. Went to Mr Gunning’s chapel at Exeter House, where he made a very good sermon upon these words: — “That in the fulness of time God sent his Son, made of a woman,” &c.; showing that, by “made under the law,” is meant his circumcision, which is solemnized this day. Dined at home in the garret, where my wife dressed the remains of a turkey, and in the doing of it she burned her hand. I staid at home all the afternoon, looking over my accounts; then went with my wife to my father’s, and in going observed the great posts which the City have set up at the Conduit in Fleet-street. Supt at my father’s, where in came Mrs Turner and Madam Morrice, and supt with us. After that my wife and I went home with them, and so to our own home.

Among the annotations — some academic, some adulatory — a reader noted:

I love the reference to eating left-over turkey - I�m doing the same myself today. How popular was turkey at that time, it must have been a fairly recent introduction?

A few annotations (and five hours) later, another reader gave this delightful answer:

Turkeys were introduced into England about 90 years before the date of this first entry in the diary. In later years they became popular enough for large flocks of them to be raised in East Anglia. These flocks were herded, on foot, to London in the weeks before Christmas, their feet being protected in small, leather boots that were made expressly for the purpose.
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