The Online Diary of Samuel Pepys

Web Project Revives a 17th-Century Chronicle of London Life

Portrait of Samuel Pepys

Portrait of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls hide caption

itoggle caption by John Hayls
Pepys Library

The original Pepys Diaries are in the Pepys Library at Magdelene College, Cambridge, England. Magdelene College hide caption

itoggle caption Magdelene College

A fair amount of what the world knows of 17th century London was captured by one man. For 10 years, Samuel Pepys made daily entries in a shorthand common to scholars of the day. He was a keen observer of events great and small.

Now a Pepys admirer — who describes himself as "far from an expert" — is using the Web to create a thoroughly modern method to embrace these historical glimpses. NPR's Steve Inskeep speaks with Phil Gyford about his online project "The Diary of Samuel Pepys."

Pepys, who lived from 1633 to 1703, began his diaries on New Year's Day in 1660. He wrote daily entries for the next decade. The diaries are an account of his life in London. Pepys conveys details of his own life as well as those of the city and its people. Two major events in London's history occurred during the time Pepys kept his record: the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666. Pepys was at the beginning of a fairly illustrious career as an official in the Royal Navy. He held a variety of government posts during the time he wrote.

The diary has been edited many times since an abbreviated version was published in 1825. Gyford's Web site publishes one page a day from an 1893 edition. The presentation exploits the ability of the Web to expand on the people and places mentioned in each entry, with numerous links to more information. And readers can add their own observatons in an annotations section for each page. The Web site published its first page on New Year's Day.

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