Monday, January 06, 2003

This morning Mr. Sheply and I did eat our breakfast at Mrs. Harper’s, (my brother John being with me) upon a cold turkey-pie and a goose. From thence I went to my office, where we paid money to the soldiers till one o’clock, at which time we made an end, and I went home and took my wife and went to my cosen, Thomas Pepys, and found them just sat down to dinner, which was very good; only the venison pasty was palpable beef, which was not handsome.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've been reading Pepys recently, off & on; I keep a volume in my bedside bookstack & grab it at odd moments; in this way I'm slowly making my way through the 11-vol. Latham-Matthews edition.

Like everything else in the universe, Pepys is making his presence felt in the blogosphere. A new blog called Pepys' Diary, run by Phil Gyford, appeared on 1 January this year. Gyford is posting the entire text of the Diary online, one day at a time, starting with the entry for 1 January 1660. At this rate, it will take approximately ten years for the Diary to appear, in near-realtime format; for faithful readers, it will be as though they were looking over Pepys's shoulder. (Read today's entry.) It's a breathtakingly lovely idea, demonstrating the unexpected good uses blogging software can be put to (Movable Type, in this case). The only pity is that Gyford is using an expurgated 1893 text, via Project Gutenburg — the definitive Latham-Matthews is still under copyright — so online readers will be denied the gory details of Pepys's health problems, love life etc.

(Now, who will do the same for John Evelyn?)

A few commentators have already made the inevitable suggestion that "were Pepys alive today, he'd be a blogger". He wouldn't, though — at least, he wouldn't post the material that went into the Diary online. He clearly intended this document to be preserved for posterity, but never meant it for the eyes of his contemporaries; hence his employment of a somewhat obscure shorthand code to deter casual snoopers.

Less reserved present-day diarists may find's Pepys Documentation Project a source of inspiration:

For recording the great and little events of the day, Pepys has been given immortality. We read him still.

There is no shortage of diarists these days, not with billions of blogs on line. But will bloggers find immortality? No. This is not just because there are so many of us. The trouble is we assume the things readers will want to know in 100 years.

The Pepys Documentation Project offers a couple of strategies for bloggers interested in documenting the age for future generations; as well as, crucially, a suggestion for preserving & storing these records so that they're still around a few centuries from now. (This is something I think about all the time, as I wander around the blogosphere — who's keeping all this material? If BlogSpot shuts down suddenly, will the accumulated streams of consciousness of a million of us just disappear? Are any of us storing a backup version on reliable, durable paper?)

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