At long last, Samuel Pepys’ diary is no more—343 years after he finished writing it.
For the past nine years, Pepys’ diary has enjoyed a Web-wide audience thanks to programmer and designer Phil Gyford. Gyford began the project after discovering the 17th century diarist’s works through Project Gutenberg, a volunteer project to make copyright-free texts available to everyone as ebooks.
Gyford began the blog on Jan. 1, 2003, exactly 343 years after Pepys wrote the first entry. He announced the project on his personal site a few days before he began:
“I thought Pepys' diary could make a great weblog,” he wrote. “The published diary takes the form of nine hefty volumes - a daunting prospect. Reading it day by day on a website would be far more manageable, with the real-time aspect making it a more involving experience.”
Gyford added that Pepys was no ordinary 17th century diarist. During the time he was writing, he was an eyewitness to several significant historical events including the Great Fire of London. By the time that event came up in the diary it was 2009, and Pepys live-tweeted it.
The blog is a historical marvel both as a time capsule into the 17th century and a time capsule into 2003, before the word “blog” even existed. When Gyford explained his project to the BBC the day after he started it, it was the first of its kind.
“Others have marvelled at my apparent level of commitment; I have 10 years of weblogging ahead of me,” he wrote for the BBC. “But with the site built, preparing new diary entries should take little more than an evening or two each month.”
Gyford’s decade-long project was not only successful in its completion, but in its ability to pave the way for similar archival projects. We know now that Gyford’s project has become the prototype for dozens more of its kind, from the live-tweeting of the Titanic to the Orwell Diaries.
We reached out to Gyford about his thoughts on the project now that it’s over, but didn’t hear back in time of publication.
Photo by Ewan Munroe