Document analysis: Diary 2 (Blennerhassett)

Kirsten Mulrennan and Rachel Murphy, 'Opening a window to the past: Researching archival diaries', University of Limerick Special Collections and Archives Department website ( (Date accessed).

Diary P1/22

Click on each highlighted area to read more about this diary's unique formatting features, written by William Massey Blennerhassett (1861–1865), from the Glin collection.

See P1/22 Blennerhassett diary pp 312 and 313 to read these pages in a higher resolution.

Read Blennerhassett's diary in full on the UL Digital Library.

Diary P1/22
P1/22: Weather reports P1/22: Smudged ink P1/22: Headers and dates P1/22: Drawings and doodles P1/22: Personal notes and highlights P1/22: Formatting for emphasis P1/22: Friends and relatives

P1/22: Weather reports

Blennerhassett includes a weather report for each entry, perhaps necessitated by his living on a farm at Cloughanarold, Co Limerick.

For more on other types of incidental information contained in archival diaries, click here.


P1/22: Smudged ink

Written in wet ink, historical diaries often contain blots, smudges and sometimes even the fingerprints of their authors. Here, the smudged word is almost unreadable, but from a repeat of the word further on down the page, we know it says 'Arrival'.


P1/22: Headers and dates

This author helpfully includes the month and year at the beginning of each page, sometimes with a flourish or twirl of the pen to add emphasis.


P1/22: Drawings and doodles

Luckily for us, this author is quite the artist! He helpfully illustrates key pieces of text from his diary entries – in this case, this romantic doodle depicts the marriage of Miss Lloyd to Mr Edwards, on 23 November 1865, when the weather was 'fine'.

Blennerhassett includes a range of drawings in his diaries. For more on these, click here.


P1/22: Personal notes and highlights

This author sometimes includes an 'X' to mark days or events of note.


P1/22: Formatting for emphasis

This author commonly underlines people's names and other events for emphasis, sometimes with a single line, and sometimes with a double line.


P1/22: Friends and relatives

This author often includes portraits of his friends and relatives in the margins of his diaries, sometimes accompanied by their full name or initials – in this case, 'CM' stands for Charles Massy.

Such drawings are both interesting caricatures of the people in Blennerhassett's life, as well as an important social record of fashion and modes of dress in 19th century Ireland.

For more on the social history contained in archival diaries, click here.