Document analysis: Diary 1 (Massy)

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 P32

Click on each highlighted area to read more about this diary's unique formatting features, written by Henry William Massy (1839–1842).

See P32 Massy diary pp 130 and 131 to read these pages in a higher resolution.

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

Diary P32
P32: Page removed P32: Spelling mistakes P32: Running low on ink P32: Formatting for emphasis P32: Abbreviations P32: Unusual formatting

P32: Page removed

Why was the page removed? Who removed it? Was this done during the writing process, or afterwards?

In this case, it appears to have been torn out after the writing process, as the sentence on the top of the right-hand page does not follow on from the previous page.


P32: Spelling mistakes

Instead of crossing out misspelled words, some authors write the correct spelling 'over' the word beneath, making the handwriting harder to decipher.

The word highlighted here is 'unextended'.


P32: Running low on ink

As you can see from the second letter in this new sentence, the author's pen was running low on ink, which he replenished after the first letter. The first letter is quite faded, and this may make the text harder to read.

Here, the sentence starts with 'In fact'...


P32: Formatting for emphasis

When analysing any record, it is important to consider the author's own emphasis on their text. Here, the author chose to highlight his 'golden maxim':

"Every one, who spends more than his income, is a fool –


P32: Abbreviations

Diary-writers often use abbreviations in their haste. Common abbreviations include this one, tho' (though). There are a number more throughout these pages – see if you can spot them:

  • viz = meaning
  • pd: = paid
  • wd: = would
  • sd: = should
  • amt: = amount
  • yr: = year

For more on abbreviations in diary-writing, see the lesson on Transcription.


P32: Unusual formatting

Watch out for different formatting while analysing or transcribing archival diaries – here, the author is adding up his expenses for the previous year, in pounds (£), shillings (s), and pence (d), though he does not use symbols for the lower denominations of currency.

For more on transcribing difficult formats, see the lesson on Transcription.