Unfolding Time

Bound volumes of diaries and journals are one of most common genres in the Manuscripts Division. They are often consulted for research value as first-person, day-by-day narratives of travel, exploration, warfare, politics, academic life, and other activities. Particularly interesting are those that document historical events or trace the movement of people and ideas across geographical and cultural boundaries. A simple search of Voyager for the keywords “diaries” or “journals” and format “manuscript” identifies more than 400 individually cataloged manuscript diaries and journals in the Manuscripts Division. American and British examples are most numerous, but other areas are represented as well, generally dating from the 17th century almost to the present. In addition, a search of the Manuscripts Division’s finding aids for the keyword “diaries” or “journals” produces over 1500 hits relating to collections of personal and family papers that contain one or more diaries and journals, and occasionally constitute the entire collection.

Holdings of diaries and journals continue to grow by gift and purchase. The most significant recent addition was a series of three diaries kept by Walter Dundas Bathurst (1859-1940), which he kept as an officer of the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC), 1883-86 (C1544). These diaries relate to African colonization efforts of King Leopold II of the Belgians (r. 1865-1909) in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to the related activities of the British journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904). Other recent acquisitions include a diary kept in 1739-40 by the French aristocrat Abraham-Guy de Migieu, who traveled through Italy with the writer Charles des Brosses (1709-77). Around 1754, additional Italian travel journals by other people (1623-64) were bound with De Migieu’s manuscript (C0938, no. 839). Reproduced below is a two-page opening from one of these diaries, containing an antiquarian’s transcriptions of ancient Roman inscriptions. Another recent 18th-century acquisition is Antonio Josef de Vera’s Spanish-language narrative a voyage to the Holy Land in 1780, Breve description de los Santos lugares de Jerusalén (C0938, no. 840).

More recent diaries and journals include a series of 22 diaries kept 1822-65 by Emily Treslove of London, who was married to Thomas Crosby Treslove (a barrister in the Queen’s Counsel and a member of Lincoln’s Inn), which provide personal glimpses into London society as well as travedls on the continent (C1544). The Treslove diaries and related papers were the gift of Bruce C. Willsie, Class of 1986. Of considerable interest for intellectual history is the recently acquired reading journal of Lidiia Andreevna, Countess Rostopchina (1838-1915), a chronological journal kept 1867-73 by a highly literate Russian woman of her readings in Russian, French, and even some English literature (C0938, no. 748). For assistance, contact Public Services, at rbsc@princeton.edu

C0938, no. 839