“This project is in a class of its own; . . . possibly the greatest single piece of scholarship on a Norfolk topic” in 250 years.
So wrote the books editor of the Eastern Daily Press on 8 June 2013. Read more under the News pages.
The full scope of an extraordinary diary
This wide-ranging diary throws new light on eighteenth-century English country life and work.
Until now only brief extracts had appeared. This new publication brings out the full scope of the record kept by Mary Hardy, the wife of a Norfolk farmer, maltster and brewer.
After 25 years of continuous research and writing Margaret Bird is publishing two sets of books, giving invaluable insight into the domestic, commercial, social and religious life of the farming and manufacturing class.
First to be published were the four Diary volumes. The detailed work of analysis will follow.
Imagine being able to read a contemporary account of day-to-day working life by an energetic, outgoing woman. Imagine an account spanning 36 years and running to half a million words.
Then imagine a second account during four of those years, written every day in the same household by the first diarist’s young apprentice and totalling 73,000 words.
These were published in April 2013. There are 1300 illustrations, and more than 460 pages of index. The very full editorial notes in the margins, right beside the daily entries, guide the reader and ensure that the text is accessible to a modern audience. You can learn more under Diary volumes, and about the editor Margaret Bird.
The hardworking wife and the apprentice
Mary Hardy (1733–1809) is pictured (top right) aged 51 and (above left) aged 64—when her lifestyle had changed completely. Through her eyes we observe the expansion of the family-run business in which she was closely engaged. At 16 her nephew Henry Raven (1777–?1825) began recording the work of their farm, maltings and brewery.
The Diary’s appeal—and peeking inside
The publishers’ website Burnham Press describes just some of the readers who will find the books absorbing. The diary will appeal to the general reader and to the specialist, to teachers and researchers, and to family and local historians. You can use that site to place an order, either for a single volume or for a set.
To peek inside, see the video put together in May 2013 by an American reader, Kelly McDonald of Vermont, as her tribute to the Diary’s appeal. It lasts a little over a minute on YouTube.
The detailed commentary will be published later in four volumes. Also by Margaret Bird, it is entitled Mary Hardy and her World 1773–1809.