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Illustrated Pocket Diaries, 1779-1860: Book History’s Forgotten Genre

Miræus lectures, Wednesday 24 October 2012
Sandro Jung (University of Ghent)


This paper introduces a little known genre which flourished in Britain from the late 1770s to the late nineteenth century. Notwithstanding the long life of the genre of the illustrated pocket diary-cum-almanac, scholars have failed to assess the range and variety of these annually issued publications or examine in which ways these print objects were produced in a competitive environment that saw, in its most prolific decades, the publication of up to forty different titles per year. Due to the ephemeral nature of the pocket diaries, very few copies have survived, and some titles known to have existed from advertisements have remained entirely untraced. Yet, an attempt at charting this genre’s various contexts of production, marketing, and consumption is rewarding in that it will reveal the richness of these publications in terms of design and layout innovations, the ways in which each of these titles promoted a narrative of cultural literacy, and the increasingly – in the course of the nineteenth century – gender-specific marketing of the titles. This paper will discuss of examples of the genre from the 1770s to the 1870s and will focus especially on the material aspects (including the bindings) of these publications as well as their illustrative material and the ways in which these pocket diaries promote cultural improvement. 


Sandro Jung is Research Professor of Early Modern British Literature and Culture and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Text and Print Culture at Ghent University. The editor of three learned journals, he has published widely on eighteenth-century literature. His books include: David Mallet, Anglo-Scot: Poetry, Politics and Patronage in the Age of Union (University of Delaware Press, 2008) and The Fragmentary Poetic: Eighteenth-Century Uses of an Experimental Mode (Lehigh UP, 2009). He has recently completed the editing of a volume in the English Association’s Essays and Studies series, on print culture and literature, and his most recent book, James Thomson’s ‘The Seasons’, Print Culture, and Visual Interpretation, 1730-1842, is forthcoming. He is currently co-editing (with Brian Maidment) volume 5 of the Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, as well as co-editing a special number of the Yearbook of English Studies, on literature and book history.

Free entrance

Venue: Nottebohm Hall of the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience

Hendrik Conscienceplein 4

B-2000 Antwerpen


The Miræus Lectures are an initiative of the Flanders Book Historical Society and are supported by the Antwerp Bibliophile Society and the Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience.