Famous Diaries: 4 Million Words, 66 Years, 1 Half-Ton of Memories

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Think you know who is Britain’s most prolific writer? Is it Charles Dickens? William Shakespeare? Not even close. Retired English agriculture consultant John Gadd has spent 20 minutes each day of the past 66 years chronicling whatever captures his imagination, and the result is 20,000 pages of thoughts, drawings, photos and even wine labels spread across 151 volumes. His journals have significance that go beyond capturing the memories of one family as he has immortalised some of the most influential events of the past half-century through notes and newspaper clippings.

December 8, 1980 – Beatle John Lennon is shot dead

John writes: “Very dense going-home traffic around Luton. Got lost in Letchworth.”

July 29, 1981 – Charles and Diana’s marriage

John writes: “Spent morning in front of the goggle box. Had a cold lunch when it was over.

“Princess of Wales is a stunner. Princess Anne looked a bit of a mess. Queen looked cheerful.”

November 9, 1989 – Fall of the Berlin Wall.

John writes: “Beastly wet. Worked until it was time to collect Barbara from station.

“Stopped for a feed at King John pub to save her cooking.”

 

-from The Daily Mirror article “Pig expert writes four MILLION word diary that’s eight times size of War and Peace”

What began as a whim has turned into a bit of an obsession for the now-retired Gadd, who takes the time to record every detail of his daily life, right down to when and where he walks the dog. While he spends less than half an hour on the entry for each day, he annually takes a two-week break to create an index for that year’s diary.

With his journals providing a detailed social history of English life in the twentieth century, John Gadd has recently taken them public for the first time. Ten of the volumes were displayed at the Fontmell Magna Village Archive Society’s ninth annual exhibition, allowing the rest of Dorset County to experience life through John Gadd’s eyes.

Have you been keeping a daily record of your life? How many volumes of journals have you filled? Let us in on your journalling habits in the comments below!

About Paperblanks®: We have been producing superb writing journals for twenty years. We are book people, and we believe that the written word matters and that our blank books have a critical role to play in the art and continued practice of writing itself. For more about Paperblanks®, go to our website at paperblanks.com.
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6 comments on “Famous Diaries: 4 Million Words, 66 Years, 1 Half-Ton of Memories

  1. Really enjoyed this post. I love learning about other diarists.

    I’ve been journaling for about 13 years, and I’m currently on my 32nd journal. (not including different travel journals etc.)

  2. I’ve been writing for almost ten years and it’s my 53rd notebook already. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the 9,000 pages mark. I can’t imagine not to write anymore and I’m currently trying to get digital copies so no memories are lost even if something happens to the books. I guess every diary keeper knows this paranoia.

    • That’s amazing, Lisa Maria! I can definitely relate to the fear losing all those memories and hard work. Good luck with the digitisation!

      Keep in mind we regularly feature peeks into Paperblanks journals, so if you, or anyone else, would like to be featured, please let us know :)

      Update: Silly me! I should have known I recognized your name, Lisa Maria. We’ve already featured your writing as part of our Artist Profile series (http://blog.paperblanks.com/2012/02/german-writer-lisa-maria-kosmann/). Keep up the great journalling!

  3. I started my first journal when I was six. There were a few years when I didnt write, then I started again but only to normal school excercisebooks… I dont know how many journals I already have, but at least 20… In the last few years Ive been using Paperblanks, because it looks good and the paper is very good quality. Its not a cheap brand, but keeping my memories is very important to me, so its definitely worth the price. I love that there is also a little “bag” at the back of each journal, where I can place little memory items (news clippings, movie or theathre tickets etc.)

    • Thanks, Titanilla! The memento pouch is definitely an important part of the Paperblanks design. One more reason to save all your journals!

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