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History of Diaries

The popularity of recording the daily thoughts and activities in diary form rose in during the 17th century, though this was through the use of journals rather than a printed diary we would recognise today. The increase in individuals keeping a written account of their lives resulted from a general increase in literacy rates; the availability of cheaper paper; rising standards in education and as a consequence of the need for Christian ministers and scholars to produce an account of their providence. Without famous diarists of this time, such as Samuel Pepys, we would have a poorer understanding of the intricacies and details of daily life at that time.

Early diaries were usually kept by men and women of high status, usually as a result of their access to education; this enabled them to reflect upon their social activities and the dominant social and political events of the day, offering Historians a useful insight into the past. The work of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn provide a unique and interesting account of 17th Century life. Pepys began his diary in 1660 and recorded details about the Coronation of Charles II, the Great Fire of London and The Black Death. Whilst Pepys was a person of high ranking with a great many important political and influential connections, he was also known for his vanity, love of good food and women with much of his writings recording his dalliances and excesses, often in coded script so the meaning would be lost on the casual observer.

The popularity of maintaining a diary resounds today; politicians, rock musicians, writers and artists have all chosen to record their thoughts and feelings in diary form. It has also become a popular tool in fiction, such as The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 13¾, Bridget Jones Diary, The Princess Diaries and Diary of a Nobody.

John Letts produced the first commercial diary in 1812, in response to a request from a merchant he supplied printed stationery products to. Letts Diaries are now a multi-national company supplying around 22 million diaries worldwide, so the tradition continues.

Today, diaries are offered to suit all types of uses: Academic diaries for students and teachers; smart leather desk diaries for executives; colourful pocket diaries used as promotional gifts; corporate printed diaries in all sizes providing a unified brand; appointment books; restaurant diaries; travel journals; diaries with notes pages; the choice and options are huge.

The Future of Diaries

In the 21st Century we are surrounded by electronic tools that offer alternatives to the paper diary. Does this mean that in the future of the paper diary is limited?

Certainly, the ability to instantly update multiple diaries, view colleagues diaries remotely and quickly schedule meetings has been a godsend for administrators and PA’s across the globe. The proportion of mobile phone ownership has grown massively as their functionality and applications are packed into smaller, more portable units. Most of us have access to a digital calendar via our mobile phones yet still the paper diary remains popular.

The huge choice of materials available, offers greatly flexibility to designers and manufacturers to offer designs that reflect the brand identity and image of companies. Digital printing has offered affordable options to include custom printed pages to assist staff and customers.

Advances in new technologies offer portable devices meaning individuals can update their status and tell others about their daily events and activities instantly. The huge rise in sites like Facebook and Twitter seems to demonstrate the human need for interaction and wanting to tell others what we have experienced. The development of online diaries has morphed into the new term of blogging. The term blog is a derivation of the word weblog, used by Peter Merholz when he jokingly broke the word down into ‘we blog’ in 1999. Since then the word blog has entered the vernacular and can now be used as both a noun and a verb.

Diary manufacturers will need to innovate to maintain their market share but the tactile, human nature of paper stationery has a very different impact on our senses that booting up a computer or switching on an electronic device.

The digital age may be upon us, and we embrace the efficiencies and tools this offers, but we hope never to lose that special feeling you get when opening a crisp new notebook or entering your first appointment in your brand new diary.

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