“Incredibly rich material”

“Everything about the presentation of this incredibly rich material has been considered with the reader in mind.”

So writes Maggie Vaughan-Lewis, the former County Archivist for Surrey and now a Norfolk-based historian, in the Journal of the Aylsham Local History Society published in August 2013 (vol. 9, no. 8, pp. 294–6).

“A work of an outstanding scale”

After referring to the very abridged extracts published by Basil Cozens-Hardy in 1968 Maggie Vaughan-Lewis continues:

“If Margaret Bird had ‘just’ transcribed the whole of Mary Hardy’s output, half a million words covering nearly 36 years from 1773 to 1809, published together in five volumes, it would have been a work of an outstanding scale.

However, over the last 25 years she has undertaken in-depth research on every topic and person that the entries encompass, knowledge that has opened up two further areas to the work.

“The detailed footnotes”

Firstly the detailed footnotes, which are rather unusually but very conveniently placed down the side of the page, illuminate what could be otherwise fairly obscure entries . . .

Secondly, her research, and her own training as an 18th-century historian, has allowed Margaret to write an analysis of the diaries—yet to be published in another four volumes (Mary Hardy and her World) to accompany the first five. I know of no other author who has single-handedly attempted, let alone achieved, such a task.”

“Expert analysis” to come

The review contains a note of regret:

“If there is a downside (though it seems churlish to find one), it is that it would have been wonderful if the commentary volumes were available with the text. Of course this was not possible given the workload, but it is difficult to see the overview of the themes in the diary when presented with the mass of detail.

We await Margaret’s expert analysis with great interest.”

There is more from this review on the Burnham Press website.