This year is the tercentenary of John Evelyn’s death and the centenary of Everyman Books – a neat conjunction which has prompted a new edition of Evelyn’s Diary. My grandmother’s copy of the 1907 edition (based on William Bray’s publication of the original manuscript) runs to over 800 pages, pocket-slim since it was printed on the flimsiest of paper. The new one is based upon Esmond de Beer’s definitive edition of the Diary, which has been abridged by Roy Strong. It is over a thousand pages long, elegantly produced on fine paper and typographically exquisite. An excellent chronology sets the wider scene.
John Evelyn’s Diary was written (and rewritten) for the eyes of his descendants, and he thoroughly revised and polished his account in the light of later or fuller reports of events and places. While Pepys wrote in shorthand, secure in the knowledge that anything risqué or libelous was likely to