Parson Woodforde the Parson Woodforde Society
promoting the study of the diary of James Woodforde, 1740-1803
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Ansford Lodge, SomersetThe Diary has never before been published in full. It first became known in the 1920s, when John Beresford edited a five-volume abridgement, The Diary of a Country Parson. Although this edition is very pleasant to handle and contains much useful background information, it suffers from two disadvantages. Firstly, it is very unbalanced. Volume I covers the first 24 years of the Diary, including Woodforde's life at Oxford, the Somerset curacies and the first six years in Norfolk. The remaining volumes (II-V) cover the remaining 21 years in Norfolk. Therefore, the picture of Woodforde's early life is necessarily sketchy. Secondly, the quality of John Beresford's editing is open to criticism. Such criticism relates to the selections made (which are, of course, a matter of personal taste), and the quality of the transcription; though the latter is more likely to be of concern to the specialist than to the general reader.

A one-volume abridgement of the original Beresford edition has been published (also called The Diary of a Country Parson) in a variety of formats, and has been very popular. Indeed, it has probably introduced more people to the Diary than has any other edition, and is by far the easiest edition to find in secondhand bookshops.

There is also a one-volume edition containing in full the portions of the Diary relating to Woodforde's life at Oxford: Woodforde at Oxford 1759-1776, edited by W N Hargreaves-Mawdsley. Unfortunately, it does not contain the entries for the periods which Woodforde spent away from Oxford between these dates.

Another, more recent, one-volume abridgement of the entire Diary is The Diary of a Country Parson, the Revd. James Woodforde, edited by David Hughes and published by the Folio Society. The text is taken from both the Beresford and Hargreaves-Mawdsley editions, as well as from the Parson Woodforde Society editions. It is probably the best one-volume introduction to Woodforde.

The only edition which contains the full text of the Diary is that published by the Parson Woodforde Society, under the title The Diary of James Woodforde. This comprises 17 volumes, covering the period from 1759 to 1802, and the series was completed with the publication of the final volume in 2007. These volumes - with their scholarly introductions, notes and other supporting material - have been prepared by R L Winstanley and P Jameson. Intending purchasers should understand that, excellent as they are, they have been produced on a limited budget. Consequently they are paper-bound, and some of the early volumes are printed in a typewriter-style font; recently published and revised volumes are more professionally produced.

Purchasing Woodforde

The late Paul Minet wrote:

The original five volume set of the Diary was published by Oxford between the wars in black cloth, with printed labels on the spines (and spare labels inside). It was very well printed and laid out and fetches between £250 and £500 depending on condition. Beresford's notes to that edition have been incorporated into the Society's definitive edition. Oxford reprinted the set unaltered in 1949 and again in 1968 in a somewhat inferior binding. The best known edition is the Oxford Classics edition, further edited and initially printed in 1935 and frequently reprinted. It runs to 622 pages, with a family tree at the end, bound in blue cloth, pocket-size. Copies are reasonably freely available secondhand in bookshops or on the Internet at between £5 and £10. It is still in print in paperback with the publishers for somewhat more.

The Oxford University Press quarto illustrated edition, with a foreword by John Julius Norwich and introduction by Ronald Blythe, was also issued by various book clubs and is an attractive edition, albeit still further abridged. It is fairly freely available at under £10. The Larks Press biography by Roy Winstanley is a slight work (14 pages in card covers) and is still in print at £1.25, available from Larks Press, Dereham.

The attractive Folio Society edition, edited by David Hughes, is better edited than the Beresford edition, although it does not of course contain as much as the five volume set. It is most attractively produced, with engravings by Ian Stephens, and is fairly freely available from the Internet and from Folio Society specialists at about £15-£25, usually in very good condition in quarter cloth, marbled sides and slipcase.

The Woodforde at Oxford book is now becoming scarce and, when it is available, costs £20 or so. The Morrow published book by Roy Winstanley is also now getting difficult to find. It should cost between £18 and £25 on the Internet, although there are some copies advertised at silly prices in the US. The PWS reprint of Dorothy Heighes Woodforde's book is still just available from the Society, as are some of the other books when we have been presented with copies. Again, copies of both the original and the reprint of the Dorothy Heighes Woodforde book do crop up on the Internet. (Try AbeBooks.) The Society can supply the Larks Press pamphlet and occasional odd volumes of the Society's transcription of the Diary as they become available. Those on the Internet tend to move fairly quickly and are often unrevised editions, selling at between £20 and £30. PWS members can acquire volumes when available at a discount to those available to the public.

Details of various publications follow.

The Diary: PWS publications | The Diary: other editions | Other publications relating to James Woodforde

The Diary: Parson Woodforde Society publications

The Diary of James Woodforde, editors R.L.Winstanley, the Revd Peter Jameson & Dr Heather Edwards, published by The Parson Woodforde Society. For enquiries regarding the purchase of available volumes, please contact Martin Brayne.

Volume Period covered ISBN
1 Ansford 1759-1762 0-9530364-6-4
2 Ansford 1763-1765 0-9530364-0-5
3 Ansford 1766-1768 0-9549886-3-9
4 Ansford 1769-1771 0-9549886-6-3
5 Ansford 1772-1773  
6 Somerset & Oxford 1774-1775  
7 Norfolk 1776-1777 0-9549886-8-X
8 Norfolk 1778-1779 0-9549886-4-7
9 Norfolk 1780-1781 0-9530364-4-8
10 Norfolk 1782-1784 0-9549886-5-5
11 Norfolk 1785-1787 0-9549886-7-1
12 Norfolk 1788-1790 0-9530364-5-6
13 Norfolk 1791-1793 0-9530364-7-2
14 Norfolk 1794-1795 0-9530364-9-9
15 Norfolk 1796-1797 0-9549886-0-4
16 Norfolk 1798-1800 0-9549886-1-2
17 Norfolk 1801-1802 0-9549886-2-0

Index to contents of diary volumes

Click here to download a PDF file (220KB) showing an index of references in the Diaries.

Indexes to the Society’s Journals, from 1968 to present

We have created five indexes: Names, Places, Subjects, Authors, Book Reviews.

Each Index is a separate sheet in a spreadsheet document, which can be accessed by clicking here [XLS format, 619KB]. Depending on your computer and browser settings, you may either open the document immediately, or else save the document when prompted to your own computer, in a location that you can find easily (for example, My Documents or your Desktop area). This document will be updated periodically, and the date of the most recent version will be shown below and on the front sheet of the document.

The present version covers all Journals up to and including December 2023.

Important note: To open it you will need either Microsoft Excel or some other software which can open spreadsheet files. If you presently do not have such software, an excellent open source (free and legitimate) option is Apache Open Office. If you would like to use that software please follow this link, download and install the software, and then return to this page to access the Journal Index.

The Diary: other editions

Title Editor ISBN Publisher & Date
The Diary of a Country Parson
5 volumes, Oxford 1924-1931
editor John Beresford 0-19811485-0 Oxford University Press 1949
The Diary of a Country Parson
1 volume abridgement
editor John Beresford 1853111384 Canterbury Press, Norwich 1996
Woodforde at Oxford
W.N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley   Oxford, Clarendon Press 1969
The Diary of a Country Parson,
The Revd. James Woodforde*
David Hughes   The Folio Society 1992
A Country Parson:
James Woodforde's Diary 1759-1802

Foreword John Julius Norwich
Introduction Ronald Blythe
0195204883 Oxford University Press 1985

*Normally this edition is only available to Folio Society members, but the Folio Society may - at their discretion - be willing to sell single copies to enquirers. Click here for their contact details.

Other publications relating to James Woodforde

Title Author ISBN Publisher & Date
Parson Woodforde -
The Life and Times of a Country Diarist
Roy Winstanley 0-948903-38-4 Morrow & Co. 1996
James Woodforde:
Parson and Diarist
Roy Winstanley 0-948400-52-8 Larks Press 1996
Papers and Diaries
Dorothy Heighes Woodforde (ed.) 0-948903-10-4 1: Peter Davies, London 1932
2: Morrow & Co. 1990 (for the PWS)

this page last updated on 19 December, 2023

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