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Editorial definitions


We have given the title 'workdiary' to a characteristic type of document surviving among the papers of Robert Boyle. These are characterised by the following features:

  • They comprise collections of discrete nuggets of information, entered serially and often numbered either at the time of composition or retrospectively. In this, they differ from material in the Boyle archive which comprises individual notes written or copied piecemeal, or continuous sections of text. They also differ from the notebooks in which Boyle wrote drafts and memoranda, particularly in his later years. For the rest of the content of the Boyle archive, see Hunter (1992).
  • The workdiaries often have quite formal titles in the form 'Diurnall Observations, Thoughts & Collections' (Workdiary 1), 'Memorialls Philosophicall' (Workdiary 6) or 'Promiscuous Experiments, Observations & Notes' (Workdiary 21), sometimes combined with a date, as 'Begun this First day of January 1655/6' (Workdiary 14).
  • The content of the workdiaries varies more than their format, in that this format was initially used for literary obiter dicta but was later used for observational and experiential notes. In other cases, especially Workdiary 22, it was used for extracts from books and in one case, Workdiary 28, for sections of text by Boyle.
  • They are usually paper-books made up of folded foolscap leaves, though in three cases they comprise small notebooks: two of these are now bound as discrete notebooks, Workdiaries 18 and 33 (RS MSS 193 and 194), while one (Workdiary 27) has been bound into BP 44.
  • It seems likely that in Boyle's lifetime, they were kept as stitched paper-books or bundles of loose papers. They were probably first bound when the Boyle Papers were bound up in the 1850s.


Within the workdiaries, the units are 'entries', each of which comprises a discrete piece of text, most commonly a paragraph in length. That Boyle himself saw each of these as discrete is shown by the fact that in many cases they were given a separate number, either at the time of composition or later.

Organisation of the Workdiaries

The workdiaries survive scattered in the Boyle archive, in the positions they were allocated when the archive was bound in the 1850s. We have placed them in a chronological sequence, allocating each a number.

Material not included within our definition of 'Workdiary'

In defining what constitutes a workdiary, we have excluded the following, related types of document surviving in the Boyle archive or elsewhere:

  • Items recopied from workdiaries surviving elsewhere in the Boyle archive: for example, BP 26, fols. 78-89, is a set of notes including copies of entries from Workdiaries 19 (28-9), 21 (201, 213, 244, 587, 633-4, 641-4 and 711-3), 27 (14) and 36 (66-7), while BP 38, fols. 94-6, includes copies of entries 536, 613, 615, 692 and 706 from Workdiary 21. We have also excluded records of individual experiments or observations which are not part of a sequence, although they may derive from workdiaries now lost.
  • Notebooks of Boyle's containing memoranda rather than records of information. In some cases, for instance RS MS 43, there is an element of overlap between the genres, in that this contains some records among its memoranda: however, since it is predominantly devoted to memoranda, we have excluded it (conversely, in the case of Workdiary 33, the records of recipes, etc., are interspersed by memoranda which we have included).

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