Anne Lister – Diary Transcription Project

West Yorkshire Archive Service is carrying out an exciting transcription project of Anne Lister’s incredible diaries.

The aim of our transcription project, which started in July 2019, is to create complete transcriptions of every page of Anne Lister’s diaries which will be made freely available alongside the diary images on our online catalogue.

We asked volunteers to get involved by transcribing sections of Anne’s diaries. This included translating the coded sections of the diaries as we hoped this would allow volunteers to enjoy finding new stories for themselves as part of the process. It will also allow the text to be searchable for key words and topics once the translations are complete.

Anne Lister Diary Transcription Project wins Archive Volunteer Award 2020

The Archives and Records Association (ARA) has announced WYAS’s Anne Lister Diary Transcription Project as the winner of the ARA Archive Volunteer Award which recognises outstanding work involving volunteers in an archive and records service. Find out more on the ARA news page.

The coded sections (what Anne called her crypt-hand) use a letter replacement code in which individual letters are replaced by symbols. A copy of the code can be found on the Reading Anne’s Diaries page of this exhibition along with guidance on seeing the diaries on our online catalogue. The crypt-hand includes details of Anne’s life that she wanted to keep secret, including her thoughts on the people she meets, business dealings and importantly her relationships with other women. The details of her sexual relations can be explicit and volunteers are advised to be aware of this before undertaking translation work.

The plain hand text is in many cases more difficult to read than the crypt-hand due to Anne’s use of extensive abbreviations. The plain hand text includes details Anne did not feel needed to be so secret but are no less fascinating, such as details of her everyday public life as well as local and national events.

Pages of Anne’s diaries were assigned to volunteer transcribers, with each page being assigned to two volunteers. Once complete these transcripts will be compared to help ensure accuracy, and the final transcripts will be made available on our online catalogue.

There has been fantastic interest in the project from a brilliant group of volunteer Code Breakers from across the Globe. The image below shows how the project is progressing since July 2019 and will be updated routinely… thank you to all of the Code Breakers for their fantastic work!


Our first update of completed transcripts went on our online catalogue in September 2020 with 151,000 words. Our latest update in May 2022 brought the number of words now available to over 1 million words! Transcriptions for the following volumes are now available on our online catalogue;

      • SH:7/ML/E/26/1 – 1806-1814
      • SH:7/ML/E/26/2 – Aug-Nov 1816
      • SH:7/ML/E/26/3 – Nov 1816-Mar 1817
      • SH:7/ML/E/1 – 21 Mar 1817-25 Jan 1818
      • SH:7/ML/E/2 – 26 Jan 1818-10 Apr 1819
      • SH:7/ML/E/3 – 11 Apr 1819-22 Nov 1819
      • SH:7/ML/E/4 – 23 Nov 1819-10 Feb 1821
      • SH:7/ML/E/5 – 11 Feb 1821- 8 May 1822
      • SH:7/ML/E/6 – 9 May 1822 – 25 Apr 1823
      • SH:7/ML/E/7 – 26 Apr 1822 – 19 Jun 1823
      • SH:7/ML/E/8 – 20 Jun 1824 – 31 Jul 1825
      • ….. (more will be made available as the project continues)

For more on how you can read the diaries please see the Reading Anne’s Diary page of our exhibition.

WYAS would like to thank all of our volunteer Code Breakers, including;

Sam Bennion, Jessica Betik, S Grace Betz, Patty A Book, Catherine Britt, Alex Chapman, Helen Childers, Sophie Coston, Anthony Cowley, Emily Denis, Carly Frezza, Rachel Friars, Steph Gallaway, John Gray, Feona Hamilton, Yvonne Haugen, Neil Holmes, Kerstin Holzgraebe, Julie Honnold, Kerry Hudson, David Hughes, Kate Igoe, Sarah Jennings, Jiang JY, Jane Kendall, Carol King, Merryl King, Alison Kirchgasser, Sian Kirk, Maeve Klersfeld, Linda Kost, Chloe Mason, Nicola Matthews, Lauren Mehalik, Stefanie Meyers, Mhairi Miller, Sue Miller, Pascale Mormede, Chloe Nacci, Patricia A Nelson, Kerry Oakley, Marlene Oliveira, Julie Openshaw, Maria Gonzalvez Palacios, Jessica Payne, Johanne Pelletier, Lynn Pharaoh, Susanne Piotrowski, Allison Porch, Liane Porter, Janet Preece, Francesca Raia, Donna Raney, Erin Resso, Libby Robotham, Kirsty Roger, Annett Schmiedel, Laurie Shannon, Lynn Shouls, Dorjana Širola, Leila Straub, Christy Takeuchi, Irene Trotta, Janneke van der Weijden, Sifra Verheijden, Jan Webster, Elizabeth White, Kate Wilkinson, Kathryn Williams, Abby Wilson, Sue Wright, Colette Fleming and the students of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

We would not have been able to provide these transcripts without their enthusiasm and dedication.


For more information on how we are undertaking the project please have a look at our Anne Lister Transcription Guidelines, a Sample transcribed page and the Diary page used.

Please note that this project is now closed for new volunteers. 

If you would like to discuss the transcription project on Twitter please use #AnneListerCodeBreaker.

Other Exhibition Pages

Anne Lister – An Introduction

Anne Lister – Early Years

Anne Lister – The Journals

Anne Lister – Love Life

Anne Lister – Shibden Hall

Anne Lister – A Window into History

Anne Lister – The Traveller

Anne Lister – Reading Anne’s Diaries