Anne Lister – Diary Transcription Project

West Yorkshire Archive Service is carrying out an exciting transcription project of Anne Lister’s incredible diaries and are looking for volunteers to get involved.

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 are asking volunteers to get involved by transcribing sections of Anne’s diaries. This includes translating the coded sections of the diaries as we hope this will 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 are being 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!

Transcription stats_May2020

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.

If would like to get involved please have a go at transcribing the page for 19 and 20 August 1823 on our online catalogue at SH:7/ML/E/7/0055. Once you have completed it please email it to us at We will check your transcript and then, if you are happy to continue, we can provide you with details of further pages which need to be transcribed. If you are interested in a particular section or date in Anne’s diaries please let us know.

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