The title page from vol. 3 of a Victorian edition of Samuel Pepys' 'Diary'.

One Saturday morning this summer in a Chepstow charity shop I spotted a set of six small old books. On a closer look I saw they collectively made up a Victorian edition of Samuel Pepys' famous Diary. The asking price was £5 per volume, which didn’t strike me as excessive, so I brought them home.

Although this edition was published in 1889, it seems my newly-acquired set wasn’t purchased until six years later–if the inscription in each volume is anything to go by: Robert H. Hobart Cust / October 1895. Mr. Cust also glued his bookplate inside the cover of each book. His name was distinctive enough that I felt there was a chance the internet might be able to tell me more about him. Indeed so - born in 1860, he later made a name for himself as an art historian, publishing his first book in 1906.

Despite his historical vocation, his interest in 17th-Century English history can’t have been too acute, as it was obvious that no-one had ever read this copy of Pepys' Diary all the way through, with many of its pages still un-cut. Hoping to rectify that, I made a start on it a few months ago, and, after some time away from the book, have just begun Vol. III, which opens toward the end of 1664, not long before the turmoil of the ‘65 outbreak of plague in London.

The original owner's inscription in the same book.