The diary was kept in plain notebooks which he called his private journal. This was essentially a memorandum book – it listed the main activities and events in his life, but it also included important pieces of information which he wanted to refer back to at some time in the future. His own subsequent notes and cross-references provide evidence that he did look back over previous entries, and this is probably one reason why he kept the left-hand page of the notebooks blank, so that he could include additional comments. He certainly used it for that purpose in the early volumes of his diary, and in later volumes he added wide margins for similar reasons.
In all, there were thirteen numbered volumes of Carroll’s private journal, but four have since gone missing. It is also possible that the diary he kept as a child was a separate volume (or volumes) and not included in the thirteen. Following Carroll’s death in 1898, the manuscript diaries were kept by members of the Dodgson family, and were transferred to various senior members of the C.L. Dodgson Estate for safe keeping. Stuart Dodgson Collingwood clearly had access to all thirteen volumes when writing his The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (Fisher Unwin: 1898); he quoted from all of them, including the four missing volumes. Carroll’s brother Wilfred L. Dodgson (1838-1914) looked after them for a time, and then his son, Major Charles Hassard Wilfred Dodgson (1876-1941), took over as Executor of the C.L. Dodgson Estate, and became the custodian of the diaries. In turn, they passed to one of Wilfred’s unmarried daughters, Frances Menella Dodgson (1877-1963).
At the time of the Centenary celebrations in 1932, interest in Dodgson revived, and the family had cause to investigate the literary legacy of their uncle. It appears that from this time four of the journals could no longer be located. The record states that the journals were accidentally lost as a result of carelessness. Speculation continues today about whether or not they disappeared through lack of care or through an attempt by a zealous relative to suppress the contents and it has been suggested that some of the journals were destroyed in order to protect the reputation of both Dodgson and his recorded acquaintances. It is a fact that some individual pages have been cut out of the surviving volumes; whether by Dodgson himself or a relative is still not fully understood.
The nine surviving volumes were deposited in the British Library in 1969 by the senior trustee of the C.L. Dodgson Estate, Philip Dodgson Jaques.
In 1953, the trustees of the estate, Dodgson’s nieces Frances Menella and Violet Dodgson, commissioned Roger Lancelyn Green to edit sections of the journals. About two-thirds of the entire journal was included in this edition. The selection made, under the guidance of Dodgson’s nieces, indicates an emphasis on the literary exploits of their uncle together with day-to-day events. References to his colleagues and friends have sometimes been excluded. So, too, have the many references to his mathematical and logical ideas which were often recorded as memoranda for further investigation.
In 1993, with the support and encouragement of the trustees of estate, The Lewis Carroll Society published the first of the nine extant volumes, in full, with annotations by Edward Wakeling. In 2005 the ninth of these volumes was produced and all are currently still in print, together with a comprehensive index, pubished in 2008.