David Vaisey was educated at Rendcomb College, Gloucestershire where he was a scholar, and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was an exhibitioner. He graduated in Modern History in 1959 and qualified as an archivist at The Bodleian Library, 1959-1960. From 1960 he was assistant archivist in The Staffordshire Record Office, returning to The Bodleian Library as a member of staff of the Department of Western Manuscripts in 1963. From 1966 he was additionally Deputy Keeper of Oxford University Archives but relinquished that post on appointment in 1975 as Keeper of Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian.
In 1986 he was appointed Bodley’s Librarian, a post from which he retired at the end of 1996. From 1995 onwards he had also held the post of Keeper of the University Archives, retiring in 2000. He is now Bodley’s Librarian Emeritus. He held a professorial fellowship at Exeter College from 1975 to 2000 and is now an Emeritus Fellow. He is an Honorary Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
On the national scene he was Commissioner on the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts from 1986-1998, Chairman of the Manuscripts Committee of SCONUL from 1981-1988, Member of the Advisory Council on the Public Records from 1989-1994, and of the London Services Advisory Committee of the British Library from 1990 to 1996. He was President of the Society of Archivists from 1999-2002, and a Vice-President of the British Records Association until 2006. He was President of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society for 1992-1993. He was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel for Museums, Libraries and Archives for the Heritage Lottery Fund for six years until 2005.
He held a visiting professorship at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at UCLA in 1985, and was a Cecil and Ida Green Visiting Professor at T.C.U, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1991. He was a Mayer Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, in 1994, and Curtis Lecturer at Vassar College in 1997. In 1989 he was appointed the Encomienda de la Orden de Isabel la Católica by H.M. King Juan Carlos of Spain, and received a CBE in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1996.
He is a historian with many books and articles to his credit, principally exploring the possibilities of local source materials for the study of English history. That for which he is best known is his edition of The Diary of Thomas Turner, 1754-1765, published by Oxford University Press in 1984 and subsequently reprinted in 1985, 1994, 1998 and 1999 which is now a standard work on mid-eighteenth century English social history.