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Commonplace Books

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Kaitlyn Willy

on 3 September 2014

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Transcript of Commonplace Books

Commonplace Books
Steven Johnson
"Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters—just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. In its most customary form, “commonplacing,” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. It was a kind of solitary version of the original web logs: an archive of interesting tidbits that one encountered during one’s textual browsing. The great minds of the period—Milton, Bacon, Locke—were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book."
Jonathan Swift, A Letter to a Young Poet:
"A common-place book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories;” and whereas, on the other hand, poets being liars by profession, ought to have good memories. To reconcile these, a book of this sort is in the nature of a supplemental memory; or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men as you think fit to make your own by entering them there. For take this for a rule, when an author is in your books, you have the same demand upon him for his wit, as a merchant has for your money, when you are in his."
Classic Example
Using notecards
Harvey Freedenberg--modern edxample
How do you keep a commonplace book?
A Quote from Seneca the Younger:
What the heck is Seneca saying?
Who has kept Commonplace Books?
Leonardo Da Vinci
Michele de Montaigne
Aristotle
Thomas Jefferson
Mark Twain
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Seneca the Younger
Ralph Waldo Emerson
H.D Thoreau
John Locke
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam AKA Erasmus
Martin Luther King
Who else?
Francis Bacon
John Milton
W.H. Auden
H.P. Lovecraft
Virginia Wolf
Characters from
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Sherlock Holmes
History
A tradition going back to Ancient Greece, maybe farther.
The name comes from locus communis in Latin, literally meaning "
Common place
."
Can you think why ancient people would want to write down all the quotes/ideas/parts of books that they liked?
What is a Commonplace Book?
From ARCS:

"A Commonplace Book is a notebook kept by a rhetor as a storehouse of materials to be remembered or quoted."
What is the purpose of keeping a Commonplace Book?
It is a great tool for becoming more motivated to learn things. It keeps you on the lookout for interesting things.
It helps you to assimilate information more easily by keeping things in order through categorization. This saves you a ton of time in the long-term.
It helps you synthesize the information you have assimilated on a variety of topics. This brings about new, creative, ideas through the unique combination of mixing the information from different areas of knowledge.
It improves your creativity and works as a powerful exercise for giving clarity to your thought process.
We should follow, men say, the example of the bees, who flit about and cull the flowers that are suitable for producing honey, and then arrange and assort in their cells all that they have brought in; these bees, as our Vergil says, “pack close the flowing honey, and swell their cells with nectar sweet”…. Certain others maintain that the materials which the bees have culled from the most delicate of blooming and flowering plants is transformed into this peculiar substance by a process of preserving and careful storing away, aided by what might be called fermentation, whereby separate elements are united into one substance.

We also, I say, ought to copy these bees, and sift whatever we have gathered from a varied course of reading, for such things are better preserved if they are kept separate; then, by applying the supervising care with which our nature has endowed us, in other words, our natural gifts, we should so blend those several flavours into one delicious compound that, even though it betrays its origin, yet it nevertheless is clearly a different thing from that whence it came.
http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/2010/04/the-glass-box-and-the-commonplace-book.html
http://www.bartleby.com/27/10.html
From http://www.startgainingmomentum.com/how-to-keep-a-commonplace/
Digital V. Physical
DIGITAL
Ways to keep a digital Commonplace Book:
blog
keep a note on your phone
email/google docs
Evernote
One Note (see article)
What else?
Physical Commonplace Books
IDEAS for keeping a commonplace book:
notebook
binder (rings allow you to reorganize)
notecards
What else?
What do you put into a commonplace book?
Notes on books you're reading
Notes from news articles/things you hear on the television
Your thoughts on the things around you
Quotes
Look up words that you don't know and write down the definitions!
What else?
Use in this class...
Write down things in ARCS that strike you or you want to ask about.
Write down your thoughts as you read
I Am Malala
.
Write down notes from class or reading outside of this class that you don't want to forget about.
Record your thoughts and feelings about the world around you.
Write down notes from articles that you are using for your TAP project.
Keep track of quotes, ideas, or other materials for use in rhetoric later on.
Rules and Reminders...
This is not a journal! It's not a place to write down every detail of your day!
You will turn this in at the end of the semester, so if you make it digital, I need to be able to access it.
Since I'm reading it... keep it appropriate!
Make at least one entry per week... but try to do more!
Thoughts from a student at Pepperdine University
Questions:
Who do you wish had kept a Commonplace Book so you could read it?
Why would you want to keep a Commonplace Book (other than because it's assigned!)
Bibliography:
You can find more information about commonplace books through these three Pinterest boards:

http://www.pinterest.com/kmariefrances/commonplace-books/
(Mine--this contains all the articles I used in the presentation, plus some other ones with great ideas!)

http://www.pinterest.com/kdbrackett/of-books-commonplace-books/
(Contains beautiful examples)

http://www.pinterest.com/dedleedee/journals-commonplace-books/
(More examples)

You can also find more videos on youtube and images on google!
"A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and [academic] pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do."
(From Thought Catalogue article, http://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/08/how-and-why-to-keep-a-commonplace-book/)
Full transcript