Autodidact: self-taught

Nov
24
2012

Commonplacing

by V. L. Craven

Commonplacing:
-01- The commonplace book began blank. The reader used it to collect premises, arguments and other quotes from the various books read. The commonplace book was always at hand for the next addition or as a conversational prompt. It might well fill up with contradictory snippets. – The Future of the Book
-02- Commonplacing is the practise of entering literary excerpts and personal comments into a private journal, that is, into a commonplace book or, to use a 17th century synonym, a silva rerum (a forest of things). Typically the excerpts were regarded as exceptionally insightful or beautiful or as applicable to a variety of situations and so as such they are often especially quotable… The practise of commonplacing can be traced back in the European tradition to the 5th C B.C.E. And the Sophist, Protagoras—Norman Elliot Anderson, Commonplacing in the Spiritualist Traditions
-03- Locus Communis: a theme or argument of general application.
-04- A Commonplace-Book: designed to assist Students, Professional Men and General Readers in treasuring up Knowledge for Future Use. Arrayed by Rev. James Porter, D.D. With an introduction by Rev. William Rice, A.M. New York: Carlton & Porter. 1861. ppxxvi, 401
–All that we can say of this volume is that it is ample, elegant, of firm and white paper, well-ruled, with a generous space for an alphabetical index. Of the advantages derived from a well-stocked and well-indexed commonplace book there can be no question but we doubt whether these advantaged are so generally sought by literary men in this ‘fast’ age, as when books were fewer and time less fully occupied.
-05- In this method of reading (which I will call the method of commonplacing) one selects passages of interest for the rhetorical turns of phrase, the dialectical arguments, or the factual information they contain; one then copies them out in a notebook, the commonplace book, kept handy for the purpose, grouping them under appropriate headings to facilitate later retrieval and use, notably in composing prose of one’s own. –Blair, Ann. Humanist Methods in Natural Philosophy: the Commonplace Book: Journal of the History of Ideas 53 (1992)

We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees: we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker. – Joan Didion. On Keeping a Notebook

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