Having just read Belle, Book, and Candle’s thoughtful writing on commonplace books, and a bit too busy right now to write a new post myself. I am reposting my own post on commonplace, which I wrote several years ago, in hopes that you will not only take the time to read Belle, but that you will consider keeping a commonplace book yourself – or tell us about the one you do have. Belle, Book, and Candle’s post can be found here. Thank you, Belle, for the inspiration I needed today. Penny
Commonplace. The recording of words and ideas in a common place. It was started many hundreds of years ago and became known as commonplacein the 1600′s. It is used to this day by writers, poets, speechwriters and songwriters – even scrap bookers. I started thinking about the practice of gathering ideas in a commonplace book as I was reading a blog about books.
Do you have any idea how many blogs there are just about books? There are blogs about mysteries and children’s literature and authors. There are Pearl Buck and Jane Austen blogs. There are blogs about decorating with books and making books, and, of course, many authors these days have their own blogs.
They are all commonplace.
I have kept card files on books I’ve read since my first Kiddie Lit class. I no longer include such things as publisher and copyright date, but, I do write a brief synopsis of the book, what it was about, the month and year I read it and sometimes, when I’m really full of myself, I rate it. ★★★★★ Commonplace.
I also have kept a book with quotes. If I hear something notable or read something, I will write it down and cite the author. Sometimes, I will cut a quote out of a magazine or on a greeting card and paste it onto a page of my quote book. Commonplace.
Emerson and Thoreau, Jefferson and Whitman, Hardy and Twain all kept such personal books. Many even learned the practice of commonplacing at Oxford or Harvard – or at their tutor’s direction.
My mother kept scrapbooks of pictures and memorabilia that I enjoy today and my father kept succinct books that recorded good fishing spots and articles.
I first heard such a collection of phrases mentioned as a commonplace in “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Tudor was, among many things, a crafter of dolls. Her dolls lived in intricate, homemade doll houses, so famed that they were attracted to the folks at the Smithsonian and displayed there. Her dolls, clothed and appointed with furniture evoking the 1800′s, had their own commonplace book with tiny writing on the pages.
I love the idea of a commonplace book and was intrigued by the realization that I have kept such books not knowing their origins for much of my adult life. Quite exciting for something so common to me.
Do you practice commonplacing?
Do you keep a journal, special notebook, scrapbook, or log?
The image is from “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Photography by Richard W. Brown.