An Old Idea!

Imagine a cork board covered with post-it notes…an assembly of tidbits you find interesting… a quote from a book you read, some information from a newspaper article, a particularly captivating piece of poetry from a magazine you were throwing out, an observation from your morning walk along the river, a snippet from a song you heard… such are the stuff a Commonplace Book is made up of. Only, instead of   pinning it on a board, you write it in a book.

Commonplace Books have been kept since written records are available, but became popular and yes, common in the 1600s. Many of the well known authors of the time kept them. John Milton, Francis Bacon, E. M. Forster, John Locke, Robert Burns, and Virginia Woolf are some of them. Many of the Commonplace Books have been subsequently published. In 1706, John Locke even published a book called ‘A New Method of Making Common-Place Books’, which is available online at the Internet Archive.

Following the popularity of the pastime, publishers started selling blank Commonplace Books with sections and headings and indexes included. Today they are available from the erstwhile online bookstore that now sells groceries to vendors on Etsy.

How do Commonplace Books differ from Journals or Diaries? While journals are organized chronologically, a Commonplace Book very often does not necessarily even identify an entry by date, the entires being organized by the association of ideas and concepts. This is also in total contrast to a diary’s stream of consciousness introspective writing. And while entries have to be made in journals and diaries on a regular basis to make them effective, a Commonplace Book offers you the complete freedom to touch it just when inspiration strikes! You find something worth remembering, you reach for your Commonplace Book!

The beauty of a Commonplace Book lies in its flexibility and personalization. It allows individuals to create their own intellectual archives, tailoring them to their specific interests and needs. Whether used for academic pursuits, creative endeavors, or personal growth, commonplace books can serve as valuable resources for learning, inspiration, and self-expression.

I have had a digital Commonplace Book in my mind for a long time. And finally here it is. Let me start with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Mark Twain.

A thing long expected takes the shape of the unexpected when at last it comes.

~Mark Twain

If you have any ideas/ suggestions for inclusion here, please use the I’ve an Idea! link on the site. Of course, you will be given credit for the idea if it is published.