I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Monday, March 31, 2014

The Refined Reader (3) Commonplace Books

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

So today happens to be my blogoversary!  I've been officially blogging for two years!  And it's still the best!  So for today's Refined Reader I wanted to talk about what blogs, and computers and the internet in general have replaced for us - the need for a commonplace book.

17th Century Commonplace book w/ a Shakespeare sonnet
Commonplace books historically were used to keep track of odd bits of knowledge and things that a person wanted to remember.  From quotes, poems, recipes and ideas - it was used by many famous authors, scientists, philosophers and regular people to remember every little thing.  This was not a diary or a journal, it was not always even an important item - sometimes it could just be a book of scrap paper for notes that you might need in the course of your daily life.  

Commonplace books are now seen as a valuable insight into what people in the past were interested in and what they found important.  But keeping a commonplace book (and a well-organized one) was also an important tool for scholars and students, and it was sometimes taught how to keep one at universities.  In 1706, John Locke wrote a book on the topic called A New Method of Making Common-place Books.  (I skimmed some of the book to get more perspective on how important commonplace books were back then, but Old English is rather difficult to read so I didn't get much out of it!)

Even though I have my blog, pinterest, and my computer for word documents, I was taken by the idea of keeping a commonplace book that would provide a snapshot of my personality and interests.  I've kept one since 2008, but I did change to a new notebook rather recently (it has words from Jane Eyre embossed on the cover!) so I had to copy all my quotes and poems to the new book.  I also like to have celebrities/authors autograph the book whenever I get the chance.  Just to make it more special to me.  Here are some pictures of my commonplace book:


This is my favorite autograph inscription by Joel McHale (from Community!).  I got his autograph before Community though, because I was a fan of his from The Soup.  The inscription made me laugh so much!  I didn't tell him it wasn't a diary though. :D

A few more pages from my book - one with Doctor Who quotes and the other with "The Mouse's Tale" from Alice in Wonderland.  I had to try to write it like a tail!  It's nice to decorate the pages with little drawings I think - again to make it more personal!  I also like to keep mementos in my book - like a sprig of heather from my trip to England, and a piece of confetti from a concert I went to a few years ago.

Do you keep something like a commonplace book - a physical way to note down favorite poems, lyrics, quotes, or anything special to you?  Or do you mostly keep track of these things electronically?

Sources:

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25 comments:

  1. Eep, your commonplace book is gorgeous. That cover is just super elegant. I used to have different notebooks for different purposes. Like, some for fun, some for school notes, some for lists, etc. I end up losing them all though, haha! Fun post, Charlene! :D

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  2. Happy Blogoversary Charlene! <33


    Okay that is way cool Joel McHale signed your commonplace book! This is seriously such a cool idea! I'll definitely consider having something like this :) I'm crap at keeping track of my notebooks because I go through them like water haha but I would definitely love something like this which would keep all the good memories and special moments in my life :)

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  3. Happy blogiversary!


    I do like the idea of a commonplace book. I like that my computer is essentially like a part of my identity (which just makes it all the more painful when things go wrong), and I love the romanticism of using a book instead. I don't think I could do it, though. I can't write anymore. It always kind of hurt my hand (I think I grip the pen too hard) and now that I'm not used to doing it anymore, just writing out an address on the occasional birthday card is about the extent of my pen-to-paper writing.


    I have thought about getting a binder and printing out certain things from my computer, just so I have a hard copy. Not quite the same thing though.

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  4. That is awesome..I use to do that with my school planner. Just write bits in it.. things i heard and wanted to remember or drew pictures.. Just random pictures I put in it (like a snapshot) and not to mention homework and all that other nonsense.. it would be nice to get one and do that again..
    Yours is super awesome.. absolutely love it :)

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  5. Thank you! My old commonplace book was a plain notebook, so I think the new one is a definite upgrade. I understand - I have various notebooks for work stuff - but always seem to misplace it when I really need it so I start another one! But I keep my commonplace book in my purse so I always know where it is! :)

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  6. Thank you Charlotte! It's really nice to look back on these things - especially when I remember to date them - and see what still appeals to me and sometimes there are things I've written that I'm not that interested in now. So you should keep one! :)

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  7. Thank you Charleen! (So funny that there's a Charlene, Charleen, and Charlotte here in my comments - I've never even met anyone with a name similar to mine!)


    I'm sorry that writing isn't great for you - I know what you mean though, I used to write so much in school, but now you don't really need to! And you do kinda get out of practice - I feel like I make more mistakes than I used to when copying out something!


    Actually I also put together things in a binder! Sometimes print-outs or specific magazine pages or pictures - it is nice to have a hard copy of special things!

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  8. Oh that is so cool! I wish I did that when I was younger, it would be nice to have a memento like that from my school days! The older I get the more nostalgic I get, I think.

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  9. Oh, I like the book idea! And happy blogversary!

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  10. Happy Blogoversary! :) I love the idea of a commonplace book (and you have such a beautiful journal there!) and definitely need to start keeping one. I like collecting notebooks/journals with interesting cover designs but never get around to actually using them, and now I have a really awesome purpose for them, lol!

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  11. Oh great! I love that people are thinking about starting one now! :)

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  12. Thank you! It's really fun to keep a commonplace book - to add things to it and look back at it once in a while. :)

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  13. 2 years!! YEAH!! Don't quit.. EVER. I haven't actually used a book to keep quotes/drawings and what not. I always want to... but I think that people who do keep them are very artistic. Why haven't I watched Community yet?? How neat that it's signed. I do keep a journal though and pray no one EVER reads it. It's pretty crazy! LOL!

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  14. Thank you Lee! I've tried to cut back on buying pretty notebooks (but it's really hard) because I like to make use of them, so I'm glad you have this idea now! You should reserve your prettiest notebooks for it. :D

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  15. Wow this is a great idea. I kind of keep separate journals for different things, one for journaling, one for blogging, one for random things. I think it would be great to short of combine them and make it more 'commonplace'. Added benefit: rely on my phone less!

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  16. Aw thanks for that - I don't plan to! You too, okay? We'll do this forever! :) I think it's nice to keep one even if you don't add little drawings or anything. I mean these old commonplace books don't even seem to be written neatly! LOL, seems like you may not need one of these though since it sounds like your journal would be pretty entertaining! :)

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  17. OH your last line is utter truth! I rely on my phone too much, I really try not to stare at the backlit screen if I don't have to, so putting my favorite things on paper is much better. I think you will have a great personalized commonplace book with all of those things in one!

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  18. I do keep a hand written calendar too. I write everything in it. From when I need to sweep the floor to appointments. I have kept one for years and years. I love whenever I cross something off in it.. I feel accomplished!

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  19. Pretty Little ReaderApril 1, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    Oh my gosh. I want a commonplace book so badly now!! I've always had a dream of owning a journal that was bursting with bits and pieces of my life, kind of collaged across the pages. Seems like all along I've been dreaming of a commonplace book!


    Yours is beautiful; I'll have to hunt for one that has lots of space for growth and to hide little things!

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  20. It is a great feeling to cross off something from a list! I probably should keep a big calendar for those things - I feel like I have too many to-do lists on scraps of paper! But I do like the phone apps where you can cross off something on your list with a swipe of your finger - I still get that feeling of accomplishment. :D

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  21. Yay! I hope you will find a good notebook soon - these books are so nice to look back on - and the fuller and more jam-packed they are, the better!

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  22. I don't know how I could've missed the first sentence of your first paragraph, but happy blogoversary, Charlene! :D And I really should keep track of all my notebooks, haha! :)

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  23. I've heard about commonplace books but for whatever reason never thought about keeping one myself! I LOVE that idea! And yours is seriously the best; of course it's got Jane Eyre on the cover. :) I think I need to start doing this! I've tried to keep journals and things before but very unsuccessfully, but this is something I could definitely keep up with.


    AH! AND HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY! :D

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  24. Thank you Rachel! I'm the same - I can't really keep up with journals, I think because writing longhand is kinda tedious. I like the idea though of preserving personal things in notebooks though so commonplace books is a happy medium! I'm glad you want to try to keep one - make sure you pick a perfect notebook too so you will love writing in it! :)

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  25. Now I want one too!!! Badly.

    Btw, love "your" The Mouse's Tale :)

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