Thursday, December 16, 2010

Commonplace Books

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary (London, 1805) defines a commonplace book as a "book in which things to be remembered are ranged under general heads." He also lists a verb "to commonplace" which means "to reduce to general heads." Commonplacing is thus a very common activity, according to Johnson.

This already reflects a very watered down conception of the "common place," most likely influenced by John Locke's ideas.[1] From antiquity to the Renaissance and early modernity, a common place was a "privileged place," not just any general heading that might or might not be arranged alphabetically.[1] Loci were more like categories in which one searched for knowledge or on which one founded arguments. They usually constituted a kind of system, as I have argued before.

1. See Locke on commonplaces.
2. See also Search for commonplace.

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