On the keeping of commonplace books

It seems that my inveterate bookmarking, reposting of excerpts, and later pulling them into longer form writing is in line with early English readers and writers:

Robert Darnton, Extraordinary Commonplaces

Unlike modern readers, who follow the flow of a narrative from beginning to end (unless they are digital natives and click through texts on machines), early modern Englishmen read in fits and starts and jumped from book to book. They broke texts into fragments and assembled them into new patterns by transcribing them in different sections of their notebooks. Then they reread the copies and rearranged the patterns while adding more excerpts. Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your own personality. . . By selecting and arranging snippets from a limitless stock of literature, early modern Englishmen gave free play to a semi-conscious process of ordering experience. The elective affinities that bound their selection into patterns reveal an epistemology — a process of knowing — at work below the surface.

Yes, it is a process of knowing.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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