Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keeping a Commonplace Book

Last year I began keeping a Commonplace Book. I wanted to copy quotes I had found or heard from various sources. Having them all in one book would be a good reference not only for me, but for Sophia and Olivia.

I had heard about Commonplace Books through some Charlotte Mason websites I refer to as I was developing Sophia's and Olivia's homeschool curriculum.

I started exploring on Pinterest what examples of Commonplace Books look like; and created a board with examples from various Commonplace Books - contemporary and historical.

Some reflect the person's best penmanship, others are a collection of snippets of quotes and bits of articles taped or glued into a book. Others use yellow "stickie sheets" with notes written on them. Some have beautiful drawings or paintings in them, while others cut out images from magazines or books and include them as inspiration.

A page from my Commonplace Book.

The covers range from plain books to personalized collages. One collage on the board shows a collection of words and images from magazines. Another collage incorporates tactile elements - like laces, scrapbook paper, and fabric.

DIY Planner said, "The Commonplace Books of old were series of books, stuffed with scraps, inspirations, snippets of information, sketches, clippings, photographs, poems, jokes, references, and anything else pertaining to the interest of the person who kept it."

A Commonplace Book is a central resource for ideas, quotes, observations, anecdotes, and information you come across during your life. The purpose of the book is to record and organize the information for later use in your life; in your writing or speaking; or in your business.

Commonplace Books differ from journal (which are chronological and introspective) in that they are not organized chronologically. Rather, the authors of these books would have one or two themes for which they sought information from various sources. They would record the information and review it by themselves or with others who had similar interests.

An article in The New York Review of Books noted that authors of these books made “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 personality … a way of making sense of the world.”

A page from my Commonplace Book.

Within a Charlotte Mason education, a Commonplace Book is a place to record great quotes, poems, and passages from literature. The children and teens choose what they want to include in their Commonplace Book which eventually becomes a resource filled with noble thoughts of others.

Charlotte Mason Help asks, "Don't you find it interesting that the greatest literary figures in history such as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Dickens, Stevenson, Franklin, J. London...did not take creative writing or composition courses? They copied very carefully passages from classic literature and then tried to write the same passage again from memory without looking at the model.

"They used their own words when needed, but tried to sound like the original author as much as possible. Eventually, this carried over into their own writing."

Charlotte Mason had students keeping their own commonplace books by around age 13. She said, "It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or of any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review."

One gets a pretty good idea of a man, his likes and prejudices, 
his quirks and manias, the variousness of his mind 
from reading a commonplace book.
- William Cole

The blog Sage Parnassus noted, "Most people have heard about Thomas Jefferson's commonplace books. The very readable biography by Clara Ingram Judson describes them nicely....[One of the characters] from a perennial, favorite read-aloud, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, kept a commonplace book. It's how Nathaniel Bowditch learned - reading, then writing, then reviewing what he wrote."

A page from my Commonplace Book.

Tips for keeping a Commonplace Book:

– Read often and widely.

– Highlight what resonates with you as you read (e.g., words, anecdotes, passages, stories, information). .

– Take notes while you read.

- Record wisdom, not facts. Don't just record random pieces of information. The point is to have a book filled with wisdom that you refer to in times of depression, crisis, opportunity, or a new job.

- Transfer information from the book to your Commonplace Book.

- Expand what you record from sources other than books. Speeches, videos, movies, or conversations all are valuable resources.

- Use a book that you enjoy writing in. You also can use notecards that you can rearrange as you want. In fact, Ronald Reagan actually kept quotes on a notecard system.

- Don’t let it pile up. Write in your Commonplace Book on a regular basis.

- Look at other people’s Commonplace Books. Get ideas about ways to improve your book.

- Recognize that this is a project for a lifetime.


Rita said...

A modern day version might be the smash books--remember those? Although they didn't always include quotes, but could. You could put anything you wanted in smash books, too. Lots of daily memorabilia and anything whatsoever that took your fancy. I like your quote book version and how you do each one in a different color.

I couldn't see the examples because I am not on pinterest. They won't let you do look unless you are a member. I do like the title of commonplace book.

Little did I know I kept one when I was a young teenager--LOL! I loved to copy down poetry I liked or quotes and had notebooks full! I also included a few pictures from Life magazine. They had the best pictures! :)

Lisa said...

Oh I love this. I keep notebooks of my own notes, not so organized and intentional as this though, I love the idea of doing it with our children. Thank you for the inspiration.