Commonplace Notebooks

Following on from yesterday’s post, where I mentioned the lovely Tartan covered notebooks and mention of Commonplace notebooks. Despite keeping notebooks and journals since I was 12, I had never heard of Commonplace notebooks until I read the insert that came with the delightful book I book mentioned.

WaverleyBookFishUpon returning home, I did two things, the first was to find out what a Commonplace notebook was and the second was to purchase another of these books, this one in the large size and in a blue and orange design. This one made the cut because of the leaping salmon on the front as you can see here.

Commonplace notebooks contain and reflect the diversity and interests the author. The contents might appear as thoughts, lists, ideas, drawings and quotes. That material that has sparked reference material or the seeds of an idea might come from newspapers, blogs, magazines, podcasts and many other things.

There is a gradual distinction between a journal and a commonplace notebook. Journals record an individuals life, whereas a commonplace notebook compiles and demonstrates knowledge, likely located in a variety of places, some outlined here. Social media can also encompass the sharing of material, either by blog, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

As readers of this blog will perhaps note or recall from previous posts that I typically keep two books, a notebook, usually a Leuchtturm1917 where I capture things I want to remember, things that I am researching, article drafts, genealogical trees, lists and notes.

I also keep a planner, usually a Moleskine daily where I note appointments, my to do list, and other time specific information. By coincidence, my current Moleskine notebook was started at the beginning of November and is very much like these Tartan notebooks. They are sized between pocket and large Moleskin and have a mix of lined and plain paper. Upon pulling out my last four notebooks (because they were within arms reach) I can see that I do already keep what is referred to as a Commonplace book, in general terms.

I also have a separate book, using the Travellers notebook system which I wrote about HERE where I capture random notes – ideas for articles that occur to me when its 3 am or I am organising the washing! Yes, the notebook follows me around the house – (though since I wrote that post, B & M have stopped selling the pack of two A6 post its -:( how could they?) Whilst we live in an electronic world, and I love it, I am also a creature of habit and therefore my note taking is analogue and will remain so!

The physical structure and content of a commonplace notebook will develop and evolve overtime, Indeed I maintain such a notebook for broad and specific information relating to surnames. I can already see that this notebook, my moleskine planner and regular notebooks will evolve again over time.

Historically commonplace notebooks have existed since the 14th Century when they were created in Italy, likely for Italian merchants, where they were known as Zibaldone, but they didn’t reach popularity until the 17th Century. Some universities formally taught and required students the practice for literature and humanities classes.

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
This entry was posted in Genealogy, Introduction to One-Name Studies (Pharos course 901), One-Name Studies, Stationery, Filofax, Journals & Notebooks. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Commonplace Notebooks

  1. BookerTalk says:

    I’ve never really been clear what a Commonplace Book is. Sounds like it has an element of a scrapbook where yiu keep clippings from newspapers/magazines along with notes you make and ideas?


    • It’s exactly that Karen. I routinely stick bits into my notebook anyway. Add notes from something I read. So broadly speaking, a commonplace is about learning and knowledge whereas a notebook is a bit more simplistic. I have merged the two, quite organically.


  2. Pingback: Web Finds – 1 January 2020 « Travellers Notebook Times

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