Weblets as Commonplace Books

n.b.: I'll update this page as the ideas develop further, so check back at this URL from time to time if the topic interests you
14 Jan 1999
In my search for an effective metaphor to summarize the use of the web as a personal composition medium, it occurred to me that the hoary old notion of the commonplace book was a pretty effective candidate. Today's bicycle ride to work found me thinking the following, as summarized in a message to John Blackburn:
I'm wrestling with the Big Question of the morning, and maybe the century:
	?how to inspire people
	to put in the time
	exploring and reading
	to find the trenchant passages
	that INSPIRE further thought
	and exploring and reading?
That's after all what we're about, among other things. I think _I_ made that turn early in college years, though I didn't get really active in that mode until later. Once upon a time the adventurous kept Commonplace Books to accumulate their found gems and ruminations. Hypertextual Commonplace Books are not just within our grasp... we're already making them (leastaways that's what I seem to have been doing all this time). Maybe _that's_ how we need to pitch it to them?
Here's a brief definition I found at http://metalab.unc.edu/ibic/Commonplace-Book.html (and see links therein to collected items):
Commonplace book (n.): an edited collection of striking passages noted in a single place for future reference.

There was a time when commonplace books were a popular way for civilized men and women to record striking passages they found in their reading. Who can forget the electrifying effect that some thoughts have on us when we encounter them for the first time? The commonplace book is a way of memorializing those striking passages so that one can return to them for renewed inspiration.

A bit of hunting turned up some nice sites to do with commonplace books: Here's a mention of the form by Terry Pratchett, one of my favorite authors:
Research is what happens when you think you're doing something else. I collect Victorian commonplace books, which I suppose were the forerunners of books like Notes and Queries here or the Straight Dope series in the States. And I also keep a look-out for old and slightly skewed reference books, of which Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is merely the best known. And if you put enough bits and pieces together in one place, you start making connections. I don't know. We're getting pretty close to the old 'Where do you get your ideas from?' question.

(from The Definitive Interview)

15 Jan
Cindy happened to mention to me that she'd noticed an E.M. Forster Commonplace Book while she was getting Hornblower novels (C.S. Forester) in Leyburn. Here's the Annie record:

 AUTHOR       Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970.
 TITLE        Commonplace book / E.M. Forster ; edited by Philip Gardner.
 PUBLISHER    Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c1987.
 SUBJECT      Forster, E. M. (Edward Morgan), 1879-1970 -- Notebooks,
                sketchbooks, etc.
 Leyburn Library        PR6011.O85 C66 1987
While I was in the vicinity I found a couple of others in (more or less) the genre:
 AUTHOR       Auden, W. H. (Wystan Hugh), 1907-1973.
 TITLE        A certain world; a commonplace book [selected by] W. H. Auden.
 PUBLISHER    New York, Viking Press [1970]
 SUBJECT      Commonplace-books.
 Leyburn Library        PN6245 .A9

 AUTHOR       Gooch, Richard, d. 1849.
 TITLE        Oxford and Cambridge nuts to crack : or, Quips, quirks, anecdote
                and facetiae of Oxford and Cambridge scholars / by the author
                of "Facetiae cantabrigienses" ; illustrated with designs ..
 EDITION      2d ed., cor. and enl.
 PUBLISHER    London : A. H. Baily & Co., 1835.
 SUBJECT      Anecdotes.
              University of Cambridge -- Anecdotes.
              University of Oxford -- Anecdotes.
 Leyburn Library        PN6251 .G6 1835
...which just goes to show what fun can be had by trolling the shelves.

11 May
Here's the OED entry:

'common'place-book. Formerly Book of common places
orig. A book in which `commonplaces' or passages important for reference were collected, usually under general heads; hence, a book in which one records passages or matters to be especially remembered or referred to, with or without arrangement.

1578 Cooper Thesaurus Introd., A studious yong man..may gather to himselfe good furniture both of words and approved phrases..and to make to his use as it were a common place booke.
1599 Marston Sco. Villanie iii. xi. 226 Now I haue him, that..Hath made a common-place booke out of playes, And speakes in print.
1642 Fuller Holy & Prof. St; iii. x. 176 A Common-place-book contains many notions in garrison, whence the owner may draw out an army into the field.
1668 Hale Pref. Rolle's Abr., I have commended the making and using of a Common-place-Book, as the best expedient that I know, for the orderly and profitable study of the Law.
A. 1794 Gibbon Autobiog. 83, I..filled a folio commonplace-book with my collections and remarks on the geography of Italy.
1837-9 Hallam Hist. Lit. II. ii. i. 35 note, They..registered all his table-talk in commonplace-books alphabetically arranged.

I've started a weblet on bricolage