Blogs are Commonplace Books

Many years ago, when I was a college student, and barely conscious – I was not a party animal, just self centered – I studied Comparative Literature. Comp Lit was where I could basically take classes in film, science fiction, vampire fiction, foreign languages, almost anything liberal arts related, and it would count toward graduation. This was a good thing, since I was not a very focused young man. I am often amazed that I actually finally graduated. In fact, I even still have nightmares that I have forgotten a class and I have to explain it to my parents – No really, 25 years later, I still have these dreams.

The good part of Comp Lit is that I was exposed to a lot of diverse subjects. I cannot remember where I heard of this the first time, but in the 7 years or so of my undergraduate life (yes, 7, I know), I was exposed to the concept of commonplace books. Simply put, they were personal notebooks filled with randomly important stuff, important to the writer – usually a student- and owner of the book. I remember them mostly as a place to write down famous quotes, or important facts. They were important in Europe during the Renaissance and even to the eighteenth century.

I was recent reminded of commonplace books when I was reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. I will post more on what I thought of the book in a later post. But what struck me is how similar blogs – at least how I use them – are to commonplace books. They weren’t published books, but commonplace books showed the interests of their writers.

Um, ain’t that a blog?

– Edit

So, I’m twenty years behind the curve on blogging. It is a quintessentially 90’s phenomenon. But I only started 3-4 months ago. So there have been plenty of more active people around to think about this. Long story short, I’m not the first one to think of this 🙂


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