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Re: Commonplace Books, one more time

The Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) includes "commonplace books" in =
its Information Forms hierarchy under "journals" q.v. It's scope note =
reads: "Books in which noteworthy literary passages, cogent quotations, =
poems, comments, recipes, prescriptions, and other miscellaneous document =
types are written." There is undoubtedly much more detail that could go =
into a full description, but that's the gist of what that term is used to =

It also occurs in _Genre Terms: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and =
Special Collections Cataloguing_, 2d editor, Chicago, Association of =
college and Research Libraries, 1991. There the scope note reads: "Use for =
personal notebooks in which the owner has copied passages of interest or =
written his or her own compositions; use also for printed versions of such =
works." Genre Terms doesn't give the sources particular for each term, but =
gives  the bibliography for the entire thesaurus in the front matter. Its =
scope note stresses the conditions of production much more than the AAT =
one, which limits its scope to the bare description of the resulting work, =
not saying anything about how it is compiled. Perhaps they wanted to keep =
it very broad, to allow for the second part of the Genre Terms scope note, =
i.e., commonplace books not compiled manually by individuals but printed =
up like regular publications. The AAT scope note is based on the entry in =
Edwin A. Thompson, compiler, _Glossary of American Historical and Literary =
Manuscript Terms_, Washington, D.C., 1965. The Library of Congress Subject =
Heading List also includes the term, with a hyphen, but gives no scope =
note. =20

If anyone out there has other definitions, similar or dissimilar, I'd be =
interested to read them.

Alison Chipman
Editor, AAT
Vocabulary Program, Getty Information Institute

>>> Sam Lanham <slanham@xxxxxxxx> 08/06 3:18 PM >>>
Bookish friends--

OK, OK.  Since I got no responses to my question about the history of
commonplace books it has occurred to me and has been suggested by an
eminent member of the list that the term "commonplace book" is not very

 Maybe I should define it:  A commonplace book is a blank book to be =
with quotes, sayings, thoughts, etc., of interest to the owner.  From what
was collected you can get insights into the owners interests, thinking, =
personality. It may also include journal entries by the owner.  I found my
g-grandmother's in some stuff we inherited.  It's from 1887 and has blank
pages interspersed with printed autographs and quotes from well-known
poets. It is commercially leather bound and gold stamped and in quite good
condition. Reading it was almost like having a conversation with my =

Probably the most famous commonplace book belonged to Bishop George
Berkeley (1685-1753), an Irish cleric and philosopher, whose commonplace
book is an important source of his philosophical thinking.  (Encyc. Brit.,
11th ed., vol. 3, p. 779).

I have a friend, Cyra, who is a writer.  She encourages her students to
compile and keep commonplace books and is interested in passing on to her
students any background we could provide.  Could be that the commonplace
book, like journals and diaries, is just so generic that it has no =
history as a book type.

Any helpful comments will be passed on to Cyra.


Sam Lanham (slanham@xxxxxxxx)

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