So that’s where they come from
I’m thoroughly enjoying Steve Johnson’s new book, Where Good Ideas Come From (I was originally introduced to Johnson by my friend Victor with the book Ghost Map).
I’m about a third of the way through the book, and it’s been a constant process of reading and underlining, reading and underlining.
I’m not going to quote the whole book, but there’s one nugget I found very interesting because it’s something I’ve done for years with my sketchbooks and now something I (and many others) do with this blog:
Darwin’s notebooks lie at the tail end of a long and fruitful tradition that peaked in the Enlightenment-era Europe, particularly in England: the practice of maintaining “commonplace” book. Scholars, amateur scientists, aspiring men of letters–just about anyone with intellectual ambition in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was likely to keep a commonplace book. The great minds of the period–Milton, Bacon, Locke–were zealous believers in the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book. In its most customary form, “commonplacing,” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations.
Wow. A commonplace entry about commonplacing. How meta.