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.