Today, while I was researching the life of Thomas Jefferson with a particular focus on his poetic appreciation I came across notes on his Literary Commonplace Book. Wow… how did I not know about this phenomenon?
Apparently, sometime during the Renaissance it became popular to collect favorite verses, thoughts, prayers, or even recipes in what amounted to be a scrapbook. Eventually, the well-educated were urged to do so during their college years. Thomas Jefferson began his at age fifteen and continued adding to it until age thirty. Other famous authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain kept various types of commonplace books. They could range from basically a journal of scribbled notes and ideas, like Twain’s, to a more familiar scrapbook of pasted newspaper articles, like Thomas Jefferson’s.
I’ve never been one to make use of a journal, even though I do think they are a great creative writing resource, but I can honestly say that seeing how the commonplace books were used throughout history has really inspired me. I’d love to hear if others are using commonplace books and how you got started.
Also, if you’re interested you can read my full article, Thomas Jefferson – President and Poet, by clicking Here.