Archive for the ‘Commonplace Books’ Category

Italy’s National Diary Archive Foundation

August 24, 2014

Exciting news:  A reader has just sent me a connection to an article that appeared on August 19 in the New York Times.   It seems that Italy already has a diary archive, containing 7,000 memoirs written by “ordinary” people.  It is located in Pieve Santo Stefano, Italy, now known as the “City of Diaries.”


The project was begun in 1984 by Saverio Tutino, a foreign correspondent.  The current director is Natalia Cangi.


Go to:


I have no news on the National Diary Archive for the USA.  I am currently so involved with my final attempt to succeed with a brick and mortar used, out-of-print and rare bookstore that I have little time for the archive.  (I work six days a week.)  The archive needs funding.  If The Eclectic Reader bookstore succeeds, so will the archive.

I have had an interesting donation for the archive this summer- a “commonplace book,” which is  a scrapbook of letters, copies of poems, articles and pictures cut out of newspapers dating from 1870 to 1881.   The only clue as to ownership of this book is the name William Robertson of Glasgow on a certificate of the National Secular Society from 1879.  There are references to Glasgow, Santa Rosa, California, and Grand Rapids, Michigan.   The scrapbook is definitely religious in nature.   The creator of this book could have been a minister. It came to me from the  estate of a minister.  The handwriting is exquisite, but often hard to read.  I’ll try to do a post on it soon.


Love Quotes

February 15, 2014

IMG_0033A reader’s habit, perhaps,  but I have been saving my favorite quotations in separate blank books almost as long as I have been keeping a diary.   I extract them like tiny gems from nearly every book I read.  A book with no quotes to offer is like a table with no food and indicates my lack of bonding with the writer or respect for their views.

Quotations  also adorn the opening pages of each journal.   Sometimes they relate to something happening in my life at the time.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some of my “captured” quotes on Love.  The rose, symbol of love, is here an Angel Face rose in my garden.

“To love, begin anywhere.”   –  David Grayson

“What I have loved well no one can ever take from me.”    –  David Grayson

“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”    –  Kurt Vonnegut

“You fall in love with what’s missing in you.”   –  Wayne Dyer

“The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”   –  Joseph Addison

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to our own.”  –   Robert Heinlein from Stranger in a Strange Land

“Love is the passionate and abiding desire on the part of two or more people to produce together conditions under which each can be and spontaneously express his real self, to produce together an intellectual soil and emotional climate in which each can flourish, far superior to what either could achieve alone.”  –  F. Alexander Magoun (sociologist)

“Love is an attitude between two people who have many things in common – tastes, interests, points of view –  and that they share these things in common, in companionship, to the degree that they are stronger together than either one is alone.”    –  Murray Banks (psychiatrist)

“…Beware…love never dies of a natural death.  It dies because we do not know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals.  It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never a natural death.  Every lover could be brought to trial as the murderer of his own love.”  – Anais Nin

“Attention is the most basic form of love, through it we bless and are blessed.” – John Tarrant

“Every act of love is a work of peace no matter how small.”   –  Mother Teresa

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”     –   Dr. Seuss

“A bitter woman says ‘all men are the same.’  A wise woman decides to stop choosing the same kind of man.”     –   Annetta Powell (?)

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”     –   Zora Neale Hurston


November 12, 2010


I was reading another biography of one of my favorite people — Thomas Jefferson —when I ran across a reference to his “commonplace book.”  He was a great collector of useful bits of information and copied ideas and quotes he admired from his reading into a notebook. 

What is a commonplace book?  It is a notebook/scrapbook that can include everything from quotes, passages from books, poems, letters, photos, art work, memorabilia, programs from events or news articles.   It can be a writer’s idea book.  In Poland, a related style of journal – the “silva rerum” (a “forest of things”) – was a multi-generational family journal of the nobility.

The commonplace book was popular in Jefferson’s day, though it has been around for a long time…probably as long as people have been inspired by great ideas or admired a writer’s turn of phrase.  Obviously it was necessary in the days before copiers.

With new technology we may be on the crest of a revival of this concept.  Just recently I have read that iphones are being used to store short diary notes, complete with photos, voice recordings or video.  A multi-media techno-journal!

Apparently, what I created during my high school years—about when I was learning to type—was a “commonplace book.”  I didn’t know the name for it.  I began collecting quotes and poems under the title “Bau Pinh Yah.”  I said that title was from Tom Dooley and that it meant “everything from never mind to the hell with it,” but I find no reference to it online.  I still keep a commonplace book because I actually enjoy handwriting, a disappearing art form.   

By lifting quotes from the books I’ve read I don’t have to underline or highlight the books and ruin them for the next reader.  Personally I love to consider a thoughtful reader’s comments penciled in a book, but as a book dealer I totally understand how this destroys the value of the book.  You must accept that someday all your books will pass on to someone else.  I do confess that my very favorite books are defaced by my personal “marginalia,” as it is known in the book trade.

Commonplacing is another form of journaling that appeals to a distinct personality, a person who enjoys collecting and savoring life’s little treasures.  It should be a pleasure for others to read some day as you are recording the very best things you have found during your intellectual serendipity.

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