Quote – New Years diary

“Having omitted to carry on my diary for two or three days, I lost heart to make it up, and left it unfilld for many a month and day.  During this period nothing has happend worth particular notice.  The same occupations, the same amusements the same occasional alterations of spirits, gay or depressd, the same absence of all sensible or rationale cause for the one or the other – I half grieve to take up my pen, and doubt if it is worth while to record such an infinite quantity of nothing.  But hang it!  I hate to be beat so here goes for better behaviour.” Sir Walter Scott – 1st January 1829 (The Journal of Sir Walter Scott – edited by W. E K Anderson).

51irffqjojl-_sx319_bo1204203200_

Advertisements

Who pays for fornication and witch doctors?

I’d like to imagine people go to old collectibles auctions because they have a passion for the art and the topic.  However, when the sale item is a nearly three-hundred-year-old apology letter for fornication (yours for the generous price of around £400-£600) I’ll be a bit less weirded out if I can believe the buyer is in it purely for the re-sale value.

capture

Fornication at Invaluable.com

I added a post a while ago about the auction market for commonplace books and ‘ephemera’.  It’s a shame that these letters, journals, diaries, etc are so ubiquitous and easily stored/shipped, that they become perfect items to trade, since the contents are then out of the ‘public’ eye.

This example from Invaluable.com is a good one – “Description: Fornication etc.- [Examples of legal and religious agreements, orders etc.]”.  Probably an interesting bit of social history there.

Or, a treasure from the annals of quackery – a Homeopathic Physicians Commonplace Scrapbook and Ledger by Dr James Grant Gilchrist – on www.read-em-again.com (online Americana and ephemera site) for $1,250.00.  I’m sure there is some juicy history in there but the discovery will depend on both the expertise and inclination of whoever wants to fork out the $$.

That’s why I love when I find online scans that show more than a few teasing images (pun intended).  If you are interested in commonplace books, even for the artistic value (like me) if not for historical or academic research, check out the list of links to online scanned texts via my Read commonplaces online page.  These links are gold for the average hobbyist, and most of the sites are well-curated with gorgeous HD scans (please send me a message if you know of any more!).

The one down-side of these links is that – naturally – most of the content is heavily copyright protected, even if it’s freely available to search.  I have a list of commonplace books I’d like to review and delve into and – although I am sure my posts would come fairly squarely under ‘fair use’ – I want to respect the institutions who make their stuff so freely available by playing fair and asking permission as much as possible.  How they react is yet to be seen.

Is there a fair middle-ground?  If there’s no $ market for this ‘ephemera’ we probably wouldn’t have the quality and quantity we have now, but having a $1,000 text is the same as a book being hidden away (and un-scanned) in a dusty corner of a locked university archive.  The supply side seems to be well covered, but how do you increase the (fair and open-source) demand?

 

capture2

HIstorical treasure-box, on sale at www.read-em-again.com

Project Dust Bunny and the First Folio Tour | Marguerite Happe

Here is a link to an interesting post (link below) by Marguerite Happe on “Project Dust Bunny”, a research project by the Folger Shakespeare Library to collect and analyse fragments of DNA and other articles that collect in the spine of old books.

dust_dancing_in_the_sunlight_me_074aWhile at first it sounds like an excellent idea, she makes some very good points about what could be a slippery slope.  While it sounds like a great idea to analyse these fragments, there is a question about whether the article is ‘part’ of the book.  For example, if a famous author decided to bookmark a diary with a lock of hair, should the hair be counted as ‘part’ of that historical artifact?  How about insects, leaf pressings or other nature samples?

For Project Dust Bunny, the American Libraries Magazine comments that the researchers are deciding how much dust, etc to take out, or whether to leave it until the scientific analysis is advanced enough.

Which leaves another question.  If I bought a book at an auction which was found to be owned by Shakespeare himself, would I ‘own’ any of his skin and DNA within the creases?  To analyse it?  To publish medical or family history data from the DNA that could be embarrassing to his descendants?

It all has too many shades of Henrietta Lacks, and in a way I am glad I will never have enough money to afford a purchase that would necessitate that type of ethical brain teaser!

___________________________________________________________________

When I was in Special Collections today doing research for a Hitchcock project, I ran into Wendel Cox, the World’s Best Reference Librarian. As we were chatting (and they were working on exhi…

Source: Project Dust Bunny and the First Folio Tour | Marguerite Happe

… because famous people do it

The website (and great podcast) the Art of Manliness has a great article from 2010 about the pocket notebooks of famous people.

Some of the worst advice you could get would probably be “you should do this because it’s what famous people do”, but let’s look into this.  What do famous people all have in common – apart from a heavy dose of ego?

I’d say it’s clarity of purpose in at least one area of their life.  For good or bad, what defines someone famous is that they have confidence in themselves to pursue something nobody has done before, or to pursue the same thing but with a dedication and purpose that most other people do not have.

To have purpose you have to understand and motivate yourself.  Someone else can drive you but then your limit will be that person’s motivation.  Unless you are being mentored by Kanye West or Richard Branson, that won’t be enough to become famous.

You need to understand yourself, to soak in the world and re-combine what you see and hear.  You do that to understand the topic but also to understand yourself, to discover what angles you are using to look at and to explore new ones.

It is what Steven Johnson calls “in a very real sense textual play”, something earnest university students do under prompting from their lecturers, and which Google replicates in algorithm format whenever you type in a search result.

The difference in having a notebook you can hold is that it is an external construction that has become a part of you, you intellectual beaver.  It is something you can put down and forget, then pick up after months, years, and look at with fresh eyes and fresh insight.

Blogs, Google searches, they are useful but they are intentional.  Evernote and computer folders can become breeding grounds for inspiration, but they are hard to navigate and could never compare to simply skimming and flicking through the pages of a worn notebook.  Well, at least not until I figure out how to use Tags in Evernote the right way.

I changed this blog address and made a Facebook page!

‘morethancommonplace.wordpress.com’ is now https://panningforink.com.  Like the new by-line on the blog, this site about commonplace books, note-taking and what ‘memory in analogue’ can teach us about ourselves.  It is about how society has moved from zibaldones to Evernote, parchment to Moleskine and Field Notes and everything in between.

Most of all, it is about the artistry of note-taking itself.  It is about sifting through the records, the history, and the notebooks themselves for shiny nuggets of inspiration.

As well as the new website, I have created a new Facebook page called Panning for Ink.  This is a tiny blog site right now with a handful of followers, and it would not take long for me to thank every one of you who follow my blog.  So, thank you and I hope you visit my new Facebook link in the New Year!

I will be posting about note-taking, and especially commonplace books.  This means reviews of books online, their history, their authors.  Also, what the style and structure of those notes reveal ‘between the lines’.

It will be great to hear from you with comments, ideas and thoughts about how to grow this site, as well as any original posts of yours that you’d like me to promote (of course, with you as the author).

So thank you to my small, small list of followers.  I will talk to you soon.

Commonplace book review – Matthew Day(s?)

What does it mean to be remembered?  In around 360 years will someone be reading your words only because, by chance, a single page of your notes had a passing reference to some person, or event that history decided was “noteworthy”?

temp-2

What if that is history’s only memory of you?  Despite what you think is worth remembering?  Do you care if your thoughts are remembered but you are not?  Or if they are remembered but people are not sure if it was you who said them or someone else… your son, or maybe your father?

Around the early 1600s, either Matthew Day, or Matthew Day, wrote a utilitarian commonplace (you can find it here), in a satchel-sized, gold-embossed book…  Continue reading