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What were commonplace books? Simon O'Hagan

Regulars | By Simon O'Hagan

A mid-17th-century commonplace book

Commonplace books go back centuries, and can't be beaten as an insight into the mind of a writer. By Simon O'Hagan

Commonplace books were miscellanies in which a writer would gather passages of literature that had caught their eye. They were not quite diaries, journals or anthologies in any themed sense; more a kind of literary playlist reflecting the writer’s enthusiasms and preoccupations – and therefore quite random. To that extent, in their bite-size appeal, commonplace books were way ahead of their time. To scroll through Twitter is to experience something of the commonplace book. ...


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