What Is a Commonplace Book?

A commonplace book is someone’s personal collection of quotes, witticisms, observances, poems, and even graffiti that have inspired them, made them laugh or touched them in some way. Many famous people throughout history have had commonplace books, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Milton, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau, and the scientist, Carl Linnaeus.

I began my commonplace books while I was in junior high school in the late 1960’s and so I have almost 50 years of quotes about a wide variety of topics. And I’m still constantly finding quotes or sayings that touch me in some way so my commonplace books are always going to be a work in progress and a labor of love.

It is also wonderful that in this type of blog I can include a few of my favorite artists and some of their artwork as well. Maxfield Parrish, Dale Chihuly, Berthe Morisot, Vincent Van Gogh, Norman Rockwell and several other artists are included in my commonplace book. Please click on the individual images of their artwork to see the much larger and more detailed views.

To quote Dorothy Parker: “I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.”

So this type of blog is much better than my two volumes of hardcover commonplace books because here I can much more easily find the quotes, poems, etc., that I’m trying to remember by using the Search box at the upper right or by going through the Categories lists.

I have also tried to include a photo or a drawing of the authors of all of these quotes and/or images that illustrate the quotes. Please click on the quote’s title to see these images because sometimes they don’t pop up automatically, especially if you have used the Search box or the Categories lists. You can also get a much larger view of all of the images by clicking on them individually.

Throughout the years I have tried very hard to accurately document when, where and who said what in my commonplace books, but if I have made any mistakes, I do sincerely apologize. Please correct me if you have found something wrong, thanks!

I hope that you enjoy what has been my pleasure to collect for such a long time and perhaps you can find a quote that will also make you laugh, make you cry or make you ponder the wisdom of others. And maybe my commonplace book will also inspire you to begin your own personal collection of quotes that you will love too.

Happy Reading and Welcome to my Commonplace Book!

P.S I also have a separate blog,  http://www.jeneanebehmeswritings.wordpress.com for my personal writings as well. I have posted my poems, essays, short stories, spoonerisms, and even haiku, that I have written over the years. Maybe you will also enjoy reading what I have enjoyed writing as well.

open book


8 Responses to What Is a Commonplace Book?

  1. huckleberryfrienduniverse says:

    What a wonderful blog you have! Turns out I have commonplace books too… about 5 or so.. Just that I didn’t know that is what it was called.. Thankyou for sharing yours with us..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow you have 3 more than I do, lol! I didn’t know for about 10 years that my collections of quotes, etc. had a name, and that many famous people also kept commonplace books too until a friend who was studying to become a high school teacher told me what I had Thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot to me! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ganesh says:

    Nice and inspiring blog, dear friend! Thanks for following “Known is a drop, Unknown is an Ocean”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ladycee says:

    Hi, I’ve never heard about a commonplace book, so your explanation enlightening. Amazing that you have been collecting for over 50 years. You are a great example of focus and achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, I’m glad that my explanation helped you to understand what exactly is a commonplace book.

      Lol, I’m not sure I can take credit, though, for being an example of focus and achievement. I just wrote down since junior high the phrases or quotes or excerpts of whatever made me smile or cry or think differently about things whenever I happened to come across them.

      I kept them on little pieces of paper in a big manila envelope, which was not too organized or efficient!

      But a former co-worker, who was studying to become a high school teacher, told me that my manila envelope collection was called a “commonplace book” and that those personalized collections had been around for centuries.

      Kathy also advised me to go to a book store and buy a pretty blank book and write down all my little slips of paper so I would never lose any of them. I now have two commonplace books that are kept in my locked fire-proof box and I still manually add to them as well as on my blogs.

      I was impressed that I had been unknowingly carrying on a long-time tradition of many writers and scientists, etc. I thought that was really neat!

      And now with the Internet, you can find quotes and blurbs and witticisms all over the place and a blog filled with such things can be now easily achieved.

      But I like being old-school lol! I only include things that have somehow found me, I guess is how I can easily describe it, rather than the other way around. Found me and in some way touched me.

      So I guess commonplace books are a personal reflection of their creators’ personalities, tastes, political leanings, sense of humor, and maybe a pretty good indicator of what is in their souls and in their hearts of hearts.

      Sorry about the length of my return comment but I really do love it when people enjoy finding out about commonplace books. And that maybe mine can inspire them to begin their own too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • ladycee says:

        Hi J,
        Please do not apologise for the long comment. I am sure readers will love this insight into how this hobby came about and gives those who may want to adopt a similar practice an idea on how to go about it. Your friend Kathy was very wise to get you to put those quotes into a book. I do insist in saying you have been focused and diligent for collecting these for 50 years. I started trying to collect for a memories book or box but I have not been diligent. Items such as theatre tickets, programmes, postcards etc because it is amazing how quickly you can forget what you’ve done, or enjoyed. These collections can also be a good source of inspiration for us writers (as you have proved with your blog!).
        Thank you once again for your response – your passion is evident and it has blessed me that you took the time and made the effort to give such a thorough explanation. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh thank you so much sweetie for your praise, you have put a smile on my face!

        My commonplace book did come in quite handy when I was in college. I used some of the quotes in different English writing assignments and I got kudos from my teachers for including them. That was fun!

        Liked by 1 person

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