Commonplace Books = Blogging?
They also turned their reading into writing, because commonplacing made them into authors. It forced them to write their own books; and by doing so they developed a still sharper sense of themselves as autonomous individuals.
Before reading this chapter, I'd never come across the term "commonplace book" before. I'm still struggling a little bit with the exact meaning of what it is, but from what I can tell, it's a book that has quotes and passages from other authors with similar meaning? And, the authors of these commonplace books used them to analyze the quotes they chose to include in the books?
I could be completely wrong with my analysis of this text, but oh well, at least I'm giving it a shot. If I'm right, which I'm pretty sure I am, these commonplace books were a precursor to what students do now when they study. We copy down important facts from our text books and then attempt to analyze it. It might not always be successful (like right now), but the work is definitely half the battle.
I'm pretty sure I could even go so far as to argue that our academic blogs are a revolutionary form of commonplace books, because they usually showcase a direct quote from the original text and then follow suite with an analysis or comments concerning that text.
Regardless, society would be lost without these books. I find it interesting that we're studying this now, however, because I imagine a commonplace book as a manuscript document or a diary--I can't imagine Thomas Jefferson typing this out on paper, but again, I could be wrong.
Even if they are diaries, there's no shame in that, because like Darnton mentions in chapter 10, we use these books to better understand what the author of the commonplace book thought of other authors.
Although we don't practice "commonplacing" now, we definitely take notes and write down the important stuff, which in turn turns us into authors just as Darnton points out in chapter 10.