Replied to Jonathan Edwards’ Organizational Genius by Dr. Matthew EverhardDr. Matthew Everhard (theLAB)
For all the help that Edwards has given scholars and pastors in the areas of theology, philosophy, and missions, it is probably due time that someone devote a doctoral project to Edwards’ organizational genius.
I’m particularly interested here in the idea of interleaved books for additional marginalia. Thanks for the details!

An aspect that’s missing from the overall discussion here is that of the commonplace book. Edwards’ Miscellanies is a classic example of the Western note taking and idea collecting tradition of commonplace books.

While the name for his system is unique, his note taking method was assuredly not. The bigger idea goes back to ancient Greece and Rome with Aristotle and Cicero and continues up to the modern day.

From roughly 900-1300 theologians and preachers also had a sub-genre of this category called florilegia. In the Christian religious tradition Philip Melanchthon has one of the more influential works on the system: De locis communibus ratio (1539).

You might appreciate this article on some of the tradition: https://blog.cph.org/study/systematic-theology-and-apologetics/why-are-so-many-great-lutheran-books-called-commonplaces-or-loci

You’ll find Edwards’ and your indexing system bears a striking resemblance to that of philosopher John Locke, (yes that Locke!): https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685

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Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

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