Bookmarked ‘Mere chips from his workshop’: Gotthard Deutsch’s monumental card index of Jewish history by Jason Lustig (History of the Human Sciences | Sage Journals)
Gotthard Deutsch (1859–1921) taught at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati from 1891 until his death, where he produced a card index of 70,000 ‘facts’ of Jewish history. This article explores the biography of this artefact of research and poses the following question: Does Deutsch’s index constitute a great unwritten work of history, as some have claimed, or are the cards ultimately useless ‘chips from his workshop’? It may seem a curious relic of positivistic history, but closer examination allows us to interrogate the materiality of scholarly labor. The catalogue constitutes a total archive and highlights memory’s multiple registers, as both a prosthesis for personal recall and a symbol of a ‘human encyclopedia’. The article argues that this mostly forgotten scholar’s work had surprising repercussions: Deutsch’s student Jacob Rader Marcus (1896–1995) brought his teacher’s emphasis on facticity to the field of American Jewish history that he pioneered, catapulting a 19th-century positivism to the threshold of the 21st century. Deutsch’s index was at an inflection point of knowledge production, created as historians were shifting away from ‘facts’ but just before new technologies (also based on cards) enabled ‘big data’ on a larger scale. The article thus excavates a vision of monumentality but proposes we look past these objects as monuments to ‘heroic’ scholarship. Indeed, Deutsch’s index is massive but middling, especially when placed alongside those of Niklas Luhmann, Paul Otlet, or Gershom Scholem. It thus presents a necessary corrective to anointing such indexes as predecessors to the Internet and big data because we must keep their problematic positivism in perspective.
In honor of Yom Kippur today, I’m celebrating with acknowledgement of Gotthard Deutsch’s “monumental card index [zettelkasten] of Jewish history”. I hope everyone had an easy fast.

Review of “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” (1952) by C. Wright Mills

In “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” (1952), C. Wright Mills talks about his methods for note taking, thinking, and analysis in what he calls “sociological imagination”. This is a sociologists’ framing of their own research and analysis practice and thus bears a sociological related name. While he talks more about the thinking, outlining, and writing process rather than the mechanical portion of how he takes notes or what he uses, he’s extending significantly on the ideas and methods that Sönke Ahrens describes in How to Take Smart Notes (2017), though obviously he’s doing it 65 years earlier. It would seem obvious that the specific methods (using either files, note cards, notebooks, etc.) were a bit more commonplace for his time and context, so he spent more of his time on the finer and tougher portions of the note making and thinking processes which are often the more difficult parts once one is past the “easy” mechanics.

While Mills doesn’t delineate the steps or materials of his method of note taking the way Beatrice Webb, Langlois & Seignobos, Johannes Erich Heyde, Antonin Sertillanges, or many others have done before or Umberto Eco, Gerald Weinberg, Robert Greene/Ryan Holiday, Sönke Ahrens, or Dan Allosso since, he does focus more on the softer portions of his thinking methods and their desired outcomes and provides personal examples of how it works and what his expected outcomes are. Much like Niklas Luhmann describes in Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen (VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 1981), Mills is focusing on the thinking processes and outcomes, but in a more accessible way and with some additional depth.

Because the paper is rather short, but specific in its ideas and methods, those who finish the broad strokes of Ahrens’ book and methods and find themselves somewhat confused will more than profit from the discussion here in Mills. Those looking for a stronger “crash course” might find that the first seven chapters of Allosso (2022) along with this discussion in Mills is a straighter and shorter path.

While Mills doesn’t delineate his specific method in terms of physical materials, he does broadly refer to “files” which can be thought of as in the zettelkasten (slip box) or card index traditions. Scant evidence in the piece indicates that he’s talking about physical file folders and sheets of paper rather than slips or index cards, but this is generally irrelevant to the broader process of thinking or writing. Once can easily replace the instances of the English word “file” with the German concept of zettelkasten and not be confused.

One will note that this paper was written as a manuscript in April 1952 and was later distributed for classroom use in 1955, meaning that some of these methods were being distributed directly from professors to students. The piece was later revised and included as an appendix to Mill’s text The Sociological Imagination which was first published in 1959.

Because there aren’t specifics about Mills’ note structure indicated here, we can’t determine if his system was like that of Niklas Luhmann, but given the historical record one could suppose that it was closer to the commonplace tradition using slips or sheets. One thing becomes more clear however that between the popularity of Webb’s work and this (which was reprinted in 2000 with a 40th anniversary edition), these methods were widespread in the mid-twentieth century and specifically in the field of sociology.

Above and beyond most of these sorts of treatises on note taking method, Mills does spend more time on the thinking portions of the practice and delineates eleven different practices that one can focus on as they actively read/think and take notes as well as afterwards for creating content or writing.


My full notes on the article can be found at https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=url%3Aurn%3Ax-pdf%3A0138200b4bfcde2757a137d61cd65cb8

Theory and Applications of Continued Fractions MATH X 451.50 | Fall 2022

For the Fall 2022 offering Dr. Michael Miller is offering a mathematics course on Theory and Applications of Continued Fractions at UCLA on Tuesday nights through December 6th. We started the first class last night, but there have been issues with the course listing on UCLA Extension, so I thought I’d post here for any who may have missed it. (If you have issues registering, which some have, call the Extension office to register via phone.)

For almost 300 years, continued fractions—that is, numbers representable as the sum of an integer and a fraction whose denominator is itself such a sum—have fascinated mathematicians with both their remarkable properties and their myriad applications in such fields as number theory, differential equations, and computer algorithms. They have been applied to piano tuning, baseball batting averages, rational tangles, paper folding, and plant growth … the list goes on. This course is a rigorous introduction to the theory and mathematical applications of continued fractions. Topics to be discussed include quadratic irrationals, approximation of real numbers, Liouville’s Theorem, linear recurrence relations and Pell’s equation, Hurwitz’ Theorem, measure theory, and Ramanujan identities.

Mike is recommending the Continued Fractions text by Aleksandr Yakovlevich Khinchin. I found a downloadable digital copy of the 1964 edition (which should be ostensibly the same as the current Dover edition and all the other English editions) at the Internet Archive at  Based on my notes, it looks like he’s following the Khinchin presentation fairly closely so far.

If you’re interested, do join us on Tuesday nights this fall. (We’ve already discovered that going 11 for 37 is the smallest number of at bats that will produce a 0.297 batting average.) 

If you’re considering it and are completely new, I’ve previously written up some pointers on how Dr. Miller’s classes proceed: Dr. Michael Miller Math Class Hints and Tips | UCLA Extension

Welcome to Wrexham S1.E2 Reality

Watched "Welcome to Wrexham" Reality from Hulu
With Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, Jordan Davies, Spencer Harris. Wrexham Football Club attempts to qualify for the playoffs as their new owners try to very quickly learn the ins and outs of a game and an industry they know nothing about.

Brodart Library Supplies for the Analog Zettelkasten Enthusiast

So you’ve taken the plunge and purchased an old school library card catalog, or maybe you want to but haven’t hit critical mass of cards to justify the purchase yet? Certainly you’ve found the traditional index card supplies still available at every office supply store on the planet, but did you know there’s still at least one company that supports libraries with custom card catalog supplies that you could use with your zettelkasten?

Brodart is a library services company based in Pennsylvania that supplies materials to institutional libraries that still has a variety of supplies not only for libraries and book lovers alike, but for amateur and professional zettelmacher(in) as well.

Most of their focus is on 3-by-5 inch index card sized material, but maybe with the re-popularization, they might add more support for the 4-by-6 inch card enthusiasts?

Perhaps if the demand for these older systems goes up, they’ll not only have more offerings, but the price will come down through economies of scale?

Let’s look at what they’ve got available.

Cards and Card Guides

On the card side, they’ve got a variety of options that aren’t as readily available at most office supply stores. If you’ve got an old school library card catalog with rods, you’re probably going to want cards with holes pre-punched. Of course they’ve got them in colors as well as without holes too.

With a sizeable card collection you’re likely to want some card guides, so they offer the traditional A-Z 1/5 Cut Card Guides as well as Blank Catalog Card Guides, with those holes pre-punched for convenience.

3x5" 1/3 cut manilla card guides with pre cut holes for separating your card sections

Dewey Decimal Catalog Card Guides

Most may already have an indexing system built into their system, but if you don’t and want to go with a classic Dewey Decimal set up, they’ve got you covered.

Dewey Decimal system manilla card with a tab that reads "000 General Works". The card has the BroDart logo and the number 24-111-101.

Perhaps you’ve got a sizeable digital card collection already, and have been jonesing to make the jump to analog? They’ve got printable card sheets so you can print out your digital cards relatively easily and continue without losing all that work. Or maybe you’re the mid century/ Umberto Eco purist who wants typewritten cards, but don’t want to retype them all? They’ve got both 4-up and 3-up versions as well.

A perforated sheet of paper with outlines for 4 3x5" cards with pre-drilled holes in each.
4-Up Catalog Card Sheets for Laser Printers

Let’s say you’ve got a long standing practice of making bibliographic cards. You need some cards to hold not only your meta data about the materials you’re reading, but you want to add your fleeting notes to them the way Luhmann and others have. Brodart has a wide variety of pre-printed cards that could serve this purpose. Some have printed sections which say “Date Loaned” and “Borrowers’s Name”, with sections for data below, but these could just as easily stand for page number and lined space for your important notes.

Brodart White Book Cards with Author, Title, Date Loaned, and Borrower’s Name

A 5x3" card that would appear in a library book with an empty section at the top followed by fields labeled "Author" and "Title". Below these are a two colum set of lined spaces under headings for "Date Loaned" and "Borrower's Name".

There are also a number of other versions of this sort of card depending on what you want. Try these or search for the many others which may suit your fancy:

Slip Boxes

Maybe you haven’t made that slip box purchase yet, but want something shiny and new? Brodart has you covered here as well. They’ve got a few different options for a small desktop slip box or a fully modular system that you can add to over time.

Stand alone boxes

Brodart has at least two desktop boxes, with 12 and 9 drawers respectively.

A wooden table top library card catalog with drawers in a 4x3 configuration. Each drawer has a metal pull with a label slot and at the bottom a removable card file rod.

Modular Boxes

Want to design your own system that’s expandable with your card collection? They’ve got a five drawer wide system with options for 1, 2, or 3 row tall sections that you can build up to suit your needs. Start with their table and legs, add a one or more sections of card files, and then top it off with a cover. If you’d like, they’ve also got an interstitial piece with drawer pulls so that you’ve got a writing surface built into your zettelkasten. Build that system up to your ceiling!

A modular 3x5 drawer card catalog box. The top is open so as to accomodate other similar modular boxes or a woodenn cap top.

4-by-6 inch Card Boxes

Brodart is a bit thin on the 4-by-6 inch category, but for the beginning zettelmacher(in), they do have some nice sized, portable, archive quality boxes you might like to start your collection. See their Postcard Boxes.

Other Options

Of course there are lots of other options in the space. Some of these box systems can become pretty expensive, and for the price you might be as well off purchasing a used card catalog which you can restore  or you can find restored ones online. Some of them even go to the level of fine furniture and can quickly go for over $5,000.00.

If you prefer the vintage 20 gauge steel esthetic (you know I do!), you can find lots of used, but still great condition slip boxes online in places like eBay or on Craigslist.

I and others have written some advice about other card storage options on a Reddit community targeted at analog zettelkasten in the past.

What do you use? What do you want to use? Are you going to custom build your own? Have you seen other companies like Brodart that still support the manufacturing of these sorts of tools for thought? Please share your ideas and supplies below.

Zettelkasten Method State of the Art in 1898

Many people mistakenly credit Niklas Luhmann with the invention of the zettelkasten method, so I’ve been delving into historical note taking practices. I’ve recently come across a well known and influential book on historical method from the late 1800s that has well described version of the slip (box) method.

Originally published in French in 1897 as Introduction aux études historiques and then translated into English by George Godfrey Berry, Henry Holt and Company published Introduction to the Study of History in 1898 by authors Charles Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos. Along with Ernst Bernheim’s popular Lehrbuch der historischen Methode mit Nachweis der wichtigsten Quellen und Hülfsmittelzum Studium der Geschichte (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1889), Langlois and Seignobos’ text is one of the first comprehensive manuals discussing the use of scientific techniques in historical research.

Primarily written by Seignobos, Book II, Chapter IV “Critical Classification of Sources” has several sections on the zettelkasten method under the section headings:

  • Importance of classification—The first impulse wrong—Thenote-book system not the best—Nor the ledger-system—Nor the “system” of trusting the memory
  • The system of slips the best—Its drawbacks—Means ofobviating them—The advantage of good “private librarian-ship”

This section describes a slip method for taking notes which is ostensibly a commonplace book method done using slips of paper (fiches in the original French) instead  of notebooks. Their method undergirds portions of the historical method they lay out in the remainder of the book. Seignobos calls the notebook method “utterly wrong” and indicates that similar methods have been “universally condemned” by librarians as a means of storing and maintaining knowledge. Entertainingly he calls the idea of attempting to remember one’s knowledge using pure memory a “barbarous method”. 

The slip method is so ubiquitous by the time of his writing in 1897 that he says “Every one admits nowadays that it is advisable to collect materials on separate cards or slips of paper.”

The Slip Method

The book broadly outlines the note taking process: 

The notes from each document are entered upon a loose leaf furnished with the precisest possible indications of origin. The advantages of this artifice are obvious : the detachability of the slips enables us to group them at will in a host of different combinations ; if necessary, to change their places : it is easy to bring texts of the same kind together, and to incorporate additions, as they are acquired, in the interior of the groups to which they belong. As for documents which are interesting from several points of view, and which ought to appear in several groups, it is sufficient to enter them several times over on different slips ; or they may be represented, as often as may be required, on reference-slips.

Seignobos further advises, as was generally common, “to use slips of uniform size and tough material” though he subtly added the management and productivity advice “to arrange them at the earliest opportunity in covers or drawers or otherwise.”

In terms of the form of notes, he says

But it will always be well to cultivate the mechanical habits of which professional compilers have learnt the value by experience: to write at the head of every slip its date, if there is occasion for it, and a heading in any case; to multiply cross-references and indices; to keep a record, on a separate set of slips, of all the sources utilised, in order to avoid the danger of having to work a second time through materials already dealt with.

Where the Luhmann fans will see a major diversion for the system compared to his internal branching system is in its organization. They describe a handful of potential organizations based on the types of notes and their potential uses, though many of these use cases specific to historical research are now better effected by databases and spreadsheets. As for the broader classes of more traditional literature-based textual notes, they recommend grouping the slips in alphabetical order of the words chosen as subject headings. Here, even in a French text translated to English, the German word Schlagwörter is used. It can be translated as “headwords”, “catchwords” or “topical headings” though modern note takers, particularly in digital contexts, may be more comfortable with the translation “tags”.

While there are descriptions of cross-linking or cross-referencing cards from one to another, there is no use of alpha-numeric identifiers or direct juxtaposition of ideas on cards as was practiced by Luhmann.

The authors specifically credit Ernst Bernheim’s Lehrbuch der historischen Methode several times in the book. While a lot of the credit is geared toward their broader topic of historical method, Bernheim provides a description of note taking very similar to their method. I’ve found several copies of Bernheim’s text in German, but have yet to find any English translations. 

Both Bernheim and Langlois/Seignobos’ work were influential enough in the areas of history specifically and the humanities in general that Beatrice Webb (an influential English sociologist, economist, socialist, labour historian, and social reformer who was a co-founder of the London School of Economics, the Fabian Society, and The New Statesman) cites their work in Appendix C “The Art of Note-Taking” in her 1926 autobiographical work My Apprenticeship, which was incredibly popular and went through multiple reprintings in the nearly full century since its issue. Her personal use of this note taking method would appear to pre-date both books (certainly the Langlois/Seignobos text), however, attesting to its ubiquity in the late 1800s.

What is the “true” zettelkasten method?

Scott Scheper has recently written that personal communication with Luhmann’s youngest son Clemmens Luhmann indicated that Luhmann learned his method in 1951 from the Johannes Erich Heyde text Technik des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens (with several German editions from 1931 onward). This book’s note taking method is broadly similar to that of the long held commonplace book maintained on index cards as seen in both Langlois/Seignobos (1897) and Webb (1926). One of the few major differences in Heyde was the suggestion to actively make and file multiple copies of the same card under different topical headings potentially using carbon copy paper to speed up the process. While it’s possible that Luhmann may have either learned the modifications of his particular system from someone or modified it himself, it is reasonably obvious that there is a much longer standing tradition as early as Konrad Gessner in 1548 to the middle of the 20th century of a zettelkasten tradition that is more similar to the commonplace book tradition effectuated with index cards (or slips “of a similar size”). Luhmann’s system, while seemingly more popular and talked about since roughly 2013, is by far the exception rather than the rule within the broader history of the “zettelkasten method”. With these facts in mind, we should be talking about a simpler, historical zettelkasten method and a separate, more complex/emergent Luhmann method.

RSVPed Attending 09/10/22 2:00 PM Iona Fyfe Live at Coffee Gallery Backstage

MATINEE! Iona Fyfe is one of the most accomplished young Scottish singers today in the folk tradition and beyond. She won the title of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Traditional Music Awards in 2018, Scots Language Awards Speaker of the Year in 2021 and was described as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.” (Global-Music.de). In 2021, she became the first singer to win the coveted title of Musician of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards.

Her knowledge and advocacy of the Scots Doric language has recently been extended to issues of equality in the music and other workplaces, winning an award for Equality in the Workplace from the Scottish Musicians Trade Union. Iona not only sings beautiful traditional songs of life, love, and loss in old Scots, but also songs in English written by contemporaries, as well as herself. She has recorded an album of Appalachian songs that go back to her native Aberdeenshire, as well as covers of folks such as Gillian Welch’s “Dark Turn of Mind.” One among many, Mike Harding, of the Mike Harding Folk Show, calls her voice “Absolutely stunning.”

Iona will be accompanied in her show by two of the Pacific Northwest’s finest up and coming young musicians, Alex Sturbaum on guitar and accordion, and Brian Lindsay on fiddle and mandolin. They are the duo Countercurrent, known throughout the contra dance scene nationally for their infectiously rhythmical and joyful performances.

Saturday September 10, 2022 | MATINEE 2:00 PM | $20.00
Reservations: (626) 798-6236


Reservations are strongly suggested. Seating is limited.
Call 626.798.6236 for Reservations Between 10 A - 10 P
Pay by Cash or Check. Sorry … No Credit Cards
No payment necessary when you make telephone reservations. Pay by cash or check at the door at the time of the show.

I’ve been following Iona and her music for a while now and never expected to see her live, much less 5 minutes from my house!! She’s got a few dates in the Los Angeles area this week and upcoming in her US tour, so make your reservations now.

Dw i’n hapus ac yn barod am gerddoriaeth celtaidd wythnos yma.

Cliff at Étretat, the Port d’Aval (1869) at the Norton Simon Museum

I was walking through The West Wing of the Norton Simon Museum and nearly screamed when I saw this painting of Cliff at Étretat, the Port d’Aval (1869) by Gustave Courbet.

Gold framed painting of the Cliffs of Étretat in the background with a gravel looking beach with a white and black boat in the midground and several large rocks in the foreground.

I couldn’t help but remember the Noël episode of the television series The West Wing (S2 E10) and Bernard’s flat delivery:

This is a painting of the cliffs of Étretat, cleverly entitled “The Cliffs of Étretat”.

Wall mounted museum card displayed next to a painting that reads: Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) Cliff at Étretat, the Port d'Aval, 1869 Oil on Canvas The extension of a railway line from Paris via Le Havre brought tourism to the tiny fishing village of Étretat in the 1850's. Writers and artists soon flocked to the town, it's picturesque half-mile of beach, and its striking rock formations. Guy de Maupassant, Jacques Offenbach, Camille Corot, Eugene Boudin, and Claude Monet all spent time there, but none conjured its crumbled cliff faces and chill, frothy sea more effectively than Courbet, who spent five weeks in an Étretat cottage during the fall of 1869. His rugged method of paint application—using a palette knife as often as a brush—was ideally suited to the rough topography and lonely aspect of that place. The Norton Simon Foundation F.1969.06.2.P In the bottom corner is a blue circle with a white arrow followed by "326" ostensibly the indicator to play the accompanying audio tour portion for this artwork.
The museum wall card for the seascape oil painting

That episode described a similar painting by a minor (fictitious) painter Gustave Callioux who was apparently influenced by Courbet. The plot was likely art imitating real life as Courbet’s painting was apparently stolen by the Nazis

Perhaps the show’s reference was also a snipe at the Canadian children’s television show Caillou? One also has to wonder at the similarities of the name Cliff Calley who pops ups up in the show’s “Ways and Means” episode (S3, E3).

On hand held objects and material culture

Should we view it as a coincidence or not that the information management carrier of the early 20th century is the same size and scale as the carrier at the opening of the 21st century?

The humble index card and the cellular phone have more in common than we might expect.

Listened to Key Takeaways from the Trump's Affidavit Release from The Brian Lehrer Show | WNYC
Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter at The New York Times, joins with takeaways and the latest news from the release of the affidavit in the FBI search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

Some interesting and useful depth here beyond a lot of the usual political rhetoric.
Acquired Forest Friends Magnetic Bookmarks by galison.com (amazon.com)
Quill and Fox Design illustrated the cute bookworm, squirrel, rabbit, owl, and, just for fun, a red fox and a beaver holding a quill for these Forest Friends magnetic bookmarks from Galison.
Someone special thought my slip box needed a little bit of whimsy. 🐰🦫