I’ve downloaded my copy of The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow for Dan Allosso’s forthcoming Obsidian-based book club. https://danallosso.substack.com/p/obsidian-book-club-the-dawn-of-everything

Curious to see how these tools can be communally used for collaborative note taking, knowledge creation, and discussion.

Bookmarked The Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies Companions (2 book series) by Robert L Boss, Sarah B. Boss, eds. (JESociety Press)

The Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies Companions are products of JESociety's "Miscellanies Project." Essays were contributed by an international body of scholars hailing from East Asia, Australia, Europe, the UK, and North America. The contributions canvas the wide range of topics contained in Edwards' "Miscellanies."

"The Miscellanies Project" and the Companions are part of the "Visual Edwards Project" created by Robert L. Boss. A unique contribution to Jonathan Edwards studies, "Visual Edwards" is a software project that maps Edwards' writings, volumes 1-26 of the Yale critical edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and provides a new view of America's theologian. "Visual Edwards" is, as it were, an advanced computational material which can be stretched, bent, and zoomed to direct the scholar to areas of interest. As a cartographic tool, it grants the reader visual access to Edwards in his own words.

A team-oriented project to visually unlock Edwards' notebooks, and map intricate connections in his thought, "The Miscellanies Project" and the print Companions are first steps toward the Himalayan task of visualizing Jonathan Edwards -- an ongoing project seemingly without end. To echo Edwards' sentiment in "Types," "there is room for persons to be learning more and more ... to the end of the world without discovering all."

Liked a tweet by Dr. Matthew Everhard (Twitter)
Requesting my copy now…
Annotated About by Mandy BrownMandy Brown (A Working Library)
books are a means of listening to the thoughts of others so that you can hear your own thoughts more clearly. 
to which I might add:

And annotation helps you save those thoughts, share them with others, and further refine them.

Replied to a tweet by krish (Twitter)
@krishkhubchand Why not (also) scribble them down for your future self and place them in your commonplace book/zettelkasten/notebook/other? If you want to be interactive and get feedback, post them to a website or digital garden…
Watched Field Notes: Reporter's Notebook by Coudal PartnersCoudal Partners from Vimeo

Field Notes: Reporter's Notebook from Coudal Partners on Vimeo.

John Dickerson of “Face the Nation” talks about how he uses a Reporter’s Notebook and how he helped Field Notes make one.

Reporter John Dickerson talking about his notebook.

While he doesn’t mention it, he’s capturing the spirit of the commonplace book and the zettelkasten.

[…] I see my job as basically helping people see and to grab ahold of what’s going on.

You can decide to do that the minute you sit down to start writing or you can just do it all the time. And by the time you get to writing you have a notebook full of stuff that can be used.

And it’s not just about the thing you’re writing about at that moment or the question you’re going to ask that has to do with that week’s event on Face the Nation on Sunday.

If you’ve been collecting all week long and wondering why a thing happens or making an observation about something and using that as a piece of color to explain the political process to somebody, then you’ve been doing your work before you ever sat down to do your work.

I’d love to interview him about his process as well as keeping track of his notes after-the-fact. Does he index them? Collate them? How does he archive them? What role do they play in his book writing processes? Is his system something that he was taught, something which he created and refined over time, or a little bit of both?

Zettelkasten History Prior to Niklas Luhmann: Antonin Sertillanges

Antonin Sertillanges’ book The Intellectual Life is published in 1921 in which he outlines in chapter 7 the broad strokes a version of the zettelkasten method, though writing in French he doesn’t use the German name or give the method a specific name.[1]

The book was published in French, Italian, and English in more than 50 editions over the span of 40 years. In it, Sertillanges recommends taking notes on slips of “strong paper of a uniform size” either self made with a paper cutter or by “special firms that will spare you the trouble, providing slips of every size and color as well as the necessary boxes and accessories.” He also recommends a “certain number of tagged slips, guide-cards, so as to number each category visibly after having numbered each slip, in the corner or in the middle.” He goes on to suggest creating a catalog or index of subjects with division and subdivisions and recommends the “very ingenious system”, the decimal system, for organizing one’s research. For the details of this refers the reader to Organization of intellectual work: practical recipes for use by students of all faculties and workers by Paul Chavigny.[2]

Sertillanges recommends against the previous patterns seen with commonplace books where one does note taking in books or on slips of paper which might be pasted into books as they don’t “easily allow classification” or “readily lend themselves to use at the moment of writing.”


[1] Antonin, Sertillanges (1960). The Intellectual Life: Its Sprit, Conditions, Methods. Translated by Ryan, Mary (fifth printing ed.). Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press. pp. 186–198.

[2] Chavigny, Paul (1918). Organisation du travail intellectuel: recettes pratiques à l’usage des étudiants de toutes les facultés et de tous les travailleurs (in French). Delagrave.


Featured Image: zettelkasten flickr photo by x28x28de shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I guested on a recording for Andy Sylvester‘s new Thinking About Tools for Thought podcast earlier today. Hopefully I’ve lived up to the promise of the fascinating space that he’s been crafting there.

On Note Taking: Putting Ideas into a Crib

I mentioned the word incunable the other day, and a comment on it reminded me that I personally refer to my initial notes on what I read as incunabules. The original Latin (incunabulum, incunabula) translates as “into the crib” and is often used to mean swaddling clothes.

I use incunables in much the same way others in the personal knowledge management space might say fleeting notes. Ideas are born and written onto a page where they are kept in proverbial cribs. Some may grow and and develop into young adults others into old age. Some flourish and later senesce. Ideally one or two outlive me.

As is typical of many species, the care and feeding of the adolescents can be a trying time.

Featured image: LEGO Babies: Nonuplet Nursery flickr photo by cproppe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Realizing my interest in old and illuminated manuscripts, incunables, and drolleries is giving me ideas for icons, dividers, lettering, and illustrations for my sketchnotes process. These are the original (OG) sketchnotes.

See also MarginaliaMonday.

Read Creating a Commonplace Book (CPB) by Colleen E. KennedyColleen E. Kennedy
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one of the most important tools of a reader or writer was a commonplace book (CPB). Peter Beal, leading expert on English manuscript studies, defines a commonplace book as “a manuscript book in which quotations or passages from reading matter, precepts, proverbs and aphorisms, useful rhetorical figures or exemplary phrasing, words and ideas, or other notes and memoranda are entered for ready reference under general subject headings.” Your sources can include, first and foremost, the assigned readings and supplementary materials, as well as any other useful texts you come across. I encourage you to supplement CPB entries with extra-curricular material: quotations from readings for other classes, lyrics from songs, lines from movies, tweets with relevant hashtags, an occasional quotation from a classmate during discussion, etc. These extra-curricular commonplace passages, however, are in addition to and not in place of the required passages as described below.
I love this outline/syllabus for creating a commonplace book (as a potential replacement for a term paper).

I’d be curious to see those who are using Hypothes.is as a social annotation tool in coursework utilize this outline (or similar ones) in combination with their annotation practices.

Curating one’s annotations and placing them into a commonplace book or zettelkasten would be a fantastic rhetorical exercise to extend the value of one’s notes and ideas.

Bookmarked Media and the Mind: Art, Science and Notebooks as Paper Machines, 1700-1830 by Matthew Daniel EddyMatthew Daniel Eddy (University of Chicago Press)
I can’t wait to read Media and the Mind: Art, Science and Notebooks as Paper Machines, 1700-1830 (University of Chicago Press, 2022)!

I see some bits on annotation hiding in here that may be of interest to Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia.

Matthew Daniel Eddy, if you need some additional eyeballs on it prior to publication, I’m happy to mark it up in exchange for the early look.
Replied to How to remember more of what you read by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (Read Write Collect)
Across a series of posts (1,2,3), Steve Brophy explains his use of Roam Research and the Zettelkasten methodology to develop a deeper dialogue with what he reads. This is broken up into three steps, the initial capturing of ‘fleeting notes‘, rewriting the text in our own words as ‘Literature N...
Some useful looking links here. Thanks Aaron.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into some of the topics and sub-topics.

The biggest problem I’ve seen thus far is a lot of wanna-be experts and influencers (especially within the Roam Research space) touching on the very surface of problem. I’ve seen more interesting and serious people within the Obsidian community sharing their personal practices and finding pieces of that useful.

The second issue may be that different things work somewhat differently for different people, none of whom are using the same tools or even general systems. Not all of them have the same end goals either. Part of the key is finding something useful that works for you or modifying something slowly over time to get it to work for you.

At the end of the day your website holds the true answer: read, write, respond (along with the implied “repeat” at the end).

One of the best and most thorough prescriptions I’ve seen is Sönke Ahrens’ book which he’s written after several years of using and researching a few particular systems.

I’ve been finding some useful tidbits from my own experience and research into the history of note taking and commonplace book traditions. The memory portion intrigues me a lot as well as I’ve done quite a lot of research into historical methods of mnemonics and memory traditions. Naturally the ancient Greeks had most of this all down within the topic of rhetoric, but culturally we seem to have unbundled and lost a lot of our own traditions with changes in our educational system over time.