- Aug 2021
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Müller-Wille and Scharf ‘Indexing Nature’, also points out that Linnaeus interleaved blanksheets into his texts so that he could take notes. Cooper points out that this had been a common practice in natural historysince at least the late seventeenth century (Cooper, Inventing the Indigenous, 74–5).
Apparently interleaving blank sheets into texts was a more common practice than I had known! I've seen it in the context of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) using the practice to take notes in his Bible, but not in others.
- Jul 2021
Edwards did this too. He'd take notes on scraps while walking and pin them to his coat. (Zettelmantel?) Later, he'd organize them and add them to his "Miscellanies" (1,500+ topics over his career). http://edwards.yale.edu/research/misc-index
This was the origin of my spelunking of Jonathan Edwards' commonplace book last night.
I love the idea of pinning ideas to one's coat so as not to lose them. Fortunately good pocket notebooks these days, but it would be interesting to wear one's ideas on one's sleeves.
(Look up the source for the note scraps on the coat.)
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
https://academic.logos.com/jonathan-edwards-organizational-genius/ by Matthew Everhard
Those interested in reading the contents of Edwards’ Blank Bible can either purchase the Yale print edition or read it online here.
Copies of print and digital editions of Jonathan Edwards' blank Bible are available.
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Blank-Bible-Works-Jonathan-Edwards/dp/0300109318/
- Online: http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9zZWxlY3QucGw/d2plby4yMw==
Apparently one can buy modern copies of interleaved bibles as well: https://www.amazon.com/Interleaved-Journal-Hardcover-Letter-Comfort/dp/078524316X/
Video review of an interleaved bible:
What other books can be found in interleaved editions? Ayn Rand perhaps?
Jonathan Edwards’s so-called “Blank Bible.” JE received as a gift from Benjamin Pierpoint, his brother in law, a unique book. Structurally, it is a strange animal. It is a small, double-column King James, unstitched and then spliced back together again inside a large blank journal. The result is a one-of-a-kind Bible that has an empty sheet between every page of Scripture text.
If one is serious about annotating a text, then consider making a "blank Bible" version of it.
Jonathan Edwards apparently received bible as a gift. It had a copy of the text of the bible which interspersed blank pages between every page of text thereby allowing massive amounts of space for marginalia!
The miscellanies, numbered and indexed, would often be noted in the margins of his Bible as well, especially if the note was an expansion of an exegetical point.
Interesting to see that Jonathan Edwards cross referenced his commonplace book to his bible as well.
As I studied Edwards’ writings and insights, I realized that I might be sitting at the feet of not only Edwards’ intellectual genius but his organizational genius, too.
For what I expect to be a coming description of Jonathan Edwards' commonplace book, I'm surprised that the page doesn't use the word or even florilegium.
Everhard here makes in one breath a common error I'm coming to notice. While it might be true that Edwards had some organizational genius, I think it's disingenuous to attribute his output to his intellectual genius. More and more I'm seeing that throughout history those who were thought of as intellectual geniuses really relied on the organization structures of their commonplace books (or similar devices). By writing, thinking, and producing in a commonplace tradition they were able to do far more, think more clearly, and accomplish more.
This can be linked with the idea also espoused in Robert Greene's Mastery which seems to have some of the similar flavor.
- blank Bible
- Philip Melanchthon
- Jonathan Edwards
- organizational genius
- false genius
- commonplace books
- interleaved books
- cross references
Best Bible Note-Taking System: Jonathan Edwards's Miscellanies
Overview of Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies system along with a a few wide-margin bibles. Everhard apparently hasn't heard of the commonplace concept, though I do notice that someone mentions the zettelkasten system in the comments.