- Oct 2022
In his splendid recent autobiography, History of a History Man, Patrick Collinson reveals that when as a young man he was asked by the medievalist Geoffrey Barraclough at a job interview what his research method was, all he could say was that he tried to look at everything which was remotely relevant to his subject: ‘I had no “method”, only an omnium gatherum of materials culled from more or less everywhere.’
How does a medievalist reference "omnium gatherum" without an explicit mention of even florilegia which generally translates as "gatherings of flowers" as their method?!
- Sep 2022
Andy 10:31AM Flag Thanks for sharing all this. In a Twitter response, @taurusnoises said: "we are all participating in an evolving dynamic history of zettelkasten methods (plural)". I imagine the plurality of methods is even more diverse than indicated by @chrisaldrich, who seems to be keen to trace everything through a single historical tradition back to commonplace books. But if you consider that every scholar who ever worked must have had some kind of note-taking method, and that many of them probably used paper slips or cards, and that they may have invented methods relatively independently and tailored those methods to diverse needs, then we are looking at a much more interesting plurality of methods indeed.
Andy, I take that much broader view you're describing. I definitely wouldn't say I'm keen to trace things through one (or even more) historical traditions, and to be sure there have been very many. I'm curious about a broad variety of traditions and variations on them; giving broad categorization to them can be helpful. I study both the written instructions through time, but also look at specific examples people have left behind of how they actually practiced those instructions. The vast majority of people are not likely to invent and evolve a practice alone, but are more likely likely to imitate the broad instructions read from a manual or taught by teachers and then pick and choose what they feel works for them and their particular needs. It's ultimately here that general laziness is likely to fall down to a least common denominator.
Between the 8th and 13th Centuries florilegium flouished, likely passed from user to user through a religious network, primarily facilitated by the Catholic Church and mendicant orders of the time period. In the late 1400s to 1500s, there were incredibly popular handbooks outlining the commonplace book by Erasmus, Agricola, and Melancthon that influenced generations of both teachers and students to come. These traditions ebbed and flowed over time and bent to the technologies of their times (index cards, card catalogs, carbon copy paper, computers, internet, desktop/mobile/browser applications, and others.) Naturally now we see a new crop of writers and "influencers" like Kuehn, Ahrens, Allosso, Holiday, Forte, Milo, and even zettelkasten.de prescribing methods which are variously followed (or not), understood, misunderstood, modified, and changed by readers looking for something they can easily follow, maintain, and which hopefully has both short term and long term value to them.
Everyone is taking what they want from what they read on these techniques, but often they're not presented with the broadest array of methods or told what the benefits and affordances of each of the methods may be. Most manuals on these topics are pretty prescriptive and few offer or suggest flexibility. If you read Tiago Forte but don't need a system for work or project-based productivity but rather need a more Luhmann-like system for academic writing, you'll have missed something or will only have a tool that gets you part of what you may have needed. Similarly if you don't need the affordances of a Luhmannesque system, but you've only read Ahrens, you might not find the value of simplified but similar systems and may get lost in terminology you don't understand or may not use. The worst sin, in my opinion, is when these writers offer their advice, based only on their own experiences which are contingent on their own work processes, and say this is "the way" or I've developed "this method" over the past decade of grueling, hard-fought experience and it's the "secret" to the "magic of note taking". These ideas have a long and deep history with lots of exploration and (usually very little) innovation, but an average person isn't able to take advantage of this because they're only seeing a tiny slice of these broader practices. They're being given a hammer instead of a whole toolbox of useful tools from which they might choose. Almost none are asking the user "What is the problem you're trying to solve?" and then making suggestions about what may or may not have worked for similar problems in the past as a means of arriving at a solution. More often they're being thrown in the deep end and covered in four letter acronyms, jargon, and theory which ultimately have no value to them. In other cases they're being sold on the magic of productivity and creativity while the work involved is downplayed and they don't get far enough into the work to see any of the promised productivity and creativity.
- Aug 2022
level 2hog8541ssOp · 15 hr. agoVery nice! I am a pastor so I am researching Antinet being used along with Bible studies.
If you've not come across the examples, one of the precursors of the slip box tradition was the widespread use of florilegia from the 8th through the 13th centuries and beyond, and they were primarily used for religious study, preaching, and sermon writing.
A major example of early use was by Philip Melanchthon, who wrote a very popular handbook on how to keep a commonplace. He's one of the reasons why many Lutheran books are called or have Commonplace in the title.
A fantastic example is that of American preacher Jonathan Edwards which he called by an alternate name of Miscellanies which is now digitized and online, much the way Luhmann's is: http://edwards.yale.edu/research/misc-index Apparently he used to pin slips with notes on his coat jacket!
If I recall, u/TomKluender may have some practical experience in the overlap of theology and zettelkasten.
(Moved this comment to https://www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/wth5t8/bible_study_and_zettelkasten/ as a better location for the conversation)
- Jun 2022
Perhaps the more intriguing question isn't one of process, but of content? What do florilegia and commonplaces have to do with zettelkasten?!? 😉
- Apr 2022
An alternative kind of note-taking was encouraged in the late Middle Agesamong members of new lay spiritual movements, such as the Brethren of theCommon Life (fl. 1380s–1500s). Their rapiaria combined personal notes andspiritual reflections with readings copied from devotional texts.
I seem to recall a book or two like this that were on the best seller list in the 1990s and early 2000s based on a best selling Christian self help book, but with an edition that had a journal like reflection space. Other than the old word rapiaria, is there a word for this broad genre besides self-help journal?
An example might be Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret (Atria Books, 2006) which had a gratitude journal version (Atria Books, 2007, 978-1582702087).
Another example includes Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002) with a journal version (Zondervan, 2002, 978-0310807186).
There's also a sub-genre of diaries and journals that have these sort of preprinted quotes/reflections for each day in addition to space for one to write their own reflections.
Has anyone created a daily blogging/reflection platform that includes these sorts of things? One might repurpose the Hello Dolly WordPress plugin to create journal prompts for everyday writing and reflection.
Judging from the copies now extant, the number of compilations, especially florilegia and encyclopedic compendia, continued to grow as more writers engaged in selecting and summarizing for their own use and that of others.16
There is a parallel between these practices and the same sort of practices seen in social media posting, annotating, and bookmarking, however in the digital realm the user interface is so simple that one needn't put very much thought into the process and the results become almost instantaneously meaningless. Was this the case in the medieval context as well, or did the readers/compilers get more out of their practices?
Concordances and indexes to authoritative texts are evidence of a new sense of the limitations of the florilegium, which seemed increasingly inadequate to the complexity of university teaching and preaching.
Florilegia likely first originated as personal notes of items worthy of memory taken on the occasion of access to a text and then shared with others who would not otherwise have access to it, as a remedy against “underload.”
Compare this statement to that of Earle Havens who in Commonplace Books (Yale, 2001) indicates that florilegia were initially used by traveling preachers and members of the mendicant orders for composing sermons.
On one hand, florilegia diffused selections from and helped to reinforce a canon of authors who were otherwise well known in the Middle Ages, starting with the Bible and church fathers and emphasizing ancients like Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Juvenal, Lucan, and Seneca (in descending order of citations).105
In descending order of citations following the traditional Bible and church fathers florilegia included sententiae from classical writers including Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, Juvenal, Lucan, and Seneca.
cross reference: 105. Munk Olsen (1980), 153–54.
What time period and corpus of work does this accounting include?
Some florilegia focused on poetic excerpts and were used to teach prosody, others specialized in prose. Both kinds were likely used in teaching at many levels—from the young boys (pueri) mentioned in the Opus prosodiacum of Micon Centulensis in the mid- ninth century to the twenty- year- old Heiric who wrote under dictation from Lupus of Ferrières, ca. 859–62, a Col-lectanea comprising excerpts from Valerius Maximus and Suetonius, followed by philosophical and theological sententiae.104
Some florilegia were used as handbooks to teach composition. Those with poetic excerpts were used to teach prosody while others specialized in prose.
Examples of these sorts of florilegia include Micon Centulensis' Opus prosodiacum from the mid-ninth century and a Collectanea by Heiric who wrote under dictation from Lupus of Ferrières, ca. 859–62.
Under the impact of the Carolingian Renaissance, flori-legia included classical authors as well, often arranged haphazardly in the order in which they were read.
Florilegia began to include classical authors in addition to biblical passages and those of church fathers due to the influence of the Carolingian Renaissance.
The term “florilegium” (from flores for flowers and legere in the sense of “select”) dates from the early modern period, likely first used by Aldus Manutius for a Latin translation of a collection
of Greek epigrams, but the practice of gathering the memorable elements of a text or a disputation certainly existed in antiquity. 101
While the form existed in antiquity, the likely first use of florilegium for the genre was by Aldus Manutius for a Latin translation of a collection of Greek epigrams.
What collection? Published in what year? Mejor (1994), 651 may have the details.
Rouse and Rouse (1982), 165–68 for the medieval titles, based on the flower metaphor or others, including liber scintillarum (book of sparks) or pha-retra (quiver).
In addition to florilegium, the descriptors liber scintillarum (book of sparks) and pharetra (quiver) in addition to other flower metaphors were also used in the medieval period to describe the genre of books in which the best passages from authoritative sources were compiled.
- The Secret
- social media
- Opus prosodiacum
- Micon Centulensis
- ars excerpendi
- prosperity gospel
- Carolingian Renaissance
- business ideas
- Rick Warren
- classical authors
- note taking
- The Purpose Driven Life
- gratitude journal
- Aldus Manutius
- Lupus of Ferrières
- Saddleback Church
- church fathers
- Brethren of the Common Life
- Feb 2022
The idea of the index was invented twice in roughly 1230.
Once by Hugh of Saint-Cher in Paris as a concordance of the Bible. The notes towards creating it still exist in a variety of hands. The project, executed by a group of friars at the Dominican Friary of Saint-Jacques, listed 10,000 words and 129,000 locations.
The second version was invented by Robert Grosseteste in Oxford who used marginal marks to create a "grand table".
The article doesn't mention florilegium, but the head words from them must have been a likely precursor. The article does mention lectures and sermons being key in their invention.
<small><cite class='h-cite via'>ᔥ <span class='p-author h-card'>Aaron Davis</span> in 📑 Monks, a polymath and an invention made by two people at the same time. It’s all in the history of the index | Read Write Collect (<time class='dt-published'>02/15/2022 21:22:10</time>)</cite></small>
- Aug 2021
Local file Local file
The classical meaning of this word was strongly linked to economic contexts. It was often used to denote ‘that whichis weighed together, kept together, saved’. C.T. Lewis and C. Short, A Latin Dictionary(Oxford: Oxford University Press,1999). For Enlightenment English speakers, the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED’s) 2a definition for compendium,which takes its early modern usage in neo-Latinate culture into account, is: ‘An abridgement or condensation of a largerwork or treatise, giving the sense and substance, within smaller compass.’
Notice the tying in of things kept together in an economic context. How does this relate to the commonplacing of ideas (or even the gathering of flowers with florilegia)?
Interesting to see the garden metaphor here in the translated Arabic title. Ties it into the idea of florilegium and a tie into the modern idea of the "digital garden".
An Arabic translation, entitled Kitāb al-rawḍa (Book of the Garden), was made by ʿAbdallāh ibn al-Faḍl al-Anṭākī in the 11th century.
Sammelband (/ˈzæməlbænt/ ZAM-əl-bant, plural Sammelbände /ˌzæməlˈbɛndə/ ZAM-əl-BEN-də or Sammelbands), or sometimes nonce-volume, is a book comprising a number of separately printed or manuscript works that are subsequently bound together.
Compare and contrast this publishing scheme with the idea of florilegium and commonplace books.
Did commonplace keepers ever sammelband their own personal volumes? And perhaps include more comprehensive indices?
What time periods did this pattern take place? How does this reflect on the idea of reorganizing early modern information management practices? Could these have bled over into the idea of the evolution of the Zettelkasten?
- May 2021
To extract knowledge successfully from reading was to “deflower” a book, as explained by the preface to the twelfth-century Libri deflorationum.