One of the ponderous commonplace books in which he placed his cuttings [ENGR]

I mentioned in many of the stories the commonplace books in which Holmes docketed items of information for later use.

In The Veiled Lodger, he “threw himself with fierce energy upon the pile of commonplace books in the corner. For a few minutes there was a constant swish of the leaves, and then with a grunt of satisfaction he came upon what he sought. So excited was he that he did not rise, but sat upon the floor like some strange Buddha, with crossed legs, the huge books all round him, and one open upon his knees.”

Commonplace books are scrapbooks filled with all manner of odds and ends of information, used as an aid for remembering useful facts, and are unique to the individual that compiles them.

Anyone looking at any one of Holmes commonplace books would see what his particular tastes and interests were. He compiled each one neatly from rough notes and cuttings, recompiling them occasionally, and preserving them with care and devotion.

In the modern world, blogs might be seen as the equivalent of the commonplace book, but they are more akin to journals or diaries as the entries are in date order rather than being random notes and jottings.

Douglas Johnston on the D*I*Y Planner website (and also I may note, a Sherlockian as evidenced by his excellent A Study in Sherlock – sadly, no longer maintained), has produced a two-part article on the commonplace book.

Part I deals with their origins and uses and Part II suggests ways of setting up a modern equivalent using paper (the Moleskine range is my favourite) or in digital format. The D*I*Y Planner website is an excellent place to read about notebooks, pens, etc.


2 Responses

  1. Richard S says:

    Great comment on the use of commonplace books. The links no longer seem to be working, but there’s a good summary of the use of commonplace books in Sherlock Holmes stories via The link is to page 58 of ‘Database Design for Smarties: Using UML for Data Modeling’ (!) which can be found via Google book search. This ref goes into a huge amount of detail about commonplace books as an example of data modelling systems.

    • John Watson says:

      Thank you. I had noticed that the link was not working. I plan to bring the article up to date soon. Thank you for the link. I will give it a read in the hope I can understand it! As I rewrite the article, it occurs to me that as your site is dedicated to the commonplace book and notebooks in general that it may be useful to my readers to refer to it and to some of the other sites that you refer to. Would it be in order to do so?


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