Article ID: CBB001202409

John Locke’s “New Method of Making Common-Place-Books”: Tradition, Innovation and Epistemic Effects (2014)


In 1676, the English physician and philosopher John Locke published a new method of commonplacing. He had developed this method and, in particular, a new approach to organizing and indexing the entries, in the course of 25 years of personal note-taking and it proved quite influential. This paper presents the three major approaches to commonplacing as practiced by physicians and other scholars before Locke – the systematic or textbook approach, the alphabetical approach and the sequential or index-based approach – and it analyzes the ways in which Locke himself applied them in his own commonplace books. In comparison with established approaches, his new method offered a maximum degree of flexibility while facilitating the later retrieval of notes and minimising waste of space and paper. Thanks to these features, it was particularly well suited for physicians and natural philosophers who were interested in the infinite variety of natural particulars rather than in elegant quotes on a very limited set of classical topics. In conclusion, the potential epistemic impact of commonplacing on early modern medicine and natural philosophy is discussed, in particular its importance for contemporary debates about species and disease entities and for the emergence of the notion of “facts.”

Included in

Article Charmantier, Isabelle; Müller-Wille, Staffan (2014) Worlds of Paper: An Introduction. Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period (pp. 379-397). unapi

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Chapter Justin E. H. Smith; (2013)
Heat, Action, Perception: Models of Living Beings in German Medical Cartesianism (/isis/citation/CBB416199867/) unapi

Book Blair, Ann; (2010)
Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (/isis/citation/CBB001231884/) unapi

Chapter Purš, Ivo; Smolka, Josef; (2011)
Martin Ruland starší a mladší a prostedí císaských lékaú (/isis/citation/CBB001201950/) unapi

Article Sanchez, Guillermo C.; (2000)
Mateo Aleman and John Locke: Two Frustrated Physicians (/isis/citation/CBB000932393/) unapi

Chapter Stephen Gaukroger; (2014)
Empiricism as a Development of Experimental Natural Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB971325669/) unapi

Article Zaterka, Luciana; (2006)
Robert Boyle e John Locke: Hipótese corpuscular e filosofia experimental (/isis/citation/CBB000850029/) unapi

Article Rossiter, Elliot; (2014)
Locke, Providence, and the Limits of Natural Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001201141/) unapi

Book Anstey, Peter R.; (2011)
John Locke and Natural Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001033683/) unapi

Article Walmsley, Jonathan; (2003)
The Development of Locke's Mechanism in the Drafts of the Essay (/isis/citation/CBB000831411/) unapi

Article Sarah E. Parker; (2016)
The Reader as Authorial Figure in Scientific Debate (/isis/citation/CBB342643342/) unapi

Chapter William Poole; (2017)
Wadham College Library: The First Century (/isis/citation/CBB156897318/) unapi

Book Voelkel, James R.; (2001)
The Composition of Kepler's Astronomia Nova (/isis/citation/CBB000302185/) unapi

Chapter Ward, Lee; (2009)
Locke and the Problematic Relation between Natural Science and Moral Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001201162/) unapi

Article Wolfe, Charles; Salter, Alan; (2009)
Empiricism contra Experiment: Harvey, Locke and the Revisionist View of Experimental Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001031881/) unapi

Book Nuovo, Victor; (2011)
Christianity, Antiquity, and Enlightenment: Interpretations of Locke (/isis/citation/CBB001201326/) unapi

Book Anstey, Peter R.; (2011)
John Locke and Natural Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001231545/) unapi

Essay Review Stuart, Matthew; Campbell, Keith; Jacovides, Michael; Anstey, Peter; (2013)
Locke's Experimental Philosophy (/isis/citation/CBB001500173/) unapi

Article Francisco Malta Romeiras; (2020)
Putting the Indices into Practice: Censoring Science in Early Modern Portugal (/isis/citation/CBB223674544/) unapi

Authors & Contributors
Anstey, Peter R.
Voelkel, James R.
Walmsley, Jonathan
Zaterka, Luciana
Sanchez, Guillermo C.
Wolfe, Charles T.
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
Bulletin d'histoire et d'èpistémologie des sciences de la vie
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Metascience: An International Review Journal for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science
Oxford University Press
Princeton University Press
Yale University Press
Ohio State University
Natural philosophy
Physicians; doctors
Natural history
Locke, John
Descartes, René
Harvey, William
Kepler, Johannes
Boyle, Robert
Alemán, Mateo
Great Britain
17th century
18th century
16th century

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment