Until the middle of the nineteenth century, commonplacing was a habitual practice of middle-class US households, undertaken by children and adults alike to record notable quotations and to cultivate their literary taste. Though it declined in popularity with the rise of the scrapbook in the midcentury, commonplacing was for centuries a standard feature of both educational curricula and domestic literacy, with generations of students instructed in the intellectual and moral benefits of selecting and copying passages culled from reading. Commonplace books offer a wealth of vital information about US literary culture, for they not only illuminate eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reading practices by allowing us to discern what US readers valued in various genres, but they also help to document what middle-class and well-to-do Americans were reading.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Oxford University Press
Stokes, C. (2018). Novel commonplaces: Quotation, epigraphs, and literary authority. American Literary History, 30(2), 201-221. doi: 10.1093/alh/ajy005
American Literary History