CMT inaugural exhibition


Compilation, Composition, and Commonplace Books

Now in situ in the first-floor of the English Faculty, 9 West Rd.

An exhibition compiled and curated by MPhil students from Ruth Abbott’s ‘Writers’ Notebooks: Literature, Scholarship, and the Organization of Knowledge, 1800-1900’ course.

Commonplace books became popular during the seventeenth century, acting as repositories for aphoristic, literary and philosophical quotations, as well as more clerical forms of note-taking. By the nineteenth century, commonplacing came to be recognised as a valuable aid to literary composition, particularly among autodidact authors and poets like George Eliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Our exhibit focuses on the use of commonplace books by ordinary middle-class families in the nineteenth century, how they chronicled and contributed to an everyday engagement with literature, theology, poetry and domestic activity. From the Bible to Byron, musings on God to sketches of the family dogs, the commonplace book offered a powerful collective storehouse for the miscellanies and medleys of material that amassed at the center of communal family life in the nineteenth century. Through this exhibition we hope to celebrate this pursuit, and we encourage all exhibition-goers to contribute to our very own commonplace book.

Please come along to eat cake and celebrate the arrival of our beautiful new display cases on the first-floor landing on Monday, 26 January, from 10.15-11.15 am.

Leave a Reply