Scholarly Edition of a Seventeenth-Century Anonymous Commonplace Book in the British Library. How People Received and Responded to the Books They Read

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The study of commonplace books offers an important means for scholars to gather evidence on the history of reading practices in early modern England. A cross between a diary and a notebook, a commonplace book is usually a collection of handwritten notes in which a reader recorded items of particular interest from printed books, manuscripts or from conversations or sermons. A remarkable work that brings to life the reader-reception practices of early modern England.


“In recent years the study of books and reading practices in the early modern period has developed into an important branch of history and literary research. Some readers made marginal annotations in the books they owned and read. Others copied passages they considered particularly significant into notebooks, ‘commonplace books’, to ensure they would always have key facts, arguments and ideas readily to hand. Such collections provide valuable evidence of what contemporaries read, and how they responded to their reading. While compilers rarely commented on the extracts, the choices they made are significant in themselves, and the minor editing they undertook (words and phrases omitted, altered or inserted) provide additional glimpses into their thinking.
The publication of a seventeenth-century commonplace book is a welcome and pioneering initiative…its publication will provide material of significant value for all scholars interested in early modern books and, their readers, and in reader-reception.”
-Dr. Bernard Capp,
The University of Warwick

“Dr. Armstrong is well placed to edit this commonplace book, Her research interests and publishing record in book history, particularly in early modern transatlantic travel narratives, have clearly informed her work on this manuscript…Armstrong’s approach is commendably clear and accessible while being underpinned with excellent scholarly understanding and insight…”
Dr. John Hinks,
University of Leicester

“Dr. Armstrong’s edition enables us – through her identification of sources, alterations, minor adjustments and juxtapositions – to catch sight of an individual seventeenth-century reader making sense of the world through his engagement with books.”
-Dr. Maureen Bell,
University of Birmingham

Table of Contents

Editorial Note
Bibliography of books on commonplacing
List of paragraphs
Modern Edition
Bibliography of books used by author

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