Type Book
Date 1706
Pages 24
Tags nonfiction, commonplace books

A New Method of Making Common-Place-Books

Locke here describes a method of laying out a commonplace book so that the index requires only a fixed amount of space, and pages are not wasted. He assigns to each topic a keyword, and places the entry in a section indexed by the first letter and first (following) vowel of that keyword. When more pages are needed for a given two-letter index key, he finds the next blank page, and records a two-way link between it and the former, and continues.

This method provides only a very minimal degree of indexing–you must check every page listed for a given two-letter combination, in order to find a particular entry. Its primary virtue is saving paper.

I have adopted the system of writing forward and backward page references to connect items in my own reading notes; it's much better than trying to guess how much room I'll need, and I certainly cannot refrain from reading a new book while another is in progress.

I have not adopted the indexing system. Instead, I record the pages on which my notes appear on the book's catalogue card or in its electronic entry. There's no need to resort to inferior pre-computer systems merely for the sake of consistency!


At the Entrance indeed upon any Study, when the Judgment is not sufficiently confirm'd, nor the Stock of Knowedge over large, so that the Students are not very well acquainted with what is worth Collecting, scarce any Thing is Extracted, but what will be useful but for a little while; because as the Judgment grows Ripe, those Things are despis'd which before were had in esteem. Yet it is of Service to have Collections of this Kind, both that Students may learn the Art of putting Things in Order, as also the better retain what they Read.

Name Role
John Locke Author