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Title: A Place for Commonplace: The Commonplace Book and Knowledge Circulation in Seventeenth Century England
Authors: Weiss, Emily
Advisors: Gee, Sophie
Department: English
Class Year: 2022
Abstract: Commonplace books evolved from being memory aids in the Medieval period to miscellanies of excerpts to be utilized in writing compositions. This tradition developed concurrently with a growing enthusiasm for collecting (often exotic) items, especially within an imperialist framework where amassing ‘oddities’ represented a microcosm of the empire. Though some scholars have overlooked the commonplace book as a valuable object of study, especially in an era where print was ubiquitous, these manuscript materials are rich sources of discovering the intersections between various forms of knowledge such as science, philosophy, and even alchemy. This thesis primarily engages with three manuscripts from Princeton’s Special Collections Library, all of which demonstrate the collaborative nature of commonplacing and provide a look into knowledge circulation during seventeenth century England. The thesis begins with an examination of an anonymous commonplace of prose and poetry (possibly attributed to Charles II’s courtiers Sedley and Sackville) which satirizes love, religion, and the University of Oxford. Following this is a study of a scribal copy of the commonplace of the Second Duke of Buckingham—a manuscript with a peculiar history of changing hands and a libertine sensibility. Finally, the commonplace of Nathaniel Gower generates questions about what is at stake when a writing project is passed from parent to child. These examples depict a narrative of the dual public and private nature of writing in this era and the unique benefits of limited circulation writing.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English, 1925-2022

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