With help from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a collaborative project between UChicago and Oxford University will digitize books essential to eighteenth–century intellectual history. The “Commonplace Cultures” project will use data analysis techniques to develop a digital commonplace book.
In the eighteenth century, commonplace books gathered excerpts and quotations from many different works and organized them by subject, helping readers to track new thinkers and ideas. Identifying and analyzing these commonplaces will shed light on how knowledge spread and transformed in the early modern period, according to Robert Morrissey, one of the leaders of the “Commonplace Cultures” project.
Commonplace books were “a way of managing information that made texts, ideas, and words accessible,” explained Morrissey, the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures. "Commonplace Cultures" builds on Morrissey's ongoing ARTFL project that collaborates with the French government to digitize and offer full-text versions of French sources.