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About the Project

This site is a digital, interactive version of a commonplace book kept by Philadelphian woman Sarah Bulkeley from 1797 to 1821. Sarah collected quotations, poetry, and prose excerpts from her reading and copied them into these pages.

This project's goals are twofold. First, it asks what we can learn from studying the reading practices of an ordinary female reader in the Romantic era. What did she read and, especially, how did she read?  Commonplace books are one of the few traces we have of real historical reading practices. Second, the project pilots a new method for creating digitized and interactive versions of reproduced archival material.  Can a digital edition get us closer to how a text like a commonplace book should be read?

The manuscript which is reproduced on this site is held at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania (MS Codex 1773). Special thanks to John Pollack, Curator, Research Services at Kislak Center; Mitch Fraas, Curator, Special Collections at Kislak Center; and Eri Mizukane, Administrative and Reprographic Services Coordinator at Penn Libraries.

Now, explore Sarah Bulkeley's Commonplace Book.