Take Note

An exploration of note-taking in Harvard University Collections
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Interactive Exhibition

48. Samuel Locke's Commonplace Book

The cost of a Harvard education

Samuel Locke

Harvard University, 1755-1778

Samuel Locke was the tenth president of Harvard, serving from 1770 to 1773. He received an A.B. degree in 1755 from Harvard, and an A.M. in 1758 and the following year was ordained as a minister at Sherborn, Massachusetts. When he was appointed to the Harvard presidency in 1770, the College was preoccupied by political turmoil and the threat of war, and Locke had little influence on College life. He resigned in 1773, after it was discovered that he had fathered a child by one of his housemaids. After leaving Harvard, Locke returned to Sherborn and opened a classical school for boys. During the American Revolution, he joined the patriot cause and became chairman of the Committee of Correspondence. He died in 1778.

Locke began this book as a student at Harvard and presumably continued it until his death. A note by John Goodwin Locke (b. 1803) regarding the date of Samuel Locke’s birthday appears on the first page. The volume also contains a record of the cost of Locke's education at Harvard College. The volume is paginated and organized under various subject headings. Entries include extracts and quotations from Locke’s readings, including poetry, apothegms, and citations. Topics include the constellations, the discovery of America and the nature of its original inhabitants, the excellence and morality of God (reproduced here), justification by faith, human liberty, the art of preaching, the nature of God, the Ten Commandments, original sin, charity, human happiness, anatomy, and the captivity of the Jews. In many commonplace books blank pages were assigned to headings before the excerpts had been gathered, so blank space is often left under a heading, available for future items to be entered (as in one of these pages); on the contrary a page can become overfull and the note-taker would have to continue the entry on another page. This problem of allocating space ahead of time is what John Locke proposed to solve with his "new method" of a commonplace book, first published in 1686 [see that item in the exhibit--there is no known relation between these two men named Locke].

. UAI 15.872 Box 1.
HOLLIS Catalog: 009536959
Samuel Locke, Harvard University, commonplace books



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