Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg

Johann Buxtorf Makes a Notebook

Anthony Grafton, Princeton University and Joanna Weinberg, University of Oxford

Discussant: Lauren Kassell, University of Cambridge

In this paper we examine the surviving notebook kept by the Basel professor of Hebrew, ethnologist and censor Johann Buxtorf I (1564-1629). We describe Buxtorf’s methods for choosing, excerpting and accessing texts by and about Jews, and then set them into context by comparing his practices with those of contemporary scholars, natural philosophers and alchemists. Recent work on early modern methods of information storage and retrieval sometimes illuminates the murkier aspects of Buxtorf’s work. At the same time, close examination of his approach raises some new questions about the forms and goals of commonplacing in early modern Europe.

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