Commonplace Cultures: Mining Shared Passages in the 18th Century using Sequence Alignment and Visual Analytics

Understanding 18th Century texts using 21st Century techniques

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that the various practices associated with Early Modern commonplacing -- the extraction and organisation of quotations and other passages for later recall and reuse -- were highly effective strategies for dealing with the perceived "information overload" of the period. But, the 18th century was also a crucial moment in the modern construction of a new sense of self-identity.

Professor Robert Morrissey, University of Chicago
Professor Min Chen, University of Oxford

Professor Nicholas Cronk, University of Oxford
Professor Ian Foster, University of Chicago

Dr. Glenn Roe, Australian National University

Our goal is to examine this paradigm shift in 18th-century culture from the perspective of commonplaces and their textual and historical deployment in the contexts of collecting, reading, writing, classifying, and learning. These practices allowed individuals to master a collective literary culture through the art of commonplacing, a nexus of intertextual activities that we aim to explore through the concerted application of sequence alignment algorithms for shared passage detection and large-scale visual analytics on the largest collection of 18th-century works ever assembled.



  • Dr. Mark Olsen, University of Chicago
  • Dr. Alfie Abdul-Rahman, University of Oxford
  • Clovis Gladstone, University of Chicago
  • PG Student 2, To be appointed , University of Chicago


This project is part of the JISC/NEH Digging into Data Challenge (Programme III)