“How to Keep a Zibaldone”


“One day in Venice, sometime near the end of the 14th century, a busy merchant found himself with a few spare moments. Maybe it was a slow day at the docks, or he arrived home too early for dinner. Whatever the reason, he did what people of his era tended to do when they had some time—he took out his notebook and his set of pens, and he put together a page-sized patchwork of his afternoon.

Over 600 years later, you can still open that notebook and see that day. Written in spidery loops are daydreamy calculations regarding how large a particular tree is, and how long it might take to get to Rome. There’s a sketch of a pair of colorful ships, and another of two tradesmen in green hats, examining a meal of bread and fish. Keep flipping through, and a whole life emerges. Scribbles and sketches fill each page. Personal anecdotes and hard-won lessons nestle alongside gathered material, including prayers, copied quotations and lists of spices.” Learn more about zibaldones at Atlas Obscura.


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