- Last 7 days
documented evidence of oral transmission of index card use as a method
I'm reasonably certain that most of the transmission of the traditions was specifically from person to person rather than from text to person. Yours is an interesting and important (and rare oral) example of person to person zettelkasten transmission, of which I've been collecting some scant examples. (Other examples appreciated, inquire within.)
Interestingly a lot of this transmission is still happening every day (though now more "visibly" online) in fora like Reddit, zettelkasten.de, Discord, in social media, and even smaller group courses. As Annie Murphy Paul indicates in The Extended Mind, people like to imitate rather than innovate. Perhaps Luhmann, being on his own outside of the establishment, was more likely to innovate because he was on his own and took Heyde's advice, but evolved it to his needs rather than asking questions on Reddit?
Live-Roaming: Using Roam to teach students in college
I'd listened to this whole episode sometime since 2022-04-05, but didn't put it in my notes.
Mark Robertson delineates how he actively models the use of his note taking practice (using Roam Research) while teaching/lecturing in the classroom. This sort of modeling can be useful for showing students how academics read, gather, and actively use their knowledge. It does miss the portion about using the knowledge to create papers, articles, books, etc., but the use of this mode of reading and notes within a discussion setting isn't terribly different.
Use of the system for conversation/discussion with the authors of various texts as you read, with your (past) self as you consult your own notes, or your students in classroom lectures/discussion sections is close to creating your own discussion for new audiences (by way of the work your write yourself.)
Empire Podcast: Lenin and The Rise of the Bolsheviks
ᔥu/atomicnotes in Who uses a card index? Top historians, that's who at r/Zettelkasten
At the start of a recent episode of the Empire Podcast (the one on the Bolshevik Revolution), historian William Dalrymple reveals that when he began to write his first history book, The White Moghul, he had no idea how to do it, so he called the eminent historian Antony Bevor, who invited him round for a lesson in using his own method - a card index. Dalrymple says he's been using a card index ever since.
Then the podcast co-host, Anita Anand says she learned this approach from William and she too has been using it ever since.
By my rough calculation, the card index lesson would have taken place about 1998-2000, so Antony Bevor probably used index cards to write his great books on Crete in WW2 and on the Battle of Stalingrad, among many others.
So that's three highly successful popular historians using a card index to research and write significant and best-selling non-fiction books.
- Nov 2023
Arendt studied with Karl Jaspers at Heidelberg University
Did Karl Jaspers have a zettelkasten practice? Did he specifically pass it along to students, like Arendt?
- Sep 2023
Merchants and traders have a waste book (Sudelbuch, Klitterbuch in GermanI believe) in which they enter daily everything they purchase and sell,messily, without order. From this, it is transferred to their journal, whereeverything appears more systematic, and finally to a ledger, in double entryafter the Italian manner of bookkeeping, where one settles accounts witheach man, once as debtor and then as creditor. This deserves to be imitatedby scholars. First it should be entered in a book in which I record everythingas I see it or as it is given to me in my thoughts; then it may be enteredin another book in which the material is more separated and ordered, andthe ledger might then contain, in an ordered expression, the connectionsand explanations of the material that flow from it. 
—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Notebook E, #46, 1775–1776
In this single paragraph quote Lichtenberg, using the model of Italian bookkeepers of the 18th century, broadly outlines almost all of the note taking technique suggested by Sönke Ahrens in How to Take Smart Notes. He's got writing down and keeping fleeting notes as well as literature notes. (Keeping academic references would have been commonplace by this time.) He follows up with rewriting and expanding on the original note to create additional "explanations" and even "connections" (links) to create what Ahrens describes as permanent notes or which some would call evergreen notes.
Lichtenberg's version calls for the permanent notes to be "separated and ordered" and while he may have kept them in book format himself, it's easy to see from Konrad Gessner's suggestion at the use of slips centuries before, that one could easily put their permanent notes on index cards ("separated") and then number and index or categorize them ("ordered"). The only serious missing piece of Luhmann's version of a zettelkasten then are the ideas of placing related ideas nearby each other, though the idea of creating connections between notes is immediately adjacent to this, and his numbering system, which was broadly based on the popularity of Melvil Dewey's decimal system.
It may bear noticing that John Locke's indexing system for commonplace books was suggested, originally in French in 1685, and later in English in 1706. Given it's popularity, it's not unlikely that Lichtenberg would have been aware of it.
Given Lichtenberg's very popular waste books were known to have influenced Leo Tolstoy, Albert Einstein, Andre Breton, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. (Reference: Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph (2000). The Waste Books. New York: New York Review Books Classics. ISBN 978-0940322509.) It would not be hard to imagine that Niklas Luhmann would have also been aware of them.
Open questions: <br /> - did Lichtenberg number the entries in his own waste books? This would be early evidence toward the practice of numbering notes for future reference. Based on this text, it's obvious that the editor numbered the translated notes for this edition, were they Lichtenberg's numbering? - Is there evidence that Lichtenberg knew of Locke's indexing system? Did his waste books have an index?
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
- Dewey Decimal System
- John Locke
- idea links
- intellectual history
- numbering systems
- waste books
- open questions
- fleeting notes
- academic writing
- zettelkasten transmission
- zettelkasten numbering
- Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten
- accounting influence on note taking
- note taking advice
- Konrad Gessner
- Sönke Ahrens
- Aug 2023
Diesen organizistischen Überlegungen über das ge-schichtliche Werden, das einem »verborgenen Plan«(Menke-Glückert) folgt, ordnete Warburg einen weiterenZettel zu, auf dem er sich eine Stelle aus Ernst Bern-heims Lehrbuch der Historischen Methode notiert, inder auf Wilhelm Wundt verwiesen wird, der darlegt, soexzerpiert Warburg, »daß historische AllgemeinvorgängeAnwendungen allgemeiner psychologischer Prinzipiensind, wie z. B. die Reaktion eine Anwendung des Principsder Kontrastverstärkung« ist.362
Warburg definitely read Bernheim's Lehrbuch!!! He excerpted it! Though based on the footnote in the text, it may appear that his quotation was from the 1908 edition of Bernheim.
Machine translation of the German:
Warburg assigned another piece of paper to these organicistic considerations about historical development, which follows a »hidden plan« (Menke-Glückert), on which he noted a passage from Ernst Bernheim’s Lehrbuch der Historischen Method in which Wilhelm Wundt is referred to, who explains, as Warburg excerpts, »that historical general processes are applications of general psychological principles, such as e.g. B. the reaction is an application of the principle of "contrast enhancement".
362 Z. 0 02/0 0 0411. Warburg zitier t Wundt, Logik. Eine Untersuchung der Principien der Erkenntnis und der Methode wissenschaf tlicher Forschung, Stuttgar t 1895, Bd. II/2, S. 413, aus Ernst Bernheim, Lehrbuch der Historischen Methode und der Geschichtsphilosophie. Mit Nachweis der wichtigsten Quellen und Hilfsmit tel zum Studium der Geschichte, Leipzig 1908, S. 60 f.
- Feb 2023
As a graduate student, hemaintained a card index of his own. When Marcus’s friends wrote of his travels abroad,they declared that ‘When we think of that card index by now we shudder. What propor-tions it must have assumed’. 18
Example of a student who saw/learned/new a zettelkasten note taking method from a teacher.