I am kinda hooked to note taking systems. From Cornell to mindmapping I think I have tried them all. I’ve learned a lot in this search but in the end I never found satisfaction with any of them. Therefore I labeled this problem as unsolvable and didn’t think about it.

Then I started reading The Complete Writings of William Blake. It includes his marginalia and what he did kinda made me experience a paradigm shift.

Taking Notes Like Blake

First and foremost, William Blake is a vicious man when he is reading and taking notes. He is arguing with the author whilst reading the book. His commentary is amusing, witty and full of whimsical anger.

To be honest, one third of his notetaking style comes from the publisher itself. Because Blake wrote on the exact page, he probably wouldn’t have to record the page number - but they did. So without further ado:

  1. Page Number: This is the first thing we write. Where do we taking this note?
  2. Quotation itself: Usually the text in its entirety doesn’t entice our interest but a piece in it. To remark it, we write the passage in its entirety - which takes a paragraph at most, hopefully - and italicize the part that punctures our soul.
  3. Our remark: What is our response to that? Our commentary goes here.

In action it looks like this:

Page 8

Religion being the chief band of human society, it is a happy thing when itself is well contained within the true band of unity. The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen.

False, O Satan

This is a marginalia taken by Blake on Bacon’s “Essays”.

And my marginalia from CCNA looks like this, compared to Blake’s marginalia it sounds puny - I know:

Page 18:

A networking model, sometimes also called either a networking architecture or networking blueprint, refers to a comprehensive set of documents. Individually, each document describes one small function required for a network; collectively these documents define everything that should happen for a computer network to work.

  • What is a networking model?
  • What are the other names of the networking model?


I think in other books concerning humanities or international relations Blake’s approach can be used to create memorable quotations. Because in the end, we will remember our response to the text. For books concerning IT, the question approach seems more sensible. And I feel, when finished, the notes can be easily converted to an Anki deck for spaced memorising.

Thank you for reading