In 1831, at the age of 22, Charles Darwin learned to keep notebooks by emulating Captain Robert FitzRoy of the HMS Beagle.
From Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind:
Darwin had never kept a journal before coming aboard the Beagle, for example, but he began to do so under the influence of FitzRoy, whose naval training had taught him to keep a precise record of every happening aboard the ship and every detail of its oceangoing environment. Each day, Darwin and FitzRoy ate lunch together; following the meal, FitzRoy settled down to writing, bringing both the formal ship’s log and his personal journal up to date. Darwin followed suit, keeping current his own set of papers: his field notebooks, in which he recorded his immediate observations, often in the form of drawings and sketches; his scientific journal, which combined observations from his field notebooks with more integrative and theoretical musings; and his personal diary. Even when Darwin disembarked from the ship for a time, traveling by land through South America, he endeavored to maintain the nautical custom of noting down every incident, every striking sight he encountered.
As I understand it, Darwin would take a pencil and a notebook off the ship, and then when he was back on board, he would use pen and ink. (He also switched in between notebooks a lot.)
He wrote, “Let the collector’s motto be, ‘Trust nothing to the memory;’ for the memory becomes a fickle guardian when one interesting object is succeeded by another still more interesting.”
[A naturalist] ought to acquire the habit of writing very copious notes, not all for publication, but as a guide for himself. He ought to remember Bacon’s aphorism, that Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man; and no follower of science has greater need of taking precautions to attain accuracy; for the imagination is apt to run riot when dealing with masses of vast dimensions and with time during almost infinity.
I’m reminded that another great journalizer, Henry David Thoreau, started keeping his journal at the age of 20, in 1837, because an older man, Ralph Waldo Emerson, asked him whether he kept a journal.
And I’m also thinking about what the relationship of journaling is to pirates and farmers. A captain’s log is kept to keep track of where you’ve been in space and what happened over time. Thoreau’s log is a record of where he’d been in (mostly) the same place and the changes and what happened there over time…