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Online Masterclass ‘Navigating the Book: book design, paratext, and reading experience in the premodern period (c. 1400-1600)’

The premodern book was more than a mere passive carrier of text. Its material features, like layout, images, and paratext, actively guided readers through the book and across the pages, shaping their reading experience. In the history of the book, the development of moveable type printing in fifteenth-century Europe has traditionally been considered a cultural turning point. It not only widened the transmission of texts, but also sparked changes in book design, including layout, paratext, and visual elements. In what ways did these technical and material developments in book production transform the act of reading and the transfer of knowledge? Which practices disappeared, persisted, or emerged, and how can these be understood from a cultural-historical perspective?

This online masterclass explores how material, visual, and paratextual elements in manuscripts and printed books developed between 1400 and 1600, and how this influenced the ways in which readers navigated the book and experienced the text it contained. In a keynote lecture, Prof. Dr. Henrike Manuwald (Georg-August Universität Göttingen) provides an overview of important studies on this subject and offers her own insights. During a subsequent hands-on workshop by the Royal Library in The Hague, participants will explore the newly acquired concepts and knowledge using the historical material.

10:45 – 11:00: Welcome and introduction
11:00 – 11:45: Keynote lecture by Henrike Manuwald, Georg-August Universität Göttingen. Prof. Dr. Henrike Manuwald, professor of Medieval German Studies, introduces participants to developments in the layout of the book from 1400 to 1600 and how these influenced the ways in which ideas were transmitted and readers’ experiences were shaped.
11:45 – 12:00: Break
12:00 – 12:30: Q&A about the keynote lecture
12:30 – 13:30: Lunch-break
13:30 – 14:00: Introduction on digital sources for book historical research, by Royal Library curators Marieke van Delft and Ed van der Vlist
14:00 – 14:05: Short break
14:05 – 15:15: Interactive workshop. The insights acquired during the lecture will be put into practice in a workshop led by Marieke van Delft, curator of early modern books at the Royal Library The Hague, and Ed van der Vlist, curator of medieval manuscript at the Royal Library The Hague. They will guide the participants through a selection of manuscripts, incunabula, and post-incunabula that display how book design and reader navigation developed over time.
15:15 – 15:30: Break
15:30 – 16:00: Round table discussion and conclusion

Beforehand, participants will be asked to inform the organisers of their field of study, research interests, or specific premodern books that they are working on. This will be taken into account in the final selection of books for the workshop and organisation of the groups.

After the masterclass, students who want to obtain 1 ECTS will be asked to write a short reflective essay (ca. 600 words) about the preparatory reading, the masterclass and how these relate to the participant’s current project or research interests.

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