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Online double Masterclass ‘From Creation to Destruction: Shedding Light on the Lives of Medieval Manuscripts (c.1300 – 1550)’


“Six hundred years ago, Christians went to church, and they learned to destroy manuscripts,” opens prof. Kathryn Rudy her famous Ted Talk. Manuscripts are not merely carriers of text, but can reveal how people through history read and adapted their books to their personal needs and cultural expectations. Most students will be familiar with margin annotations left by historical readers, but Rudy takes trace-examination a step further: what can dirty fingerprints, smears of paint and crinkled pages tell us about past beliefs and interests? How can these traces be studied best? Is it possible, or even desirable to design quantitative methods of examination in manuscript studies?

In the process of reading, a lot of non-textual traces were left in books, but not only then. During the fabrication of manuscripts, artists often changed their ideas and compositions. Or due to cultural turmoil, images were adapted at a later point in time. Can we, literally, shed light on those changes? And what does this information tell is about the cultures those manuscripts were created in?

This double online masterclass will take place on two afternoons: 18 November & 21 November. The speakers will be announced in short time.

On both days the online masterclasses will be followed by a Q&A session with the guest speaker. Thereafter, a group-discussion will be held about some preparatory readings, which will help students shaping their own vision on the limits and merits of using these technical approaches for their own research, which will be examined by means of a final argumentative essay (800 words).

Preparatory assignment:

Write a short (200-400 words) narrative about the most interesting/intriguing discovery you did when studying/visual interaction you had with a manuscript. Specify as accurately as possible what is known about the region of its provenance, and about its author. Also give the correct source reference. Submit the essay no later than November 7, 2022 to

In case you are interested in the masterclass, but have no experience with studying manuscripts yourself, please contact the course coordinator for an alternative preparatory assignment (via

Registration will open in September.

Image: Exhibition ‘Magische miniaturen’, page with King David, collection Museum Catharijneconvent, photo Marco Sweering