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UCMS Seminar ‘Premodern Reading Cultures between Transforming Materialities’


This year’s UCMS (Utrecht Center for Medieval Studies) Seminar, on 14 October 2022, will be devoted to the connections between reading cultures and the transforming material features of the medieval book: from scroll to codex, from parchment to paper, from manuscript to print, and recently from printed to digital facsimiles. The distinctions between material forms and media have crucially shaped scholarly narratives around books and reading cultures in late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the early modern period. A concept such as ‘the printing revolution’ has supported our understanding of the influence of technological developments on the transmission of texts and knowledge, but may simultaneously be criticised for implying a rigid distinction between print and manuscript culture. This seminar will investigate the relations between technological, textual, and cultural developments, paying particular attention to texts and practices that cross traditional divides. Themes that will be discussed include developments and continuities in the characteristics and functions of paratext, images, and decoration, the transmission of specific texts or genres, and reading techniques. Another crucial issue relates to the co-existence of various material forms. Examples include late-medieval scrolls, handwritten copies of printed texts, printed images in manuscripts, written marginalia in printed books, and the digital copies of physical manuscripts. By bringing together book historical, art historical, literary, and cultural perspectives on these matters, this seminar aims to provide a multidisciplinary outlook on the influence of transforming materialities on the transmission and use of texts.

Preparations and assignment

To obtain ECTS, students need to read the preparatory readings (will be provided), attend the entire day and hand in a short paper afterwards (ca. 1000 words) in which they reflect upon the two panels and the keynote lecture and describe the main insights they gained from the seminar. Ideally, they would connect these insights to their own research. Deadline short paper: 31 October 2022 (

Preparatory readings:

  • Marika Keblusek, ‘A Paper World: The Album Amicorum as a Collection Space’, Early Modern Low Countries 6 (2022) 1, pp. 14-35
  • Anna Krauß, Jonas Leipziger, and Friederike Schücking-Jungblut, Material Aspects of Reading and Material Text Cultures: An Introduction (2020), pp. 1-8
  • Benjamin Albritton and Elaine Treharne, ‘Introduction’ in: Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, 2021, pp. 1-14
  • Keri Thomas, ‘From the divine to the digital: Digitization as resurrection and reconstruction’ in: Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, 2021, pp. 25-32


11.00-11.15       Introduction

Rozanne Versendaal (Utrecht University, on behalf of the UCMS Board)

11.15-12.45       Panel 1: Transforming Materialities

Gabriel Nocchi Macedo (Université de Liège) – The Materiality of Meter: Greek Poetry Books between the Hellenistic Period and Late Antiquity

Anna de Bruyn (University of Groningen) – Impressed by Epigraphy. Felice Feliciano’s illustrations in manuscript and print

Elisabeth de Bruijn (University of Antwerp) – The ‘Glocal’ Effect of Printing on European Romance

12.45-14.15       Lunch

14.15-15.45       Panel 2: Digital Materialities

Bram Caers (Leiden University) – To DH or not to DH? Implementation of DH methods and tools in literary history: the example of Transkribus

Renske Hoff (Utrecht University) – #marginalia: studying the proximity of manuscript and print through the digital

Steven Claeyssens (KB National Library of the Netherlands) – Publishing Large Collections of Digitized Materials: the example of the ‘Delpher collections’

14.45-16.00       Break

16.00-17.00       Keynote Lecture by Irene van Renswoude (University of Amsterdam)

17.00                  Drinks

Register (16/20 spaces left)

Bookings are closed for this course.