About this blog

“There is more to life than medieval books, but it’s a good place to start.”



I am a Professor at the iSchool (Library, Archival and Information Studies) at The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, where I teach and conduct research in the History of the Book. My primary interests are medieval book design and communication in the premodern world, before the invention of the printing press. My research and teaching is hands-on, with real objects on the table. A good day for me is having medieval dirt on my hands. If you want to know more about my work, check out my research profile. If you are interested in watching some lectures I gave, some of them are available here (in Dutch and English).

I have been blogging since February 2012. My first posts appeared on MedievalFragments, a blog maintained by my research project (the blog was closed 29 August, 2014). I have reposted my contributions here on medievalbooks. In March 2013 I started a Tumblr blog with shorter posts and splashy images. They are frequently featured in printed and online media, including CNNThe Daily MailHuffington PostColossal (and here again), EngadgetParis Review and The Verge.

This blog was started 22 August, 2014 and I aim to publish once or twice per month. With some exceptions, my posts are 1000-1200 words long and deal with topics related to my research. Ultimately, this blog aims to show you what is so special and attractive about medieval books. The images I use are mostly taken from online databases. However, I developed an interest in photography of old books, so expect to see pictures made by myself as well (like the one showing a mouldy, purple page, above).

Social media are important to me: they are means to share the beauty and relevance of medieval books with a broad audience beyond just academics. You can read more about my views on social media in this Neatorama interview and this Buzzfeed article on historians ‘who are killing it online’. Apart from my two blogs I maintain a Twitter feed about medieval books. My best known tweet featured inky cat paws on a medieval page: the image was picked up by various news outlets, including The Daily Mail and National Geographic – as well as Grumpy Cat.

The images on my blog are taken from public websites (these photos are accompanied by a link to the source) or made with my own camera (these can be recognised by the label “Photo EK” or “Photo by the author”). To re-use an image from a public database, follow the link and check out the publication policy before reposting (it may have changed since I downloaded the image). You are welcome to use the images that I made myself: they are published here under a Creative Commons Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) license.

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

Erik Kwakkel

PS. I used the first fifty or so posts to create a book about medieval manuscripts for students and non-experts. Titled Books Before Print, it was published in September 2018 by Arc Humanities Press and includes over 120 colour images. Follow this link is you are interested to learn more about this book.

Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

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