Erik Kwakkel


Research Interests

History of Libraries
History of the Book
Medieval Manuscripts
History of Reading

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

Quantitative paleography
Materiality of Information
Material Culture
Handwriting technologies
Book design principles


Doctoral students

Manuscript studies; History of the Book; History of Reading; History of Libraries; Materiality of Information (Book Design); Digital Humanities where it intersects with the History of the Book.

While there is lots of flexibility as to the precise topic, focus, and methodology, the proposed research must intersect with the History of the Book, ideally, the history of the manuscript book as it was produced in the Medieval West. Proposed topics may include the early history of printing but should generally be limited to the period up to 1600.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The art of medicine and the art of design: manuscript mise-en-page and the thirteenth-century medical classroom (2020)

Teaching in the classrooms of the early universities was primarily done in the scholastic mode, which prioritized classroom dispute and formal argument. This instructional practice was applied in law, theology, and arts faculties, as well as medicine. Although scholars have begun to explore the role of scholasticism in medical teaching during this formative period, the impact that it had on the design of manuscripts intended for medical education has yet to be addressed systematically. I study the range of design choices implemented by scribes when producing these medieval medical textbooks—the Articella and Ars commentata—using a corpus of eighty total manuscripts produced during the thirteenth century. In the course of this study, I develop and present a novel, visual analysis-oriented framework, with which I assess manuscript page design in a systematic manner. This framework facilitates meaningful comparisons between corpora and in the case of this study its capacity for enabling comparison is demonstrated with a chronological analysis. This approach blends conventional manuscript studies with analysis of cultural context to facilitate understanding of the ways in which the needs of those teaching or studying medicine in a scholastic classroom are reflected on the page. The study has two main outcomes: an understanding of the ways that information was used and communicated in medical education, and a framework that enables structured and objective comparisons to be made between the page designs of different groups of manuscripts, irrespective of their time or location of production.

View record


  • Cultural and Textual Exchanges, The Manuscript Across Pre-modern Eurasia [Mellon-Sawyer Seminar, Obermann Center for Advances Studies, The University of Iowa, 28 April 2017] (2017)
  • Het ontketende boek (2017)
  • Hidden Library: Visualizing Fragments of Medieval Manuscripts in Early-Modern Bookbindings with mobile Macro-XRF Scanner (2017)
    Heritage Science, 5
  • Medieval Manuscripts (2017)
  • Not for Keeps: The Ephemeral in Medieval Manuscript Culture [Richard and Mary Rouse History of the Book Lecture, University of California, LA, 17 January 2017] (2017)
  • The Sherlock Holmes of Medieval Manuscripts? (2017)
  • Verstopte middeleeuwse teksten worden weer zichtbaar door röntgenstraling (2017)
  • Waarom je een eeuwenoud boek zou willen meten? Deze man beheert 4.000 handschriften (2017)
    NRC Handelsblad,
  • Bookmarks: The Hidden Library (2016)
  • Costume Catalogue from 16th-century France (2016)
  • Dirty Old Books (2016)
  • Kleutertekeningen gevonden in middeleeuws manuscript (2016)
    De Standaard,
  • Middeleeuws handschrift: letters verraden datum (2016)
  • Niet lezen maar kijken! (2016)
  • Ten-minute item on script and scribe of Hebban olla vogala (2016)
  • The Secret Libraries of History (2016)
  • X-Rays Reveal ‘Hidden Library’ on the Spines of Early Books (2016)
  • X-rays reveal 1,300-year-old writings inside later bookbindings (2016)
    The Guardian,
  • "Books on a Stick" (2015)
  • "Box It, Bag It, Wrap It: Medieval Books on the Go" (2015)
  • "Chain, Chest, Curse: Combating Book Theft in Medieval Times" (2015)
  • "Cracking Codes in Medieval Times" (2015)
  • "Dirty Medieval Books" (2015)
  • "Half Full, Half Empty: The Peculiar Medieval Page" (2015)
  • "Helping Hands on the Medieval Page" (2015)
  • "Judging a Book by its Covers" (2015)
  • "Medieval Bargain Books" (2015)
  • "Medieval Posters" (2015)
  • "Rare Medieval Book Tags" (2015)
  • "Texting in Medieval Times" (2015)
  • "The Incredible Expandable Book" (2015)
  • "X-Rays Expose a Hidden Medieval Library" (2015)
  • “Geheim van de boekband” (2015)
  • “Radio Papier”, consulting for and participation in an item of 20 minutes about the waning of paper (2015)
  • “Scanner onthult verborgen bibliotheek” (2015)
    Nederlands Dagblad,
  • 20-minute long interview about my research project on twelfth-century manuscripts (2015)
  • Interview about scanning bookbindings (2015)
  • Kennis van Nu TV: short item on scanning bookbindings (2015)
  • News article devoted to find of new Pamplona Bible  fragment (2015)
    Times Colonist,
  • News article devoted to my outreach activities and an increased online presence of scholars (2015)
    Leidsch Dagblad,
  • News article devoted to research funding in the Netherlands, interview with color photograph (2015)
    NRC Handelsblad,
  • Ook niet-hoogleraren moeten promotor kunnen zijn (2015)
  • Research to reveal medieval book fragments inside bindings with the help of the MA-XRF x-ray technique (2015)
    De Volkskrant,
  • Verborgen middeleeuwse bibliotheek (2015)
    Leidsch Dagblad,
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Continental Scribes in Rochester Cathedral Priory, 1075-1150 (2013)
    , 231-261
  • Writing in Context: Insular Manuscript Culture 500-1200 (2013)
  • Writing in Context: Introduction (2013)
    , 14-20

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