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Things to do with texts


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


This course discusses developments in the depiction of living nature in scientific works from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. The beginning of this period witnessed a blossoming of the study of nature, and a quick succession of publications on natural history containing descriptions of fish, birds, and plants, as well as minerals and fossils. These include species that we would expect to find in a work on natural history, as well as animals we would now refer to the realm of fantasy, such as unicorns and mermaids. These books were often lavishly illustrated. Both text and depictions played an important role in the transmission of knowledge about nature. Over time the aims and objectives with which researchers approached nature were subject to significant change, due to developments in systematization such as classification schemes, a growing awareness of the diversity of species, and new technologies such as the invention of the microscope. Such developments are evident in primary textual and visual sources from the period. Within the context of this course printed books, illustrations and other depictions, and letters will be analyzed in order to gain an impression of the motivations, practices, views, and discoveries of their authors.

Within the context of this course, guest lecturers from various academic backgrounds will offer their take on this. Furthermore, the course includes excursions to various rare book collections and libraries, as well as collections of preserved plants and animals. This offers students the opportunity to see rare natural historical books and historical objects with their own eyes.

Course objectives

  • Students will have learned to distinguish between printed books and manuscripts and to recognize printing techniques for illustrations

  • Students will have analyzed primary sources to gain insight into the views, practices, and aims of their authors

  • Students will have assessed how primary sources fit into the cultural context of their time

  • Students will have used recent literature to reflect on the relation between text and image, and the objects these represent, in scholarly discussions of nature from 1550 to 1850


Courses of the Humanities Lab are scheduled on Friday afternoon from 13.00 to 17.00. For the exact timetable, please visit the following website for the first semester and the second semester

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Excursion

Course Load

Total course load = 140 hours

  • Lectures: 24 hours

  • Preparation tutorials: 28 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 46 hours

  • Assignment(s): 42 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

  • Essay: 70%

  • Discussion: class participation, preparation of discussion questions, critical evaluation of class assignments): 30%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is insufficient (lower than a 6), there is the possibility of retaking the final essay. Contact the course lecturer for more information.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the Humanities Lab office in advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


Blackboard is used in the course:
Reading list

Reading list



Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered via uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Lecturers: S.M. Hendrikx MA & R.J. Striekwold MSc

Humanities Lab office: mail


More information: website

If all participants of this course are Dutch native speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.