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Books Before Print


Admission requirements

Only accessible for MA students of Book & Digital Media Studies. Some exceptions may be made: contact the instructor.


This course examines the transition from medieval manuscript to printed book. While the printing press initiated the dimise of the handwritten book, its printed counterpart is initially surprisingly alike. Using real objects in both the University Library and Bibliotheca Thysiana, students will examine these parallels between the two media during the century after the invention of print (1450-1550). The subjects of comparative investigation include: typeface design, the material format of books (dimensions, layout), the use of paratextual elements, the presence of explicit information about the producer (colophon/title page), illustration techniques, a comparison of texts presented in both manuscript and print, and the use of medieval manuscripts for the production of printed books.

Course objectives

  • Course objective 1: To develop a critical understanding of the transition from manuscript to print and the implications for the material book and its culture.

  • Course objective 2: To teach students to compare and analyze different material expressions of text transmission.

  • Course objective 3: To show how the concepts of continuity and discontinuity in the production of books can be understood in their historical context.


Timetable on the website

Mode of instruction

Weekly seminars

Course Load

The course load is 140 hours.

  • hours spent on attending seminars: 26 hours

  • time for studying compulsory literature: 39 hours

  • time for writing papers: 75 hours

Assessment method

  • Long essay: 50%

  • Short essay: 20%

  • Submission discussion topics: 10%

  • Class participation: 20%


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

  • Clemens, R. and Graham, T. (2007), Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press)

  • Eisenstein, E. L. (2012), The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press). Canto Classics Edition


Enrollment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte via:
Registration Contractonderwijs via:


Media Studies student administration, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 3, room 1.01b.


Course for BDMS