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Manuscript Book in the West


Admission requirements

This is a core course for the MA Book and Digital Media Studies programme. Students from other programmes may be admitted upon prior arrangement with the course coordinator.


This seminar course introduces the manuscript as a significant cultural artefact: a bearer of traditions of reading and writing in the European Middle Ages. Every manuscript is an individual product, distinguished by use of a variety of writing supports, characteristic scribal hands, and a unique combination of texts. Students shall be introduced to the processes which would have been involved in the creation of a medieval manuscript: the conventions of production, common scripts, and the distinctive material features of particular genres of texts. Aside from investigating how manuscripts were produced, the course also looks in detail at how they were used, examining traces (such as notes, drawings and diagrams) left behind by readers and later owners. A number of sessions will be held at the University Library where students will get to work with manuscripts from Leiden's world-leading collection. The course offers, therefore, a unique chance to learn about and interact with handwritten books from the early Middle Ages to the dawn of print.

Course objectives

  1. To develop a critical understanding of how medieval manuscripts were produced and used.
  2. To analyse and employ research methods used to study and describe medieval manuscripts.
  3. To investigate the contribution of the manuscript book to the broader history of communication and media.


The timetable is available on the Media Studies website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (2 hours per week)

Course Load

The course load is 140 hours

  • 26 hours of seminars

  • 39 hours of reading of compulsory literature

  • 75 hours for the research and writing of papers

The hours above are an approximate calculation, as some students read fast and write slow and vice versa.

Assessment method

*Attendance and active participation in class discussions: 20%

*Written assignment 1: 30%

*Written assignment 2: 50%

Please note that you need to have a 'sufficient' grade (6.0 or higher) average across the written components of the grade in order to pass the course. In the case of a fail students may resit the second written assignment. Attendance is compulsory and absence on three occasions or more may entail your removal from the course. Note that essays which are presented late without prior arrangement with the instructor will incur a 5% penalty per day for late submission.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • supplying additional reading and information about components of the course

Reading list

Core text: Clemens, R. and Graham, T. (2007), Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell University Press). This book is used extensively throughout the course and students are advised to purchase their own copy.

A reading list will be provided at the start of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. You can register until two weeks after classes have started however students are advised to register as soon as possible and preferably before the start of the course. In the case of electives: please be aware that most electives have a maximum amount of students who can enroll. Do not approach the course instructor in case the class is full. You will automatically be put on a waiting list.

In case you have difficulties with registering for courses you may ask the student administration at Van Eyckhof for assistance. Their e-mail address is [](mailto: and their phone number is + 31 (0)71 5272144.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


For questions concerning the course content or blackboard module contact the instructor of the course.
For other questions contact the student administration.


All other information.