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This research group focuses on the materiality of the book, on paper and parchment, on traces of use and publishers archives, although digital copies and tools are important research instruments.

Description of the research group 

Books, both handwritten and printed, have always been a major force in history. All major shifts in mentality and culture were either accompanied or caused by the written and printed word. Books cement our culture. All knowledge, art and skills have been (and will be) explained, disseminated and archived in books. This research group focuses on the materiality of the book, on paper and parchment, on traces of use and publishers archives, although digital copies and tools are important research instruments. 

Books are important for every branch of the humanities. Due to their omnipresence, their diversity, both in content and form and their imagery, they are considered as the material deposit of the common memory of mankind. Books are often seen as interchangeable carriers of information - which they are certainly not.  

Books are changeable media, depending on when and where they were made. In this research group the medium is the subject, and the effect it has on the delivery of the message. More often than not the succes of failure of an idea is the result of the form, the appearance that influenced, seduced or frightened the audience. Research questions are diverse. What exactly is a book? What characterizes the transition from handwriting to printing? How do readers and users view printed matter? How were books made, what did a book cost? Were books a means by which you stood out from the crowd? How do we explain the differences between gentile and Jewish books? Who was allowed to visit a public library? What is the role of the contemporary publisher when it comes to paratext, or symbolic production. In this research group, the sequence of the production, distribution and consumption of texts is essential, and how these processes interact. Researchers in this group use various theories, ranging from analytical-bibliographic to cultural-historical, while conservation and restoration also form an angle. It is precisely at the intersection of these different approaches that the importance of book historical research lies. Indeed there are many theories, but there is but one single object of research: the book in all its forms and guises. This includes the different ways in which books are put together, decorated, sold and used, also taking in account the contemporary literary (e-)book and the creation, dissemination and use of digital copies of antiquarian books that are now found on the internet. 

Envisaged results

Articles, books, PhD dissertations, exhibitions, conferences, research grant proposals, summer school. 

This group functions not only as a group in itself (for exhibitions), but also in smaller sub groups, for individual projects or phd-dissertations. One of the sub groups is working on the NWO project Decolonizing knowledge: Postcoloniality and the making of modern Indonesia’s knowledge culture, 1945-1970. Eline Kortekaas is writing her PhD on the subject ‘publishers’ within this project. Another sub group is led by Irene van Renswoude (together with Huygens ING). The group is setting up eCodicesNL, a new website to access and study medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections. This will be realised with a grant recently awarded by the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). 

Societal relevance

Books and manuscripts form a valuable part of our heritage. 

Research Group Type: Network & Project group 
Duration: 2021-2025 

Group Coordinators

Prof. dr. E.A. (Lisa) Kuitert

Faculty of Humanities

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen

Dr. G.W.H. (Trude) Dijkstra

Faculty of Humanities

Algemene Cultuurwetenschappen

Members of the research group

  • Lisa Kuitert (chair) 
  • Jos Biemans (em.) 
  • Trude Dijkstra
  • Paul Dijstelberge
  • Marjolein Hogenbirk 
  • Frederike Huygen 
  • Frans A. Janssen (em.) 
  • Eline Kortekaas 
  • Peter van der Krogt 
  • Irene van Renswoude 
  • Bram Vannieuwenhuyze 

Institutional or professional partners (if available) 

  • Allard Pierson 
  • Koninklijke Bibliotheek 
  • Huygens ING 
  • ABC-Stichting 
  • Stichting Explokart 
  • Stichting Cartographiae Historicae Cathedra (CHC) 
  • AUF/Herman de la Fontaine Verwey -fonds 
  • Wim Crouwel instituut