Erik Kwakkel

I am a Professor at the iSchool (Library, Archival and Information Studies) where I teach and conduct research on the History of the Book. My primary interests are book design and communication in the premodern world, in particular how information was disseminated and consumed in the age before the invention of the printing press. However, my research and teaching has expanded into cultural disciplines more broadly, including digital humanities, digitization of cultural heritage, visual arts, history, and cultural studies. A multidisciplinary approach is a signature feature of my scholarly output, my teaching, and the outreach projects I undertake in communities beyond the university.

Having published ten monographs and edited volumes, I maintain an active research program in the culture of reading and book production in the age of the handwritten book. Both in my research and teaching I highlight the relationship between the physical appearance of manuscripts and the contexts in which they were produced and used. The cultural impact of book design features prominently in Books Before Print, my 2018 textbook aimed at undergraduate and graduate teaching. My current research focuses on the broader cultural processes behind knowledge consumption in societies that depend on written communication. Overarching questions that drive my current work are: How is a culture shaped by information and communication? How are the means of communication impacted by societal needs? How do vehicles of information (books, documents, ephemeral material), through their design and execution, impact the processes of learning, the ability to efficiently interact with text, and the speed with which information diffuses across cultural, geographical, and temporal space?

Widely recognized as international expert in medieval manuscripts, I held several major research grants and was appointed member of the Comité International de Paléographie Latine (CIPL). I actively promote the premodern book on social media, including on my blog Medievalbooks.nl and through Twitter, as well as in outreach programs at schools. I also frequently contribute to non-expert publications, including Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and his work is featured in a variety of public news outlets such as BBC World Service, CBC radio, CNN, and the Smithsonian Journal. I was regarded as one of 8 Book Historians, Curators, Specialists, And Librarians Who are Killing It Online by Buzzfeed.

  • History of the book
  • Book design and communication
  • Digital humanities
  • Digitization of cultural heritage
  • Dissemination of information

Recent publications

  • Erik Kwakkel and F. Newton, Medicine at Monte Cassino (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2019) [link]
  • Erik Kwakkel, Books Before Print (Kalamazoo & Bradford: Arc Humanities Press, forthcoming September 2018) [link]
  • Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson, eds., The European Book in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018) [link]
  • Erik Kwakkel, Ed., Vernacular Manuscript Culture 1000-1500 (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2018) [link]
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Book Script,” in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, ed. Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 24-42
  • Erik Kwakkel, “The Margin as Editorial Space: Upgrading Dioscorides alphabeticus in Eleventh-Century Monte Cassino,” in The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages: Practices of Reading and Writing, ed. Irene van Renswoude and Mariken Teeuwen, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 357-374

 

Publications 2015-2018

 

Books Authored

  • Erik Kwakkel & Francis Newton, Medicine at Monte Cassino: Constantine the African and the Oldest Manuscript of his ‘Liber pantegni’ (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming)
  • Erik Kwakkel, Books Before Print (Leeds, Arc Humanities, forthcoming September 2018)

 

Books Edited

  • Erik Kwakkel & Rodney Thomson (eds.), The European Book in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • Erik Kwakkel (ed.), Vernacular Manuscript Culture 1000-1500 (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2018)
  • Erik Kwakkel (ed), Manuscripts of the Latin Classics 800-1200, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Book Culture (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2015)

 

Journal Articles

  • Jorien Duivenvoorde, Anna Käyhkö, Erik Kwakkel & Joris Dik, “Hidden Library: Visualizing Fragments of Medieval Manuscripts in Early-Modern Bookbindings with mobile Macro-XRF Scanner,” Heritage Science 2017 5:6

 

Contributions to Books

  • Erik Kwakkel, “Hadewijch Manuscripts,” in Companion to Hadewijch, ed. Patricia Dailey and Veerle Fraters (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming)
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Book Script,” in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, ed. Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 24-42
  • Erik Kwakkel & Rodney Thomson, “Codicology,” in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, ed. Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 9-24
  • Erik Kwakkel & Rodney Thomson, “Introduction,” in The European Book in the Twelfth Century, ed. Erik Kwakkel and Rodney Thomson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 1-6
  • Erik Kwakkel, “The Margin as Editorial Space: Upgrading Dioscorides alphabeticus in Eleventh-Century Monte Cassino,” in The Annotated Book in the Early Middle Ages: Practices of Reading and Writing, ed. Irene van Renswoude and Mariken Teeuwen, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), 357-374
  • Erik Kwakkel & Anne Korteweg, “De wereld van het klooster,” in Zuid-Nederlandse miniatuurkunst. De mooiste verluchte handschriften in Nederlands bezit, ed. Anne Margreet As-Vijvers and Anne Korteweg (Zwolle: Waanders, 2018), 36-59
  • Erik Kwakkel & Anne Korteweg, “The Monastic World,” in Splendour of the Burgundian Netherlands. Southern Netherlandish Illuminated  Manuscripts in Dutch Collections, ed. Anne Margreet As-Vijvers and Anne Korteweg (Zwolle: Waanders, 2018), 36-59
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Lezen in de marge: Enkele ontwikkelingen in middeleeuwse boeken,” in Lezen!, ed. Wim van Anrooij and Paul Hoftijzer (Hilversum: Verloren, 2017), 13-18
  • Erik Kwakkel, “De triomf van de paleografische anomalie: Klerken als kopiisten van Middelnederlandse literatuur”, in Schriftgeheimen, ed. Paul Dijstelberghe, Marjolein Hogenbirk en Lisa Kuitert (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017), 105-120
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Filling a Void: The Use of Marginal Space in Medieval Books,” in Reactions: Medieval/Modern, ed. Dot Porter (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Libraries, 2016), 19-30
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Decoding the Material Book: Cultural Residue in Medieval Manuscripts,” in The Medieval Manuscript Book: Cultural Approaches, ed. Michael Van Dussen and Michael Johnson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 60-76
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Manuscripts of the Latin Classics: An Introduction,” in Manuscripts of the Latin Classics 800-1200, ed. Erik Kwakkel (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2015), 13-22
  • Erik Kwakkel, “Classics on Scraps: Classical Manuscripts Made from Parchment Waste in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries,” in Manuscripts of the Latin Classics 800-1200, ed. Erik Kwakkel, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Book Culture (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2015), 107-30, 204-11

Current Courses

Winter 2019

LIBR548F Issues in Information Services - IS REF&INFO SERV Sections

Winter 2019

LIBR548X Issues in Information Services - IS REF&INFO SERV Sections

Winter 2019

LIBR579D Topics in the Management of Libraries and Archives - MGMT LIB & ARCHV Sections

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Social media

 

Publications for non-specialists (English only):

  • Erik Kwakkel, “Medieval Doodles,” in Jessica Firpi and Wendy A. Reynolds, Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Unlock the Weird (Orlando, FL: Ripley Entertainment, 2016), 198
  • Interview for WordPress: “Medieval History, Illuminated: Book Historian Erik Kwakkel Uncovers the Past Through Books” (Feb. 2016) [link]
  • “Books and the Dissemination of Knowledge in Medieval Europe,” two learning modules for Khan Academy. Published 4 Jan. 2015

 

Radio

  • BBC World Service, Outlook, “The Sherlock Holmes of Medieval Manuscripts?, personal story of my becoming a book historian (27 March 2017) [link]
  • CBC Canada National Radio, “As it Happens”: Interview about doodling in medieval manuscripts (13 Dec. 2014) [link]
  • National Public Radio, How to Do Everything: Interview about doodling in medieval manuscripts (30 Sept. 2014) [link]

 

Magazines and Newspapers (English only)

  • Don’t Take Pictures (1 Sept. 2016): “Bookmarks: The Hidden Library” [link]
  • BBC News: “The Secret Libraries of History”, featuring my research of fragments inside bookbindings (19 Aug. 2016) [link]
  • The Guardian, “X-rays reveal 1,300-year-old writings inside later bookbindings” (5 June 2016) [link to online version]
  • Smithsonian Magazine, “Annals of Doodlology” (Feb. 2015, p. 18)
  • The Times, article devoted to medieval pen trials (6 Oct. 2014)
  • The Independent on Sunday, full page on medieval pen trials, including interview (5 Oct. 2014) [link to online version]
  • Slate: The Vault, “Costume Catalogue from 16th-century France” (31 Dec. 2014) [link]
  • CNN News, “ Gold mine of cheeky medieval doodles show ancestors just as silly as us” (3 Nov. 2014) [link]
  • Daily Mail, “Medieval doodles” (5 Oct. 2014) [link]
  • People Magazine, piece devoted to medieval pen trials (“People In the Middle Ages Doodled Just like us” (3 Oct. 2014) [link]
  • BuzzFeed: 8 historians, curators, specialists, and librarians who are killing it online (Feb. 2014) [link].

 

Fragments on Fridays - CoverV02

Fragments on Fridays: Research Seminar on Medieval Manuscripts

Fragments on Fridays is a UBC iSchool research seminar open to all UBC students interested in learning more about medieval manuscripts and their material features (codicology) and script (paleography). The seminar has a strong hands-on character and centers around fragments of medieval manuscripts. After the introduction of print in Europe, c. 1455, thousands of manuscripts were recycled by bookbinders, who used their sturdy parchment pages to support the inside of book bindings and as the resilient exteriors to some books (more info). While these stowaways were ignored in scholarship for a long time, they are now treated as valuable research objects which contribute significantly to our understanding of the European Middle Ages. Several platforms for their study have been created, including Fragmentarium.

Starting 10 January 2020, Fragments on Fridays runs 3-5 pm each Friday and is taken on a not-for-credit basis by students. The seminar is organized in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. The Folger collections are particularly rich in fragments which await description. Fragments on Fridays provides students with the opportunity to learn how to describe manuscripts. The resulting descriptions will be included in the Folger catalogue, opening this important fragment collection up to the academic community at large. Apart from learning how to describe manuscripts, students will be taught about medieval written culture more broadly, for example, through the plenary evaluation of some fragments. The goals of this seminar include teaching participants to identify the different medieval script families, as well as both dating and localizing a manuscript based on the scribe’s handwriting.

The seminar is organized and supervised by Erik Kwakkel, Professor of Book History at UBC iSchool. This initial session runs during Winter II term and is free and open to all students and researchers, at all levels, from the UBC community. Sign up if you are interested in participating; you are welcome to join either for the full seminar schedule, or just to see if this is something for you. Come join us as you are: no prior knowledge of languages or manuscripts is required!

 

Sign up for Fragments on Fridays

 

For additional information, please contact the organizer at erik.kwakkel@ubc.ca

Meeting schedule for Term II 

January 10, 17, 31
February 7, 14, 28
March 6, 13, 20
April 3, 10, 17, 24

Time: all sessions 3-5 pm
Location: Terrace Lab, UBC iSchool (Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, 4th floor)