Turning Over a New Leaf



VIDI project Turning Over a New Leaf: Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance is concerned with the relationship between written culture and society, specifically how innovations in the technology of the medieval manuscript (the handwritten book, or codex, used before the invention of print) relate to cultural change.

The project explores how the “new book format” of 12th-c. Renaissance, custom-tailored for the age, which includes new types of script, new page layouts and new reading aids, most notably pagination, running titles, paragraphs, quotation marks, footnotes, cross references and diagrams, is a technological innovation which improved what is called “book fluency,” or the ability to read a text quickly and accurately. While in the late eleventh century intellectual culture nearly completely lacked tools that could rise to these occasions, by the outset of the thirteenth century scholars had a rich palette of aids at their disposal that facilitated comprehension and speedy access. The inventions dramatically changed the reading experience of medieval individuals. It helped to create a new international community of scholars, bound by a shared desire for knowledge. And it proved remarkably durable: it is essentially the book we are holding today.

Component 1: The Physical Manuscript (Coordinator)assesses what physical changes occurred on the page and how the new book format they helped to create evolved over time. Component 2: Readers (PhD Student) focuses on the cultural background and geographical location of the readers who handled the 300 manuscripts. Component 3: Texts and Genres (Postdoctoral Researcher) focuses on the relationship between the physical features of manuscripts and the texts they contain.


  • Languages: Latin, Vernacular
  • Countries: Netherlands, France, Belgium
  • Dates: 1075-1225
  • Disciplines: Codicology


  • Dr. Erik Kwakkel


Erik Kwakkel