Universiteit Leiden

Adriaan van der Weel, Research

Adriaan van der Weel


Summer 2014: COST E-READ application successful

The goal of the Action is to improve scientific understanding of the implications of the digitization of reading and literacy, to help individuals, disciplines, societies and sectors across Europe to cope optimally with the effects. The impact of digital technology is currently only poorly understood, but it is likely to be of a much more intrusive nature than we currently expect.

Five scholars collaborated on this interdisciplinary application: reading and literacy specialist Anne Mangen (University of Stavnager, Norway; chair of the Action), psychologist Thierry Baccino (Université Paris 8, France); cognitive neuroscientist Jean-Luc Velay (CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, France); and book historians Miha Kovac, University of Ljubljana), and Adriaan van der Weel (Leiden University, Netherlands; vice-chair of the Action).

More information can be found on the action web site.

Select publications available digitally

[In reverse chronological order]

‘Book Studies and the Sociology of Text Technologies’, in Material moments: Essays in honour of Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser, eds Simon Rosenberg and Sandra Simon, Peter Lang, 2014, 269-82

'The Trojan horse of Open Access', in TXT: Exploring the boundaries of the book, Leiden: BDMS, 2014, pp. 82-87

Final proof of 'From an Ownership to an Access Economy of Publishing', Logos 25:2 (2014)

'Achter de muziek aan?', in Jos A.A.M. Biemans, Paul Hoftijzer, Maarten van Steenbergen en Adriaan van der Weel, Handel en wandel van het boek: Boeketje boekwetenschap IV, 2014

'Coping with an online mentality', an article based on a presentation at The 4th International Conference on Publishing Industry and Publishing Education in the Digital Era, Wuhan, 23-24 november 2013, submitted to the publishing studies journal published by the University of Wuhan (in Chinese), and also to appear in English in the conference proceedings

'Memory and the reading substrate', an article submitted for a collection of essays to be published under the aegis of The Memory Project (UK)

Cover of The Unbound Book

Adriaan van der Weel and Joost Kircz, 'The book unbinding', introduction to the essay collection The unbound book, ed. Joost Kircz and Adriaan van der weel, Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2013, pp. 7-17

At the onset of the digital deluge, books had evolved to become the perfect reading machine. When using screen technology, it is one thing to identify what we lose in the process but quite another and, it might be argued, an ultimately more fruitful one, to identify how that screen technology might shape the activities that we always used paper for. Screen technology is likely to determine our learning and entertainment habits. Awareness and eventually new insights are essential if we are to have any hopes of influencing the direction in which screen technology can develop.
This collection of essays addresses the question of what the digital revolution might mean for conventional paper books, and especially about the digital future of the long-form text popularly designated by the term ‘book’.

Uncorrected proof of 'Digitaal lezen en de toekomst van onze geletterde mentaliteit', Speling 2013, nr 4

Corrected proof, 'Het "hardnekkige isolement" van Nederland in de geschiedenis van de toetreding to the Berner Conventie' in Arianne Baggerman, Paul Hoftijzer en Adriaan van der Weel, Van het boek en de rand (Boeketje Boekwetenschap III), Dr. P.A. Tiele-Stichting / Amsterdam University Press, 2013, pp. 26-31

Final copy for 'De binnenstebuitelende digitalisatie van het boekenvak', in Het einde van ebooks: 20 Visionairs over de toekomst van digitaal lezen, Delft: Eburon, 2013, pp. 72-77

Uncorrected proof of 'Pandora’s box of text technology', Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis 2013.

Anne Bakker, Floris Janssens-Andrejew, Liesbeth Kanis and Adriaan van der Weel, 'Opportunities and Challenges: Academic and Digital Publishing in Tanzania' (Report for the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tanzania), 2012

'Feeding Our Reading Machines', the text of my 'Institute lecture', delivered at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (4-8 June)/the Beyond Accessibility conference (8/10 June), held at the University of Victoria in June 2012, published in the online journal The media res, 2 July 2012.

Proof of 'Van waardeketen naar waardeweb', in Arianne Baggerman, Paul Hoftijzer, Gerard Unger en Adriaan van der Weel, Schakels in de keten van het boek: Boeketje Boekwetenschap II, Den Haag: Dr P.A. Tiele-Stichting en Amsterdam: AUP, 2012, pp. 29-35 (An English translation can be found here.)

Cover of Changing our textual minds

Proof of Changing our textual minds: Towards a digital order of knowledge, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2011

Text has always been the chief vehicle for the inscription and dissemination of knowledge and culture. Centuries of reading and writing practice have made us homo typographicus. Our entire way of disseminating knowledge and culture is firmly based on print culture. As more and more of our textual communication moves into the digital realm we have reached a crucial moment in the history of textual transmission. In many respects digital text looks deceptively like print. But beneath the surface of the screen, digital textuality obeys very different rules than printed text. The digital textual universe offers a wealth of new and exciting possibilities—but it also sets new rules for the writer’s and reader’s engagement with text. The need to come to grips with the shift to digital textuality in the early twenty-first century will literally change our minds. Changing our textual minds analyses the continuities and discontinuities in textual transmission as we move from a print paradigm into an increasingly digital world. It conceptualises the epochal transition from analogue to digital, both in factual terms and in terms of its social significance.

Uncorrected proof of ‘Our textual future’, Logos, 22:3 (2011), pp. 44-53 [ abridged version of Chapter 6 of Changing Our textual minds: Towards a digital order of knowledge, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2011

Copy for ‘Do images also argue’, in I read where I am, comp. Mieke Gerritzen, Geert Lovink, and Mieke Kampman, Breda: Graphic Design Museum & Amsterdam: Valiz, 2011, pp. 157-58

Proof of 'De lezer ontletterd', in Boeketje boekwetenschap: Over de (on)natuurlijkheid van schrijven, drukken en lezen, Den Haag: Dr. P.A. Tiele-Stichting / Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011, pp. 26-31

Proof of a review of Sytze van der Veen, Brill: 325 Years of Scholarly Publishing. Contributions by Paul Dijstelberge, Mirte D. Groskamp, and Kasper van Ommen (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2008), in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, March 2011, pp. 129-30

Prepublication of 'e-Roads and i-Ways: A sociotechnical look at user acceptance of e-books', Logos, vol. 21, 3-4 (2010; published in 2011; see the Logos web site)

Proofs of a review of Dutch Messengers: A History of Science Publishing, 1930–1980 by Cornelis D. Andriesse (Logos, vol. 21, 1-2 (2010))

Prepublication of 'Convergence and its discontents: From a book culture to a reading culture', Logos, vol. 20, 1-4 (2009; published in 2010; see the Logos web site)

'New mediums: New perspectives on knowledge production', chapter submitted for publication in Text comparison and digital creativity (Leiden, Brill, 2010, pp. 253-68)

Published version of 'Explorations in the Libroverse', proceedings of the Nobel symposium 'Going Digital: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Aspects of Digitization' (June 2009)

Copy of '13 juli 1934: Wouter Stuifbergen schrijft naar Haarlem over zijn New Yorkse leeservaringen' as submitted for publication in a book publication about Dutch literary life in 1934 in an international context, entitled In 1934 (published by Contact, Amsterdam, March 2010).

Unedited copy of ‘Publishing Education and the Challenge of Change’, paper delivered at the 2nd (2008) International Conference on Publishing Industry and Publishing Education in the Digital Era, Wuhan, 15-16 November 2008

Published version of ‘La cultura del libro y el precio fijo’ [Book Culture and the Fixed Book Price], Memorias: Segundo Congreso Iberoamericano de Libreros: Pensar la librería como espacio cultural, Bogotà, 2009, pp. 83-92

Uncorrected first proof of ‘In gesprek met Herman Pabbruwe, directeur van uitgeverij Brill’, Boekenwereld 25, no 1 (oktober 2008), pp. 20-29

Unedited copy of ‘Onaangeraakte boeken’, in Aangeraakt: Boeken in contact met hun lezers: Een bundel opstellen voor Wim Gerritsen en Paul Hoftijzer, red. Kaspar van Ommen et al., Kleine publicaties van de Leidse Universiteitsbibliotheek 75, Leiden: UBL, 2007, pp. 224-29

Uncorrected proof of 'Het boek in beweging: De boekcultuur in een digitaliserende wereld', introduction to the 2007 issue of the Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis 2007

Uncorrected proof of 'Modernity and Print II: Europe 1890-1970', chapter 2.3.14 of the Blackwell Companion to the Book, Oxford, 2007

Uncorrected proof of my inaugural lecture (20 October 2006) as Bohn professor of Modern Dutch book history, Onbehagen in de schriftcultuur: Leesrevoluties in de negentiende en twintigste eeuw, Amsterdam: Leiden University Press, 2007

Uncorrected proof of Alle boeken die er geschreven zijn, a short essay on the digital challenges facing the publishing industry in a historical perspective, written by way of a New Year's wish for Bohn Stafleu Van Loghum (Houten, 2007), who sponsor my chair.

Uncorrected proof of Adriaan van der Weel and Peter Verhaar, ‘Book Trade Archives to Book Trade Networks’, Bibliologia: An international journal of bibliography, library science, history of typography and the book, 1 (2006), pp.151- 66

Unedited copy of 'Scouting for Popular Fiction between the World Wars', my contribution to New Perspectives in Book History: Contributions from the Low Countries, ed. Marieke van Delft, Frank de Glas, and Jeroen Salman, Zutphen, Walburg Pers, 2006

Proofs of 'Nineteenth-Century Literary Translations from English in a Book Historical Context', in Textual mobility and cultural transmission: Tekstmobiliteit en culturele overdracht, ed. Martine de Clercq, Tom Toremans and Walter Verschueren, Leuven, 2006, pp. 27-40

Published version of 'Bibliography for the new media', Quaerendo, 35, 1-2 (2005), pp. 96-108

A 2001 article on the application of Robert Darnton's 'communications circuit' to the digital publication cycle, 'The Communications Circuit Revisited', in Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis, Leiden, Nederlandse Boekhistorische Vereniging, pp. 13-25.

Unedited copy of 'Dutch Nineteenth-century Attitudes to International Copyright', Publishing history 47 (2000), pp. 31-44

The Silencing of the Sphinx

Published version of The Silencing of the Sphinx: vol. 1, The Genesis of Worstward Ho (my doctoral dissertation), and its companion, vol. 2, Interpreting Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho by Dr Ruud Hisgen (Leiden, 1998). (A limited number of print copies remains available; please contact me directly.)

I am involved, as European articles editor in Digital Humanities Quarterly, whose first issue was published (by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO)) Spring 2007; as an advisory editor in Book History, the annual published by the Society for the History of Authorship Reading and Publishing (SHARP) on whose Board of Directors I served till 2009, and as member of the Scientific Board in Bibliologia. Until 2007 I was editor in chief, of the Jaarboek voor Nederlandse boekgeschiedenis, published by the Dutch book historical society (Nederlandse Boekhistorische Vereniging (NBV)).

Publication list

 

Research interests

By training I am an Anglicist, with as my main interests the literature of the seventeenth and twentieth centuries—and within these periods the cultural relations between the English and Dutch speaking worlds—and Irish literature in English. My MA thesis, which I wrote together with Ruud Hisgen, about translating contemporary Irish literature in English into Dutch, was based on a collection of recent prose and poetry which we had published as Ierse stemmen (Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 1981). My doctoral dissertation, which came about again as a result of close collaboration with Ruud Hisgen, was about Samuel Beckett's last major prose work, Worstward Ho.

De facto, however, I have worked in book studies almost exclusively since about 1994. In book studies my work has ranged mainly over the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a particular interest in the vicissitudes of the international, and more in particular the Anglo-Dutch, book trade, and the advent of the digital medium. The latter is responsible for the continuing buzz that I derive from being a book historian: we are unbelievably fortunate and priviliged to be able to witness the birth and amazing growth of the World Wide Web.

I have always been fascinated by the seemingly inexorable way in which alphabetic script has moved to become the main shaping force of Western culture. In our contemporary culture of the book it is easy to forget that the way we transmit knowledge is always historically contingent. We dismiss that part of history that took place before the invention of writing as 'prehistorical', but we often forget how much of the 'historical' era of our history is in fact parahistorical. How many people ever really participated in book culture? And when, after much prodding from the literary elite, full (or almost full) literacy was finally reached in the early twentieth-century Western world, suddenly it wasn't the Good Idea any more it had seemed at the time. Attitudes to reading and writing, to printing, to the spread of literacy, to the democratisation of book production, distribution and consumption have always been fascinatingly ambivalent.

Now of course digitisation is again playing havoc with age-old hierarchical models of participation in the processes of writing and reading. The technological architecture of the Internet, and more particularly the World Wide Web, offers a highly democratised and participatory environment for textual transmission. People from all sorts of socioeconomic strata who never participated in book culture are now finding a public voice for the first time. Not surprisingly, once again there is an outcry against the trivialisation of our textual culture as more and more people flock to social websites, write blogs, twitter, and leave comments all over the Web. And of course this time the democratisation does not just affect textual forms of communication, but includes music, film and photography.

It seems to me that the competition from so many media streams converging on a single screen and jostling for the scarce attention of readers is going to strain severely their ability to deal with 'long-form' texts. Reading, moreover, comes a lot less naturally to the brain than listening and watching, and sustained critical reading may well be among the hardest activities we expect our brain to perform. So the future (and since I am a book historian also necessarily the history) of reading in the digital age has become a strong focus of my research.

 

Current projects

1. The digitisation of textual transmission

There can be little doubt that this is one of the most fundamental social changes in human history, and I feel very privileged not only to be a first-hand witness but, better still, to be able to study it closely as it unfolds. Not surprisingly, many of my current activities focus on this exciting topic. The following are just some recent examples.

Scholarly Communication

Together with Ray Siemens and Ernst Thoutenhoofd I have launched a new book series, called 'Scholarly Communication' with Brill Publishers, Leiden, whose first volume appeared in the autumn of 2010 (see this statement of purpose), and I serve as a member of the editorial board of Scholarly and Research Communication.

Together with Ernst Thoutenhoofd I have written a funding proposal for NWO called 'Disruption in scholarly communication: Future potential and current limitations of textual knowledge production', to investigate the history and present awareness of the role of text in scholarly communication.

Together with Thed van Leeuwen and Alesia Zuccala of CWTS I have written a funding proposal for Digging into Data called 'Digging into Books and Book Reviews for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Evaluations' to establish the potential of scholarly books and book reviews for effective bibliometric research evaluations in the social sciences and arts and humanities.

Also under this rubric fits the research report entitled Data Curation in Arts and Media Research which my department, the Department of Book and Digital Media Studies, wrote for SURFfoundation. The curation of primary research data is becoming a major issue, not just for puposes of long-term preservation per se, but also in view of the increasing tendency towards the creation of enhanced or enriched publications, which link to the data sets underlying the research.

The Future of the Book and Literacy/The Future of Knowledge Transmission

The book has always been our primary ‘knowledge machine’. As the analogue book is being replaced by digital textual transmission we are facing a major change in the dissemination of culture and knowledge. Printed text is being replaced by virtual text, and paper as its substrate by the screens of digital reading devices. Moreover, in a digital environment text enters a level playing field which it shares with other digital modalities: still and moving images, and sound. This process has far reaching social consequences, leaving it unclear what the digital future of the ‘book’ might look like. At the same time there is widespread concern about the decline in reading and literacy among younger generations. See this comprehensive overview of issues (and see also Future of reading and literacy below).

Originally entitled 'What Is a Book', The Unbound Book conference (Amsterdam and The Hague, 19-21 May 2011) was designed to stimulate the debate on what it is that the printed book has come to represent for our culture, and what it is that we believe its digital sequels can and cannot replace and how. The proceedings have been co-edited by Joost Kircz and myself, to be published by Amsterdam University Press. We organised a sequel to the conference entitled 'Het boek uit de band', which took place in March 2012.

Together with LIBER, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the Dutch national library), and the Dr. P.A. Tiele-Stichting I co-organised the conference 'Texts and Literacy in the Digital Age' in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (16-17 December 2010) for my department to assess strategies of writing and reading in the digital age. How might knowledge transmission take place in the new digital environment, and how might that differ (or not) from the paper environment? The pre-conference day, 'Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age: Textual Methodologies and Exemplars' on 15 December, was organised by Ray Siemens for INKE and concentrated on the practical object of determining the shape of the digital book.

At the DHSI/Beyond Accessibility conference in June 2012 I gave the plenary Institute Lecture, entitled 'Feeding our Reading Machines'.

Going Digital: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Aspects of Digitization

At the 147th Nobel Symposium entitled 'Going Digital: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Aspects of Digitization' (Stockholm, Royal Swedish Academy of Science, June 2009) I gave a paper about the changes in scholarly practice corresponding to the changing knowledge paradigm as we move from analogue to digital textual transmission. A video stream of the proceedings is available through the conference programme.

Text comparison and digital creativity

Together with two colleagues, Wido van Peursen and Ernst Thoutenhoofd, I edited a volume for Brill Publishers (Leiden) entitled 'Text comparison and digital creativity' on the way the use of digital technologies is affecting contemporary textual scholarship. Contributions are based on papers presented at an international colloquium of the same name (Amsterdam, Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, November 2008).

Changing our textual minds: Towards a digital order of knowledge

Changing our textual minds: Towards a digital order of knowledge (Manchester University Press, 2011) discusses the continuities and discontinuities as we move from the familiar print paradigm into a digital world, and conceptualises the transition both in factual terms and in terms of its social significance. As we move more and more of our textual communication into the digital realm we have reached a crucial moment in the history of textual transmission. The book asserts that while we try to come to grips with the significance of the shift to digital communication in the early twenty-first century we firmly remain Homo typographicus. That is to say that our way of thinking about the transmission of knowledge and culture remains firmly book based. There is (as yet) no digital 'knowledge system' to replace the print paradigm, which I like to refer to as 'the Order of the Book'. (I gratefully acknowledge funding for the book received from NWO, the Dutch national scientific funding body, in 2007).

Amsterdam E-boekenstad [Amsterdam e-Book City]

In an advisory capacity I participated in the 'Amsterdam E-boekenstad' project, which aims to explore the practice and potential of e-books and e-book readers for higher education. Representatives from the entire value chain (or better, 'value web'), from authors and publishers down to end users and libraries, collaborate in the project in order to research a large number of relevant issues, such as the business models, hardware, functional requirements, and so on.

Future of reading and literacy

Western society can be said to be text-based. That is to say, our culture is the product of several millenniums of literacy, and it is impossible to function properly in today’s society without being literate. Literacy comprises reading and writing. Literacy together with numeracy (arithmetic) form the so-called basic educational skills. Over time writing has been expressed first in the form of handwritten, and then printed signs. In the last decade, screen-based media (computers, smart phones, e-readers, and tablets) and the World Wide Web have begun (and continue) to change the nature of our writing and, more dramatically, reading habits – on an individual as well as a collective level. The amount of time spent reading long-form texts is rapidly reducing, and reading is becoming much more intermittent and fragmented overall. These trends manifest themselves in different ways and to varying degrees across national borders in Europe, but the changes they effect have significant implications for a number of stakeholders. Hence, the digitization of texts and the concomitant changes in literacy are matters of urgent concern at a European level.

Although little research is being done, it makes sense to assume that reading of digital text forms is affecting our conventional notions of literacy. In view of the potentially transformational effects of moving to a digital textual substrate it seems to me that this is a subject that warrants closer attention from researchers and policy makers than it is currently getting. In May 2008 I organised a symposium in Leiden (together with Bert Lever), called 'Lezen in een digitaliserende samenleving' ['Reading in a digitising society'], with Alberto Manguel as the keynote speaker, John A. Michon, professor emeritus of cognitive psychology, and Jan Sleutels, Leiden media philosopher. I have since jotted down some thoughts on the matter in the context of the apparently impending breakthrough of the e-book in the book trade, in an article for Logos entitled 'Convergence and its discontents: From a book culture to a reading culture' (2010; pre-publication version), and in 'De lezer ontletterd' (2011).

With European partners in Norway, Slovenia, France, and the UK, I am currently preparing grant applications for a research project aimed at providing a better insight into these major changes in reading and literacy so that we may understand how they affect individuals and society, as well as for a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) research network.

Publishing studies

In 2009-2010, after Brill had taken over its publication from the founder–editor Gordon Graham, I was guest editor-in-chief of Logos: Forum of the World Book Community. When Angus Phillips took over the editorship, I remained on its editorial board. I am series editor, together with Tej Sood, of the Anthem Publishing Studies series, in which the first title was published in October 2013, and, together with Svenja Hagenhoff and Christoph Bläsi, of the series 'Present and Future of the Communication Space around the Book: The Culture, Economics, Technology and Intermediality of the Book' published by Nomos Verlag.

2. Popular reading and publishing

I am fascinated by the dialectic between the massive drive in the nineteenth and early twentieth century towards greater literacy among the general populace on the one hand, and the uncomfortableness of the intellectual elite with the unbridled democratisation of reading on the other. This was the subject of my inaugural address in 2006. In this perspective I have also, for example, looked at the interwar activities of De Spaarnestad in the field of popular book publishing. Please see the 'Popularising Print Culture in the Netherlands 1870-1970' project. Together with colleagues from the comparative literature department I participated in a project funded by the European Culture Programme 2007 of the European Commission called 'Popular Roots of European Culture through Film, Comics and Serialized Literature' (EPOP), initiated by the Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo of the University of Bologna, with partners from Limoges (Fr), Louvain (Be), and the Province of Pescara (It). The project was completed in May 2010, with deliverables including an online Virtual Museum, a cd-rom for educational purposes, and an exhibition with an accompanying catalogue.

3. Erven F. Bohn (publishers)

As the Bohn chair of Modern Dutch book history, I take what might be termed a professional interest in the archives of the old (1752) Haarlem publishing firm Erven F. Bohn. They are owned by the Leiden University Library, which has made available a finding aid in EAD. Much of the archive's vast correspondence (>30,000 letters) has been microfilmed and is accessible through the special Correspondence catalogue. I have given several presentations about that marvellous archive, for example to the Peeter Heynsgenootschap (The Dutch society for the history of foreign language teaching) in March 2006 and March 2007. The Book trade correspondence project (below), which aims to present digital transcriptions of book trade correspondence, also includes correspondence from the Bohn archives at Leiden University Library.

4. Book trade correspondence project

The Book trade correspondence project aims to present digital transcriptions of book trade correspondence in the Leiden University Library, notably that of the Haarlem publishers Erven F. Bohn. The project is integrated in the teaching curriculum of the department of Book and Digital Media Studies, in the Digital Media Technologies course, whose participants are required to transcribe one or more letters, encoding and annotating them in XML according to the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative.

In this context I organised in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands) in 2001 the conference Digital access to book trade archives, whose papers were published in a book of the same name by Academic Press Leiden. With my colleague Peter Verhaar I also published ‘Book Trade Archives to Book Trade Networks’, in Bibliologia in 2006.

 

 

Some presentations

 

A life with books

After studying English literature—or should I say 'literatures'—at the University of Leiden from 1975 to 1981 (for no better reason than that it was close enough to my native Rotterdam, where I was running a music agency, to commute), Trinity College Dublin in 1978-1979 (because I loved Irish music and had come under the spell of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when I read it as an undergraduate), and The University of Sydney in 1983 (because Australia happened to offer a generous travel and living allowance just as Ruud Hisgen and I were looking for a way to repeat our glorious year at TCD), I ended up teaching at the University of Leiden's English Department in 1990. In that year the department began offering a Book and Publishing Studies specialisation. Because of my experience in the Dutch (1984) and Australian 1985-1989) publishing industry (the latter during the years when I was frantically trying to hold on to a private beach in the affluent Sydney suburb of Point Piper—which I found in the sad process of being irreparably turned into blandly unromantic and no doubt utterly unaffordable units when I paid a visit in February 2009) I began teaching book production, design and editing for the specialisation. The Vandercook proofing press we obtained for instruction purposes led to an interest, at first dutiful, but then genuine, in fine (letterpress) printing. Next I added the C19 and C20 history of Anglo-Dutch book trade relations to my range of interests.

Finding that the Internet was taking over many functions of the printed word, it seemed a good idea at the time (1996) to teach a course called Electronic Text, in which I introduced my book students to the concept of markup, illustrated through HTML and the Text Encoding Initiative's application of SGML. How good an idea this really was, I am still not sure. Certainly my book studies colleagues in the Netherlands have always remained rather ambivalent about my view of underlying continuity from manuscript through print to digital textual transmission. At any rate, my interest in electronic text led naturally to my conviction that Leiden needed an Electronic Text Centre (the Electronic Text Centre Leiden or ETCL—now alas defunct), which I founded in 1997, together with the University Library and the university's IT centre.

In 1997, as I was completing my PhD research on Samuel Beckett's last major prose work, Worstward Ho, (I defended my dissertation in Leiden in 1998), my colleagues Paul Hoftijzer, Berry Dongelmans and I forged ahead and offered our Book Studies specialisation to all arts students. When the BA/MA system was adopted in the Netherlands, we adapted our programme to the new requirements, which resulted in an independent Book and Digital Media Studies department. This is where we stand today: we run an undergraduate minor called Boek, boekhandel en uitgeverij (Books, the Book Trade and Publishing), and an MA called Book and Byte: Book and Digital Media Studies.

Full CV.

 

Links

A presentation on the occasion of the screening of Joseph Strick's film of James Joyce's Ulysses (Filmhuis Den Haag, 20 February 2011; with Ruud Hisgen).

 

A.H. van der Weel; Tel. 071-5272141; E-mail
Laatste wijziging: 19 April 2015