Ancient Textbook Doodles Prove School Has Been Boring for Centuries

We’re used to thinking of illuminated manuscripts as nearly sacred texts that take a painstakingly long time to create and must have been handled with the utmost care. But medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel, in documenting his various findings on his blog, has discovered that people in medieval times treated their books much the way we do today.

Kwakkel shared several photos of medieval manuscripts from about 700 years ago, their pages filled with doodles by scribes, monks, and bored school children.

Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University in The Netherlands, explained that some doodles come from scribes testing out the width of their nibs after cutting fresh ones. In other cases, it’s school children acting out by drawing their fellow students or hated headmasters.

medieval books doodles

Students with pointy noses. Leiden, University Library, MS BPL 6 C (13th century)

Some probably don’t make sense to anyone but the person doodling in that particular moment.

medieval illuminated text doodles

Doodle from a 13th-century law manuscript (Amiens BM 347)

“When you see the monks expressing their personalities, their sense of humor, it makes you feel like you’re traveling back through time,” Kwakkel told CNN. “It’s like you’re going through the keyhole and sitting right next to them.”

medieval books doodles

Leiden UB VLQ 92

If this sketch from a Tor.com meeting is any indication, modern day doodlers could learn a thing or three from the detailed classical stylings of the very bored:

Stupid angel hospital doodle

(Hey, another episode of Stupid Angel Hospital!)

Check out more of Kwakkel’s “medieval eye candy” (as he puts it) on his Tumblr.

Photos: Erik Kwakkel

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