Universiteit Leiden

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Book and Digital Media Studies (MA)

About the programme

The Book and Digital Media Studies programme provides you with in depth knowledge of the history of the book (manuscript and print) and theories and practices within the field of publishing and textual media. You will graduate with detailed knowledge of the most relevant issues and important academic skills in the field of Book Studies.

The master’s programme in Book and Digital Media Studies is taught across two semesters and comprises compulsory courses, elective courses and the writing of an MA thesis.

Semester one

The aim of the first semester is to prepare you for the specialisations that you will choose during your second semester. This part of the programme provides a solid basis and introduction to the field, conceptually, empirically and practically, via six elementary courses. 

Semester two

During your second semester you choose two from the following specialisations:

  • History of the Book;
  • Contemporary Academic Publishing;
  • Digital Access to Cultural Heritage;
  • Text and Data Mining in the Humanities.

The second part of the second semester is spent writing your MA thesis.

The programme offers four specialisations:

Specialisation 1: Digital Access to Cultural Heritage

In Digital Access to Cultural Heritage, you focus on the ways and means of making cultural heritage digitally accessible. In this course, you address such issues as the challenges and possibilities for exhibiting special collections and knowledge domains in knowledge centres. Special emphasis is placed on the interaction between the providers and the users of digital information. We cooperate Leiden University Library and the Dutch National Library (KB) in The Hague on this subject.

Specialisation 2: History of the Book

In History of the Book, you explore different aspects of the history of textual communication through the medium of the printed word. We study a range of subjects from the role of publishers, booksellers and readers, to the interchange between book and society and developments in the physical appearance of books. You will conduct research using the rich primary sources contained in the special collections of libraries and archives in Leiden and elsewhere, in combination with secondary literature.

Specialisation 3: Contemporary Academic Publishing

In Contemporary Academic Publishing, you will look at the wider role and meaning specifically of academic publishing in society. The whole publishing chain is covered, from the work of authors through to the activities of publishing houses to retailers and customers. You will study new trends in publishing arising from the introduction of digital technology.

Specialisation 4: Text and Data Mining in the Humanities

In Text and Data Mining in the Humanities, you will study the history, policies, principles and practice connected to digital text and data processing systems. You will receive hands‑on experience in text techniques and in data visualisation, within the framework of the ongoing evolution of digital technology.

To get an impression of possible topics, see the recent MA theses listed below.

  • Gloria Moorman, Discovering Rome through Joan Blaeu’s Admiranda Urbis Romae: The Creation of the Town Atlas of Rome (Amsterdam, 1663) in the Light of Italian-Dutch Relationships in the Seventeenth Century. Online version.
  • Anna Käykö, Digital Representations of the Material: The Medieval Manuscript in the Digital Medium. Online version.
  • Sophie Boisvert-Hearn, The Future of the Scholarly Monograph in the Humanities: Open and enhanced.
  • Elli Bleeker, On Reading in the Digital Age: Establishing the Paradigms in a Hyperbolical Discussion Online version
  • Anastasia Dorofeeva, Towards Digital Humanities Tool Criticism. Online version
  • Mirjam Romeijn, Life in Amsterdam at the End World War II: A Selected Edition of the Diary Letters by Kitty Ouwens, 1945. Online version.

For a detailed programme, please check the Prospectus.

Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Paul Hoftijzer

Professor of Book and Digital Media Studies

Paul Hoftijzer

“Leiden has fantastic resources available in our field that are all within easy reach: the University Library, the Bibliotheca Thysiana, many museums, and renowned book shops and publishing houses such as Koninklijke Brill, which has been in existence since 1683."

Interaction between present and past

"I would characterise this Master’s by its focus on the interaction between the present and the past: we examine the history of the written and printed word in terms of its relation to present-day developments in the world of the book and digital media."

Mirjam de Baar


Mirjam de Baar

“Time has taught us that solutions to social problems do not lie in technology, but in human potential. Technological solutions are essential, but so is the significance people attribute to this information through culture or language. Experience shows us that research within the humanities and social sciences often provides these solutions. This is why the research conducted by our humanities faculty is so highly relevant and important. I am very proud of the fact that Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities is one of the world’s leading faculties in the field.”

Broad and relevant research:

“One of this faculty’s strengths is how incredibly broad it is. We conduct a wealth of relevant research in so many different fields and disciplines. We have egyptologists working on excavation sites in Saqqara and the Dakhla Oasis. We have linguists who are documenting, for the first time, languages that are spoken by vast numbers of people in the world today; others creating computer simulations of language acquisition by the brain. The extent and variety of the activity going on is tremendous.”

A stimulating environment

“When you join Leiden’s Faculty of Humanities you are joining a community of passionate, stimulated and ambitious students and staff from all over the world. Our academic environment is known for being conducive to interaction between individuals of all standing: at Leiden even the most junior researcher is treated as a valuable member of the community with important opinions to share. You also gain access to truly unique resources found nowhere else in the world, such as our famous collections at the University Library. Our lecturers and support staff are committed to your success, both now and in the future, and offer you the tools needed to develop into a critically-minded professional who can truly make a difference to the world.”

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