Blogging the Senses

For this inaugural Discover Challenge, find inspiration in an interview with medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel and publish a post that piques one of the five senses.

Photo by Erik Kwakkel, Medieval Books. Leiden, University Library, BPL 104, 13th century (text) and 15th century (tag).

I recently interviewed Erik Kwakkel, a book historian in Leiden, Netherlands, who blogs on the popular blog Medieval Books. Erik has a knack for bringing medieval history to life, making connections between medieval and modern, and introducing his interesting manuscript finds to people outside of his field.

Blogging puts us in front of a screen. Erik’s work is more hands-on, dealing with books and objects. So I asked him: what are the challenges of blogging about old, dusty manuscripts?

He said:

While I can show on Twitter and my blog what manuscripts look like, I cannot share their smell and feel. There is nothing like the smell of a medieval book, especially those that haven’t been opened for a long time. Touch is important too, because such a direct interaction with the past conveys what the famous historian Johan Huizinga called “the historical sensation”: the feeling of excitement you get when you handle a historical artifact, in an archive or a library, for example.

I appreciate the images he publishes on his blog — you can almost touch the fragile pages of the manuscripts he studies.

Entry in foundling book of Leiden’s Holy Spirit Orphanage: “Anonymous child found in the Church of St Peter on the altar,” 1491. (Erfgoed Leiden, HGW, Archiefnr. 519, Inv. nr. 3384.) Photo by Erik Kwakkel.

Consider your favorite blogs — food, travel, writing, and more. Think about the recipe posts that make you want to grab the dish right out of the photo to eat. The vibrant street photographs that make you miss the noises and smells of your favorite city. Or the way your favorite blogger writes about winter, describing the crunchy texture of snow under her feet. Think about how a post can pique your senses.

You can embed audio and video from other services you use — like YouTube, Vimeo, and more — if you’d like.

In this week’s Discover Challenge, publish a post that appeals to one of the senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. You’re free to interpret this in any way, and publish in any format: prose, poetry, photography, audio, video . . .

We know that some bloggers have issues with pingbacks, especially if your site is self-hosted. If you can’t create a pingback, drop a link to your post in the comments.

You can create a pingback to this challenge, just as you do in our Weekly Photo Challenges, to share your post with the community.

We look forward to your responses!

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  1. HI Cheri can I just clarify – is the idea that we respond both in terms of writing to pique a sense or senses AND with reference in some way to the medieval historian and his work or just the former and thus on any subject under (or beyond) the sun??


    1. Great poem! Love your writing style and use of words. My mind imagined being there at that factory so long ago. And the thought of eating that hot dog made me feel happy for a moment during a long, dreary work day.

      The featured photo was so crisp and clear, and close-up, that I could literally taste the chili dog. It set the stage for the entire post, and was the image on my mind while reading.

      Normally, I don’t care much for poetry, but you are very talented.

      Keep up the good work,
      Melissa 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The goal for these challenges is to create and publish something new. It’s easy to simply submit an older post — I’d like to see material published specifically in response to the challenge.

      That said, you’re ultimately free to participate and respond as you’d like, provided that the post relates to the challenge/topic.


    1. A good but sad poem. One thing it accomplished was to open my eyes to the true victims of war. I live in the U.S., and while I’m aware of the violence in other countries, it seems so far away, and it’s easy to forget about all the innocent children and families who are killed.

      Thanks for bringing to life an issue that none of us like to think about. You definitely inspired empathy!

      Great job!
      Melissa 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought about my heart response to an ancient manuscript – as my Lent promise as a Christian I started to write a blog for every day of Lent. Not all Christian related – various topics covered. Today though I looked at a verse from the Bible and thought about what it meant to me “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:21 Please read my response here


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