Redesigning the Medieval Book

Alongside Designing English, an exhibition from 2017, which showed the imagination and ingenuity of books in English in the Middle Ages, we invited contemporary artists and craftspeople to come and see those medieval manuscripts and make new books – or alternatives to books – inspired by what they saw.

Some people showed us that medieval crafts such as calligraphy or embroidery are still thriving today. Others designed new formats, from board games to video, which might suit medieval literature. Several artists adapted medieval formats – calendars, concertina books – in order to tell new stories about our very different society. Others imitated the medieval creativity in very modern materials – rubber stamps, smartphones, recycled paper. And several responded to our exhibition with humour or friendly critique.

Redesigning the Medieval Book shows how we might be inspired by medieval book design, in the handicrafts, arts and digital technology of our own age.

First prize

A pamphlet of handwritten text lies on top of a colourful fabric backing

Sue Doggett

The 2018 Almanac for the Modern Medievalist

Sue Doggett updated a medieval calendar to honour the ‘saints’ of our own changing world. She adapts the delicate format of almanacs with embroidery and elaborate folding; she responds to the stereotyped symbols of medieval saints with a witty choice of stamps.


Runners up

Paul Johnson

A brightly coloured paper concertina covered in drawings and text

Serenade to Chaucer

Paul Johnson folds the energy of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale into a playful pop-up book.

Kathy Sedar

A foldout book with stitched binding and red thread detail


Kathy Sedar continues the medieval crafts of calligraphy and bookbinding to recount the cruelty of medieval history.

Roy Willingham, with Mike Sims

A foldout paper book on a cardboard back with text and red detail

Restrukturanta la Mezepoka Libro (Restructuring the Medieval Book)

Roy Willingham continues our exhibition of everyday English in the Middle Ages by using recycled junk mail and Esperanto to tell our story.

Special commendations

Angela Callanan

A book in three parts made of cardboard


Angela Callanan uses the playfulness of contemporary book arts to capture the zaniness of medieval magic charms.

Shay Hamias, with Anthony Bale and Hofesh Shechter

Painted artwork with the words 'The Matter of Jerusalem' in orange, white and teal

The Matter of Jerusalem

Shay Hamias tracks a medieval pilgrim’s journey with the moving images of animation.




Thank you for all the entries. You can click through the gallery to view the entries from the project.

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Professor Daniel Wakelin