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We have made a Medieval Meme Generator on www.medievalmemes.org. It's a quick and easy way of creating your own memes with Medieval handwriting, and it teaches you a bit about the history of illuminated manuscripts in the Middle Ages. The various examples of manuscripts come from the collections of the KB, National Library of the Netherlands and Huis van het Boek (House of Books), the oldest book museum in the world.
A meme, which is pronounced ‘meem’, is a humorous image, usually with a funny caption, which is spread via the Internet. The plural of meme is memes. The longer term ‘internet meme’ is sometimes used.
You probably know ‘Grumpy Cat’, he has become one of the most famous meme characters around:
Nobody knows how many memes are in circulation, but it would probably be safe to say hundreds of thousands of meme formats exist and over a billion memes were created.
In March 2021 for example, searching for ‘meme’ resulted in 1,860,000,000 (in other words, almost two billion) hits in Google. The website knowyourmeme.com/ about tries to describe the most popular memes and their background.
Easy - with a touch of creativity and a tool to add a caption to your picture.
Theoretically, you can do this using Paint or Photoshop, but most people tend to use an app such as
Mematic, or online meme generators such as Imgflip or Kapwing.
Online meme generators are websites where people can choose a regular meme format , add a
caption and then save or share their meme. You can make a meme literally in a minute.
Entertainment and information via context. All intended to reach a target group of 15-35-year-olds, who are not usually on the KB National Library's radar.
If you think about it, it's not such a strange combination: some of the pictures from ‘our’ Medieval works are already regular features in so-called ‘Medieval memes’.
The original of the popular meme shown above comes straight from our own collection. See for yourself:
So what we are now doing is sharing high-quality pictures (not the crappy, pixelated ones) from our collection, so that they can be directly memefied. We add words and images to each picture, to explain where they come from. In fact, we are adding context.
And this helps us to make people a bit smarter and more creative, which is precisely what KB National Library is all about.
No. You'll find about 11.250 images on https://manuscripts.kb.nl/, but not all of them are potential memes.
We have hand-picked a selection of 15 suitable pictures. Ten of these pictures come from the National Library collection, the other five come from the collection of the Huis van het Boek (House of Books).
We explain the context of every picture in Dutch and English, and a specialist has made a video for each one too.
No, it’s not. We will review the selection of images every three months and add some new ones (including an explanation).
Medieval manuscripts dates back to the era before printing was invented, a time when monks, nuns and artisans used to copy and decorate manuscripts by hand, day in, day out. Much of this Medieval handwriting is beautifully embellished, both in the text and in the margins. In addition, the Middle Ages were marked by symbolism, which makes the drawings even more remarkable.
You must remember that these images from the Middle Ages were drawn in an era when very few people could read. This made them extraordinarily popular in places such as the church, where people could look at them in manuscripts, on walls or sculpture and even touch them to make them feel closer to their favourite figures.
Some of the faces of biblical figures on the miniatures were touched so often that their features and bodies were gradually erased. You could say that the images of these popular characters were the memes of their era.
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