“It’s amazing to think that people doodled in medieval times in a similar way to how they doodle today,” said Erik Kwakkel, a book historian at Leiden University, Holland.
“When you see the monks expressing their personalities, their sense of humor, it makes you feel like you’re traveling back through time. It’s like you’re going through the keyhole and sitting right next to them.”
Erik explains that many of these doodles weren’t intended to be seen, and much like our own drawings, were probably done out of some kind of boredom.
“Normally, scribes would doodle or write snatches of lettering after cutting their nibs, to make sure they were the correct width,” he said.
“These pen-tests ranged from the sort of scribbled lines that people still do today to words, names, full sentences or simple drawings. Sometimes we even find pretty good drawings.”
These include funny faces with long beards, big hats or noses, as well as animals, unidentifiable creatures and even caricatures of teachers and colleagues.
In the majority of cases, the doodles were never intended to be seen. They were drawn on the outside of the first and last pages of a book, which were later glued to wooden covers.
But although the glue has obliterated a great many doodles and pen-tests, a variety has survived the test of time.
So far, Erik has yet to find any ancient dick doodles, but surely those monks have got some scrawled away somewhere.