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The Hands-on Museum

The German Museum of Books and Writing stages numerous educational events at which visitors actively and creatively get to explore the history of writing, books, paper and media. General and theme-based guided tours of the permanent "Zeichen – Bücher – Netze: Von der Keilschrift zum Binärcode" exhibition and of the latest temporary exhibitions provide surprising insights into media history. The topics of the events are aimed both at schools and at private visitors – including families. As a non-school learning place, the "hands-on museum" provides many intersections with the school subjects of German, history, art, handicrafts, general studies and religion for children of all ages – from pre-school infants through to upper secondary school students. The events vary between 90 and 120 minutes in length, depending on the activity. Free admission. There are no charges for materials.

Clay tablets - Scrolls - Codices: How old are our books?

Zwei Kinder, die die Schriftzeichen auf einer Tontafel betrachten.Foto: Klaus-D. Sonntag

Books are one of humanity's most important cultural assets. But when did books first appear in their current form? What did people write on before, and what kind of writing instruments did they use? There are plenty of unusual things to discover on the thousand-year journey from papyrus scrolls to bound books!

Age: from pre-school

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Children's books throughout history

Ein aufgeklapptes Pop-up-Kinderbuch aus vergangener Zeit.Foto: Christoph Sandig

Pop-up books, venetian blind books, perfumed or glittery books: children's books tell us stories, transport us to distant worlds and invite us to dream. They are part of our childhood and they often remain in our memory for the rest of our life. But when did books for children first appear and what did they look like in the past? We take you back in time to the books of your great-grandparents.

Age: from pre-school

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Paper folding

Various paper-folding techniques come from Asia, the birthplace of paper. A magical world of paper figures can be created using skill and with an eye for attractive shapes. What is unique about paper folding is that it allows you to create fantastic works of art with just a few simple folds – and there is no need for scissors or glue. Two or three-dimensional structures can be created simply by folding a sheet of paper.

Age: from pre-school

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Matchstick men and flip books: a serious guide to a fun topic

We show you step-by-step how to bring matchstick men to life – with a full range of movements and emotional expressions. Moving images can also be produced by producing phenakistiscopes, zoetropes and flip books.This makes the drawing of fun cartoon figures not only an artistic challenge, but also a great pleasure.

Age: from pre-school

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Child's play with paper: Paper and papier-mâché

Piggy banks, ducks, fish or penguins: with imagination and a willingness to try out new things, pieces of paper and wallpaper paste can be turned into fun sculptures or useful items. Each child can make his or her own character − with cotton wool, glitter or even moving eyes.

Age: from class one

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The art of calligraphy

We help you rediscover the old art of calligraphy. Since the beginning of the 16th century there have been textbooks and books of samples, "calligraphy" books which contain instructions on how to produce a wide range of different writing styles and samples of scripts for copying and all kinds of ornate lettering.
Model writing templates featuring old scripts, quills, steel nibs and ink provide an ideal opportunity to practice your penmanship. They can be used to create poems, letters and stories.

Age: from class three

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From papyrus to paper

What's so special about paper? Paper – one of mankind's most ingenious inventions – has been used for centuries for recording, storing and disseminating information. We explain the history, production and use of paper, and also other writing materials. Because before paper had been invented, people used other writing materials such as wax tablets, papyrus and parchment.

Age: from class three

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Nature printing

Plants as a printing form – how does it work? With some skill, delicate and fascinating images can be created from flowers and leaves. Images of plants can be created using many printing techniques: woodcut, wood engraving, copper engraving, lithography and linocut. You can also press plants or photograph them. Nature printing is a fascinating technique because of the authentic representation of the plants and the immediate success.

Age: from class three

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Home-made decorated paper

Paper, paste, oil paints, and ox bile: these are the "ingredients" for making various types of decorated paper. Historical decorated papers from the Museum's collection provide you with suggestions for making your own paper, for example using paste and filler techniques. Let your imagination run free by revelling in the interplay of colours and shapes, helped by a large measure of chance. Experiments with paste and inks can create amazing little works of art.

Age: from class three

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24 dots and dashes: Chinese script

Graphic Chinese characters can be created using 24 dots and dashes. A brush, ink, ink stick, ink stone and paper are the "five treasures", which the Chinese calligrapher uses to write. Chinese script is one of the most fascinating phenomena of Asian culture. The Chinese writing system is based on syllables and not letters: a character or the combination of several characters is assigned to each word.

Age: from class five

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Black on white: book printing

What ingenious idea did Johannes Gutenberg have and what impact has it had up to and including the media age? The printing master changed the world with his revolutionary idea. By inventing book printing with movable metal type in the middle of the 15th century Johannes Gutenberg made it possible to reproduce texts mechanically. From then on, books were no longer luxury goods, but could be produced in larger quantities and much more cheaply than manuscripts.

Age: from class five

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The Book of Books: The Bible

We take you on a journey of discovery through the centuries: The Bible, the best-selling book in world history, has changed greatly in its language and aesthetic form since the Middle Ages. Back in the early twelfth century the monks and nuns needed religious texts for the liturgy. The design of the Bible evolved over the course of time – from the medieval manuscript via block printing to the printing of the so-called B42 (the 42-line Bible of Johannes Gutenberg).

Age: from class five

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The medieval book

In the early Middle Ages, the monasteries were training centres and places of education where books were not only used but also produced. In their writing workshops monks and nuns wrote the books and illustrated them using valuable inks. Their goal was to produce not only beautiful, but also accurate copies of the "Holy Scriptures". Writing was valued as a pious and deserving activity. Elaborate handbindings made of leather and parchment with clasps and fittings clad the books.

Age: from class five

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The book city of Leipzig

In 1471 the right to hold trade fairs was bestowed upon the city of Leipzig. Since then, Leipzig has been an important hub for the long distance book trade. Ten years later the first book was printed in Leipzig. For more than 500 years, the production and trading of books have shaped the history of the city. At different times Leipzig was the leading book capital of Germany, even of Europe. From the introduction of book printing in the Late Middle Ages to the establishment of well-known publishing houses such as Reclam or Brockhaus in the industrial age, trade related to the printed word was always a business lifeline in Leipzig.

Age: from class five

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Chinesische Zeichen werden im Siebdruckverfahren auf Stoff abgedruckt.Foto: Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Dora Carstensen

Letterpress, gravure and flat printing are known printing techniques, but how do you print using a screen? Screen-printing differs from other printing techniques in that the print is not created by two surfaces directly touching each other. Rather the ink is transferred to the paper through a screen. The motifs are created using various template techniques. Screen-printing is not only deployed by artists, it is used also for commercial and industrial purposes and in graphic, ceramic and textile design.

Age: from class five

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Short history of handwriting

Cursive handwriting occupies a special position among the forms of handwriting due to its rapid and fluid motion. The history of handwriting is explained on the basis of historical Gothic script, Sütterlin script and the GDR "Schulausgangsschrift".

Age: from class five

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Typography: The ABC of typefaces

We are constantly surrounded by an almost infinite variety of letters. In newspapers, magazines, books and other printed matter, on cars and buildings, on the TV and on the Internet: everywhere we encounter different kinds of typefaces. We usually pay no attention to the form of the letters when we read, we only perceive the message of the text. The influence which contemporary fashion, individuality, the need for representation, as well as the principles of proportionality and legibility have on typefaces is presented and discussed based on handwritten and printed texts.

Age: from class eight

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How are book illustrations made?

Artistic prints can also be created using simple, everyday household and natural materials. There are no limits to your imagination when devising your own graphics.
The invention of book printing with movable metal type also gave rise to the desire among printers to print illustrations and decorative elements. This presupposed the production of image printing forms. In the first decades after the invention of the printing press, many illustrations and ornaments, in particular initials, were often painted by hand into the existing printed text. But soon the printers started to used book printing methods, especially woodcut, for this.

Age: from class eight

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Family Sunday

Ein Junge bekommt beim Falten eines Papiers Hilfe von seiner Mutter.Foto: Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Dora Carstensen

Every third Sunday of the month (except during the summer holidays and on some public holidays) there are creative programmes for families in the Museum Gallery of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library between 11:00 and 12:30.

Age: The topics are aimed at different age groups.

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Once a month the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library invites visitors to take part in its "Do it yourself  Kreatives für Jung und Alt" series of events on Saturdays from 15:00 to 16:30.

Age: From age 8

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Creative workshop

Once a month we invite visitors to attend the Creative Workshop at the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library on Thursdays from 15:00 to 16:30.

Age: From age 7

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Holiday programme

The German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library stages various activity events in the summer, autumn and winter holidays.

Age: from pre-school

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Museum Trunk

The Museum Trunk is a "mobile museum" which takes the museum experience out to schools and day-care centres.

Age: from preschool age, based on prior arrangement

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Welcome! The Hands-on Museum

Every Wednesday at 14:00 the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library offers hands-on activities for (refugee) children and their parents.

Age: The topics are aimed at different age groups.

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Creative programme for the over-60s

Range of creative events for senior citizens at the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library.

Age: from 60

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Guided tours for children

Discovery tour for children of 5000 years of media history at the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library: together we go on a voyage of discovery including tally sticks, books of wax tablets, stone drums or tablets - taking a look behind the scenes and opening the doors of the cool place where the museum objects are kept.

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Last update: 23.6.2017

Additional Information


Information and reservation

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum
Deutscher Platz 1
04103 Leipzig

Visitor information

+49 341 2271-324


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