A Brief History of the Bookwheel

A Brief History of the Bookwheel

Is this contraption the 17th century equivalent of having multiple tabs open?!

What’s the 17th century equivalent to having multiple tabs open at once? This do-hickey! Isn’t it cool?!

This contraption right here is ye olde book lover’s dream machine. I feel like that’d be a good band name.

This bookwheel, or reading wheel, is a rotating bookcase that allows the reader to read multiple books in one location with ease.

If you think about the time period when this was invented, a lot of books were really, really, really big and really, really, really heavy.

They were, essentially, like an investment piece for the family.

There are a lot of different designs for the bookwheel, but this particular one is from Italian military engineer, Agostino Ramelli, and he designed it in the late 16th century.

His design uses an epicyclic gearing system, which basically means that it has two gears, with one revolving around the other.

While this looks really cool, engineers have stated that this is a needlessly complex design, so I’ll take their word for it.

And, get this, Ramelli never actually physically constructed his own design!

And, for what it’s worth, scholars have suggested that revolving bookcases like this possibly originated in China over 1000 years before Ramelli’s design was ever taken there.

From the dozens that were constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries, though, only 14 are known to survive. Basically all of them are located in Europe, except for one that’s in the first library that was in the Americas: the Biblioteca Palafoxiana in Mexico.

So, what do you prefer: tabs on your phone or this bookwheel? Let me know in the comments below!

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