You might have seen this image floating around on social media:
This beautiful gadget that looks like a portable water wheel is a book wheel. The one in this image being passed around is from the Georgian era (early 18th century), but they go back even farther.
The image below is from “The Diverse and Artifactitious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli” (say THAT three times fast) from 1588.
Ramelli invented this whimsical wheel of wisdom to help solve the age old problem all of us researchers have encountered – needing to collate several sources at once. Or, a more modern analogy – having a ton of tabs open. Ironically, precisely what I did to research this post! We love irony around here. Interestingly, has been noted that the machine made a somewhat pleasant clicking sound as one rotated tomes. I suppose not unlike the quiet clicking of a mouse button today.
But, Ramelli’s wheel was not the first invention to try to tackle the problem of trying to download craptons of data into your head at once. The less obvious carousel was popular before the clearly superior scribal circulator.
This image from the 15th century perfectly captures how jealous carousel-less scholars were of those who had a carousel. Even then DOG wants in on this carousel action. The amazement toward this device has clearly warn off for the lady of the house. The idea was that you could have multiple volumes in this fancy lazy susan.
Here is a close up from the 14th century of an adorable tabletop version:
Too bad Christine de Pisan did not have one. Christine, we’re in love with your bibliophilia, girl! And we feel your pain…
I have my Masters degree in Museum Studies from Leicester University. I love history, science, art, and learning. The Middle Ages are a special interest to me. I play off and on with the Society for Creative Anachronism in Ansteorra (most of Texas and Oklahoma). I am a member of the Sherwood Players, the acting troupe at Sherwood Forest Faire in Texas. I love teaching people and showing them things that make them rethink their assumptions or get them excited about history. I most enjoy busting myths and doing experimental archaeology. I cannot wait to explore all of these things with you!
I’ve been obsessed with history since I was a kid. It’s all I ever wanted to play or talk about. Not much has changed now that I am adult. I do faires, costumes, hat making, shows, games…anything that gives that thrill of learning and adventure. I was a Theatre Arts and Anthropology major in college. I didn’t finish, but that hasn’t stopped me from studying what I’m most passionate about. I’m very much looking forward to learning new things and do experimental archaeology with some of my favorite people! What’s our next quest? I’m ready!
I have been active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a pre-modern historical recreation and education group for just about a decade, and recently received its highest award for research and craftsmanship. My specialization is in calligraphy and illumination, but am also known for my fiber arts and sewing. I love the fourteenth century best of all (but don’t tell the other ones). I also have a Bachelors of Fine Arts and a minor in History, and have been involved in Renaissance Festivals on and off since I was seven. I look forward to exploring overlooked history with my friends!
I’ve been a bookworm (especially historical fiction, biographies and fantasy!) since I learned how to read, and have recently started acting out some of my favorite stories with the Sherwood Players at Sherwood Forest Faire. My other interests include graphic design, novel-writing, various fandoms and geekery, raising a five-year-old tiny gorgon named Haven, and keeping my kittens Hades and Hestia off my keyboard.
I’ve always been a person rooted in two worlds – one of science, data, and fact, and one of imagination, fantasy, and stories. Luckily, I’ve been able to find fulfillment in both worlds as life is all about balance. I read equal amounts of non-fiction and fiction. I studied both history and myth at University (Hook ‘em Horns!). I make historically accurate garments and fairy wings. I love good documentaries and even better tabletop RPGs. I’m privileged to use both my historical knowledge and performance skills to tell the stories of everyday people in Medieval Europe as a member of the Sherwood Players at Sherwood Forest Faire. I’m always up for a talk about queer theory, intersectionality, and why reforestation matters. I’m a lifelong geek, ready to share my passions with my fellow geeks. Live long and prosper, y’all.