Jul 052010

Volvelles are paper wheel charts with rotating parts. The modern ones, such as those reproduced in Jessica Helfand’s Reinventing the Wheel, are enjoyable. But there’s something so captivating about the ones from previous centuries that were incorporated into books. These were used for serious stuff like astronomy, medicine and fortune-telling. They were computing devices in their day. To think that the modern movable book has such exalted ancestry.

When I posted a picture recently of a volvelle from Petrus Apianus’s 1529 Cosmographia, it whetted my appetite for more. Here are a couple of other examples from the Cosmographia.

A spread from the Library of Congress website, showing the positions of the sun, moon and planets.
According to the Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition catalogue, Petrus Apianus (1495-1552) was a mathematician and a pioneer in astronomical and geographical instrumentation. The Cosmosgraphia was a European best-seller. It appeared over the next century in as many as 45 editions in 4 languages, printed in 7 cities by at least 18 printers. It contained four volvelles.

Here are a few links to historical volvelles:

The following page from the Astronomicum Caesareum by Petrus Apianus (1540) is thanks to the Wikipedia page on Volvelles:

The following is a “cipher encoding machine” from around 1600, from an exhibition of manuscripts that was at the Getty:
The University of Oklahoma has an example or two:
Galileo Collection

From the University of Oklahoma’s Galileo Collection

As well as the British Library:
Volvelle from "Medical miscellany, including an astronomical calendar" (approx 1490).The British Library.

Volvelle from “Medical miscellany, including an astronomical calendar” (approx 1490).The British Library.

Doesn’t it just make you want to start cutting and assembling circles (or at least drool over photos of old manuscripts)?
Jun 222010

A good friend recently went to Wales and England for a visit. The Lambeth Palace Library was on her itinerary. This is the historic library and record office of the Archbishops of Canterbury and is the principal repository of Church of England historical documents. It’s one of the earliest public libraries in England. It was founded in 1610.

They are currently having an exhibition of rare manuscripts and documents in celebration of the library’s 400th anniversary. It sounded like a stroll in paradise for book lovers.

Today I got an unexpected box in the mail. Nestled inside among all sorts of wonderful books and ephemera from the UK was a shrink-wrapped copy of the lushly illustrated Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition catalogue. Oh my!

Thanks K!

This is a spread from Petrus Apianus’s Cosmographia from 1529, which shows a movable volvelle that could be used to tell the time in any latitude.
Nov 252009

This segmentfrom a show about collectors was originally broadcast in Australia back in March. Carol Barton also mentioned it on one of her blogs. Says the blurb:
Graphic designer Corrie Allegro has an immense collection of 3,500 pop-up books collected over 30 years and including four Australian-produced books. The collection dates from the 1830s to the present day, with over 90 pre-1940s books. The books were created by “Paper Engineers” and not made just for children, but rather for adults and students, to explain things – how architecture and famous buildings, the human anatomy and plants and animals work. The earliest pop-up books were made in the 1500s, but they weren’t produced in quantities till the 1860s. Early books illustrated astronomical and scientific works, and it wasn’t till the 18th century that pop-up books were produced for children. The collection includes books illustrated by well known Australian designers such as Graeme Base’s My Grandma lived in Gooliculch, and political cartoonist and satirist, Patrick Cook‘s The Pop-Up Waltzing Matilda. The oldest book in the collection is Metamorphosis which was produced in 1830.

Corrie says, “It all started by coming across a simple pop-up book in London in 1978. As a graphic designer working with paper, textures and colours ….I was hooked. The beauty lies in the unlimited possibilities of designing 2-D images that ‘come to life’ by turning a page”