There I Fixed It has an historical overview of the "bookwheel," a sixteenth-century book-desk combined with a water-wheel, which lets you easily rotate several books into your field of vision.
But imagine yourself back then attempting a research project. You want to learn about a topic from multiple sources and cross-reference each one. A desk with a scattered pile of books in no logical order with all sorts of bookmarks and notes trying to make sense of it all. Agostino Ramelli, an Italian engineer born in 1531 proposed a complex but intriguing solution to this problem; the bookwheel.
Based on the design of a waterwheel, the bookwheel would hold over a dozen separate titles, all sitting open at the same angle. Using either hand or foot controls, the reader could easily sort through the books he collected at ease without the fear of losing track of his place.
Historical Thursday: Agostino Ramelli’s Bookwheel
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I’ve marvelled at his polymath abilities — running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary’s ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT’s storied Media Lab — and I’ve watched with excitement as he’s distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
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