The military design origins of the 16th Century Book Wheel

Book bans and burnings are closely related phenomena. In some ways, the latter is a more extreme attempt at a permanent version of the former. Perhaps that was the politics behind the Book Wheel?

Kindle, Apple Book, and, frankly, our telephones are now portable digital libraries. We can read or listen to books whenever we want—time traveling in a moment. Technology and literacy have always been intimately interwoven. From the printing press to the book magnifier, humanity's ingenuity in transforming elements of the earth into useful tools for creating knowledge is a vital capacity. We are making it easier and more accessible to access knowledge and learning.

In 1599, Captain Agostino Ramelli, who was most well known for "creating siege machinery for the [Italian] military," invented the Book Wheel.

Megan Garber from The Atlantic dubbed the Book Wheel the "Kindle of the 16th Century."

"In his own book, published in 1588 and modestly titled The Various and Ingenious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli, the designer outlined his vision for a wheel-o-books that would employ the logic of other types of wheel (water, Ferris, "Price is Right", etc.) to rotate books clockwork-style before a stationary user. Ramelli planned to use epicyclic gearing — a system that had at that point been used only in astronomical clocks — to ensure that the shelves bearing the wheel's books (more than a dozen of them) would remain at the same angle no matter the wheel's position. The seated reader could then employ either hand or foot controls to move the desired book pretty much into her (or, much more likely, his) lap."

Ramelli never actualized this design, a materialization that would finally come in 1986 and 2012 respectively.

If you cannot access the Atlantic Monthly article,this post from Open Culture, "Behold the 'Book Wheel': The Rennaissance Invention Created to Make Books Portable & Help Scholars Study Several Books at Once," offers some of the same information. The long title is perhaps an ode to the book wheel's capacity for presenting words, phrases, and sentences.