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The eBook Reader of the 16th Century

Ebooks and eReaders had been as soon as regarded as the approach of the long term certain to be the loss of life of print. While you may assume that we are speaking about the early 2000s, we are in fact speaking about the late-16th century.

After the printing press was once invented in 1440, books become broadly to be had to the public and data began spreading at fast charges. This persevered for approximately the subsequent 200 years till teams of other people began fascinated about tactics to enhance on the commonplace e book. Many answers had been idea of however the maximum notable got here from the thoughts of Agostino Ramelli.

The thought of the bookwheel

Ramelli was once an Italian army engineer who was once recognized for looking to clear up on a regular basis issues. He printed a e book in 1588 titled The more than a few and creative machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli the place he detailed an concept by means of the identify of the “bookwheel”.

The Bookwheel: The eBook Reader of the 16th Century
Source: Wikimedia

This thought was once his strategy to the downside of looking to reference many books at the identical time. Books of the day had been heavy, had thick pages, and were not simple to unfold out in a single confined area.


The bookwheel is strictly what it appears like, an enormous wood wheel that incorporates a host of books. Best imagined as a Ferris wheel for books the place the riders had been changed with open reference subject matter. On the aspect, there was once a posh structure of gears that allowed each and every e book to stick at the identical perspective as they traveled round the wheel. Gravity would’ve labored simply positive to stay the books at the identical perspective, however Agostino Ramelli was once additionally slightly bit of a showoff when it got here to his mathematical prowess.

All this advanced design ended in the skill to sit down proper in entrance of the bookwheel and browse a host of books with no need to transport or do any heavy lifting. This is notable as a result of it might’ve been the first primary innovation in how other people learn books, permitting an interface reminiscent of an analog eReader.

Ramelli’s different innovations

Ramelli’s Bookwheel wasn’t his simplest invention – his declare to status in the Italian army was once in fact the advent of a mine that helped breach a citadel all over the siege of La Rochelle.

The Italian engineer had advanced a selected pastime in growing overcomplicated however helpful answers to objects to take a look at and sing their own praises, which crammed the 200 pages of his e book. He additionally attempted to overcomplicate issues to make a remark in the box of engineering, that arithmetic, and technologies had been necessary to the box.

The Bookwheel: The eBook Reader of the 16th Century
Source: Vysotsky/Wikimedia Commons

Surprisingly, Ramelli by no means in fact constructed any of his concepts, however since they had been captured in his e book, many bookwheels had been constructed after his loss of life. In the 17th and 18th centuries, dozens of bookwheels had been constructed for libraries and analysis facilities throughout Europe and 14 are recognized to nonetheless be in life these days.


So, the eReader wasn’t in fact a brand new invention, moderately it was once the trendy virtual adaptation of a centuries-old analog invention to resolve an issue that was once just about as previous as books.

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