Behold the “Book Wheel”: The Renaissance Invention Created to Make Books Portable and Help Scholars Study (1588).
Devotees of print may object, but we readers of the 21st century enjoy a great privilege in our ability to store a practically infinite number of digitized books on our computers.
What’s more, those computers have themselves shrunk down to such compactness that we can carry them around day and night without discomfort. This would hardly have worked just forty years ago, when books came only in print and a serious computer could still fill a room.
The paper book may remain reasonably competitive even today with the convenience refined over hundreds and hundreds of years, but its first handmade generations tended toward lavish, weighty decoration and formats that now look comically oversized.
These posed real problems of unwieldiness, one solution to which took the unlikely form of the bookwheel.
In 1588, The Various and Ingenious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli, the Italian engineer of that name “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,” writes the Atlantic’s Megan Garber.
What does space travel look like? Even now, in the 21st century, very, very few of us know first-hand. But we’ve all seen countless images from countless eras purporting to show us what it might look like.
As with anything imagined by man, someone had to render a convincing vision of space travel first, and that distinction may well go to 19th-century French illustrator Émile-Antoine Bayard who, perhaps not surprisingly, worked with Jules Verne.
Verne’s pioneering and prolific work in science fiction literature has kept him a household name, but Bayard’s may sound more obscure; still, we’ve all seen his artwork, or at least we’ve all seen the drawing of Cosette the orphan he did for Les Misérables.
“Readers of Jules Verne’s early science-fiction classic From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune) — which left the Baltimore Gun Club’s bullet-shaped projectile, along with its three passengers and dog, hurtling through space — had to wait a whole five years before learning the fate of its heroes,” says The Public Domain Review.
When it appeared, 1870’s Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune) offered not just “a fine continuation of the space adventure” but “a superb series of wood engravings to illustrate the tale” created by Bayard.
“There had been imaginary views of other worlds, and even of space flight before this,” writes Ron Miller in Space Art, “but until Verne’s book appeared, these views all had been heavily coloured by mysticism rather than science.
Mayflies swarm above the Rába at night. Photograph by Imre Potyó
Photography is often all about patience. A photographer might wait hours or even days to get a shot.
Even by that measure, Imre Potyó is a man of exceptional perseverance. He spent 12 days waiting to make this amazing photo of mayflies over the Rába river in Hungary.
The tiny insects, called Ephoron virgo, are but a few months old when they take to the air at the end of July or start of August. Great swarms appear over the rivers of central Europe at sunset to mate by the millions, only to die by dawn.
Imre Potyó first photographed a swarm in 2013. “I was impressed by the wonderful dance of the mayflies,” he says.
Last year, he decided to try shooting the mayflies against a starlit sky. Because no one can ever say just when the flies will appear, Potyó returned to the banks of the Rába night after night.
Finally, the creatures appeared in a whirlwind. “I was standing on the river, so me and my equipment were totally covered by the huge masses of buzzing mayflies,” he says. “They were all around me.”
Potyó took over 200 photos in about two hours with his Nikon D90, but the final image is a composite of two shots. First, he used a fast shutter speed to capture the mayflies’ erratic movements, illuminating them with a flash and a flashlight.
Then he made a 30-second exposure focused on the stars above.