A post on early modern machines on Peacay’s award-winning blog BibliOdyssey reminded me of an early modern reading machine. It was designed by Agostino Ramelli who published the idea in his Le diverse et artificiose machine del Capitano Agostina Ramelli in 1588. It was apparently never built in the early modern period itself, but rumour has it that Daniel Libeskind built a version for the Biennale in Venice in 1985. The machine consists of a big wheel that can house several books, and which can be turned in order to bring the right book in front of the reader’s eyes. Ramelli writes:
This is a beautiful and ingenious machine, very useful and convenient for anyone who takes pleasure in study, especially those who are indisposed and tormented by gout. For with this machine a man can see and turn through a large number of books without moving from one spot. Moreover, it has another fine convenience in that it occupies very little space in the place where it is set, as anyone of intelligence can clearly see from the drawing.
Some see this reading machine as the forerunner of the modern computer. The funny thing is that the latest developments in the field of computer screens are paradoxically directed towards the emulation of the old-fashioned sheet of paper. Philips and Polymer Vision are developing the Readius: a screen so thin and flexible that you can roll it up and put it in your pocket, like a scroll of paper. Ideal for reading e-books on.
Update: I found a blog on the future of the book: if:book.