Almost since the codex first came to prominence in the 4th century CE "artists, philosophers, scientists, and book designers have tried to challenge the book's bibliographic boundaries. They have added flaps, revolving parts, and other movable pieces to enhance the text:"
It is not known who invented the first mechanical device in a book, but one of the earliest examples was produced in the 13th century by Catalan mystic and poet Ramon Llull of Majorca who used a revolving disc or volvelle...to illustrate his theories. Throughout the centuries volvelles have been used for such diverse purposes as teaching anatomy, making astronomical predictions, creating secret codes, and telling fortunes. Yet, while it can be documented that movable parts had been used for centuries, they were almost always used in scholarly works. It was not until the 18th century that these techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment, particularly for children....
Volvelles (think "early analog computers made of rotating paper parts") most often were found in books on astronomy (the volvelle depicted below is from Astronomicum Caesareum by Petrus Apianus, 1540):
Apianus' magnum opus, which explains the use of the astrolabe (for calculating the altitude of stars) and other instruments used to calculate planetary positions, was published with eighteen volvelles, with seed pearls attached to the string markers of each. Only about 40 copies of this work are still believed to exist, and very few of these copies still have the original seed pearls attached.
Volvelles make it clear that the more inclusive term for these types of books is movable books, not pop-up books. (All pop-up books are movable books, but not all movable books--those with volvelles, for example--are pop-up books.)
Even with the significant advances in paper engineering that would take place beginning in the 18th century, volvelles continue to find a wide range of uses, as Jessica Helfand makes clear in her 2002 book (which served as the catalog for a 2004 Grolier Club exhibition of the same name), Reinventing the Wheel:
As Ms. Helfand notes in her book,
The twentieth century saw a robust growth in the design, manufacture, and production of a new generation of independent, free-standing volvelles. Categorically, they not only represent an unusually eclectic set of uses, but demonstrate, too, a remarkable range of stylistic, compositional, mechanical, informational, and kinetic conceits. There are volvelles that arrange their data peripherally, centrifugally, and radially; volvelles that use multiple concentric circles with pointers; and volvelles that benefit from the generous use of the die-cut, a particular technological hallmark of modern printing manufacture. Twentieth-century volvelles — often referred to as "wheel charts" — offer everything from inventory control to color calibration, mileage metering to verb conjugation. They anticipate animal breeding cycles and calculate radiation exposure, measure chocolate consumption and quantify bridge tips, chart bird calls, convert metrics, and calculate taxes. There are fortune-telling wheels and semaphore-charting wheels; emergency first-aid wheels and electronic fix-it wheels; playful wheels that test phonetics and prophylactic wheels that prevent pregnancy:
The advent of movable books designed especially to entertain children would take even this type of paper engineering to a whole new level, as we shall see in tomorrow's post....