From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A volvella of the moon. A volvella is a moveable device for working out the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac, 15th century
A sixteenth-century wheel chart, a page of Astronomicum Caesareum by Petrus Apianus, 1540, apparently relating to the Moon. The red dragons mark out one odd-sized and 26 equal-sized central divisions; the orbital period of the moon is 27.3 days.
A volvelle from the sixteenth century edition of the De sphaera mundi by Johannes de Sacrobosco.

A volvelle or wheel chart is a type of slide chart, a paper construction with rotating parts. It is considered an early example of a paper analog computer.[1] Volvelles have been produced to accommodate organization and calculation in many diverse subjects. Early examples of volvelles are found in the pages of astronomy books. They can be traced back to "certain Arabic treatises on humoral medicine"[2] and to the Persian astronomer, Abu Rayhan Biruni (c. 1000), who made important contributions to the development of the volvelle.[3]

In the twentieth century, the volvelle had many diverse uses. In Reinventing the Wheel, author Jessica Helfand introduces twentieth-century volvelles with this:

The rock band Led Zeppelin employed a volvelle in the sleeve design for the album Led Zeppelin III (1970).

Two games from the game company Infocom included volvelles inside their package as "feelies": Sorcerer (1983) and A Mind Forever Voyaging (1985). Both volvelles served to impede copying of the games, because they contained information needed to play the game.

Venus volvelle[edit]

The most ancient example of a simple volvelle was the pentagram from Hammurabi's day that has become the symbol of witchcraft. It is actually the path of Venus in 8 years and it does rotate in full circle in a span of 1199 or 1215 years. (1200×365 days or 5×243 years) But owing to Venus averaging 583.92 days, the 750 synodic orbits in 1200 years (750×584 days) has a correction of 60 days less, or 30 days less in 600 years. This is to be noted when the ancient Great Year of 600 years is said to be oriental, and the oriental calendar includes a 60-day cycle. However, the 600-year calendar (cycle) is assumed to be Jupiter by equating it with 12-year calendar.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Nick Kanas. "VOLVELLES! Early Paper Astronomical Computers". Mercury (March–April 2005). Retrieved 2009-10-13. 
  2. ^ David Kahn (March 1980). "On the Origin of Polyalphabetic Substitution". Isis. University of Chicago Press. 71 (1): 122–127 [126]. doi:10.1086/352410. JSTOR 230316. 
  3. ^ Bryan S. Turner (March 1987). "State, Science and Economy in Traditional Societies: Some Problems in Weberian Sociology of Science". British Journal of Sociology. Blackwell Publishing. 38 (1): 1–23 [12]. doi:10.2307/590576. JSTOR 590576. 
  4. ^ Jessica Helfand (2002). Reinventing the Wheel. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 978-1-56898-596-1. 

See also[edit]


  • Eye, No. 41, Vol. 11, edited by John L. Walters, Quantum Publishing, Autumn 2001.
  • Lindberg, Sten G. "Mobiles in Books: Volvelles, Inserts, Pyramids, Divinations, and Children's Games." The Private Library, 3rd series 2.2 (1979): 49.

External links[edit]