Volvelle… such a lovely word

I came across a word unknown to me, volvelle… it sounded so lovely somehow, but how is it pronounced? Vol- vell? Volve – ell? Vol-velly? Voll-vellə? Is it a name? Could it be a name of someone in something I write?

According to Wikipedia:

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. Volvelles have been produced to accommodate organisation 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” and to the Persian astronomer, Abu Rayhan Biruni (c. 1000), who made important contributions to the development of the volvelle

I guess the simple children’ books where there are rotating circles of paper or card with different images pinned to the page with a  fastener,  could be described as a simple volvelle – and I’ve even come across a site which shows you how to make them! It’s a word which dates back to Middle English and probably comes from Latin, from volvere – to roll

These were not just for fun or decoration they had a purpose; they could be made in more solid materials than paper which I mentioned in books, but fine sheets of metal. They were instruments for telling the time of heavenly bodies movements, the setting of the sun and rising of the moon, and vice versa. They were used as tide-tables – we live by the sea and we buy a tide-table from the newspaper shop in the village… imagine buying a volvella tide-table instead!

While trying to find out more it seems I’m not the only one fascinated by the word having come upon it by chance. Many of the things I’ve found written about them start the same – someone found the lovely word when looking for something else. here’s a selection of sites I found:






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