Over the next several months, we’ll be creating Vines (short six-second videos) and animated gifs of all the moving volvelles in our copy of Illustrations to Georg von Peurbach’s Novae theoricae planetarum, LJS 64. This project has a few different aims. First, we’d like to show off one of the gems of our collection. This mid-16th century manuscript was created entirely by hand, to illustrate the theories of planetary motion described in Peurbach’s work. Volvelles are rotating diagrams that illustrate motion through the use of rotating circles. Although the volvelles in LJS 64 start out fairly simply (the volvelle shown in this post is a single piece of paper) as the book progresses they become more complex, and include layered circles, some of those layers having varied rotation points, and some with cut-outs that show the layers underneath. A facsimile of the manuscript is online at Penn in Hand, so you can page through a get a sense of what the volvelles look like – but those volvelles won’t move.
To get a sense of how the volvelles function, we’re creating two different virtual versions of each. One is an animated gif, created by layering and animating still images of the volvelle in Photoshop. The second is a short video, created using the Vine app, which shows a hand moving the pieces of the volvelle in real time. The more complex diagrams may require multiple Vines to show the complete movement. This leads us to the final aim of this project: to illustrate how different a fully virtual, contrived interaction with a physical object (an animated gif) is different from a hands-on interaction with that same object. Although the animated gif and the video ostensibly show the same thing, they are substantially different. And although the video supposes to show “here is how it looks in real life,” it still isn’t the same experience that you would have if you were sitting at the table moving the volvelle yourself.
Without further ado, here are our first virtual volvelles. This volvelle is captioned Theorica motus orbis supremi super cetero mundi (Theory/observations of the motion of the highest orb/body above the rest of the world.)