A volvelle or wheel chart is a device, typically printed on paper or plastic, that is made up of two or more rotating layers. They’re used for everything from executing calculations and linking questions and answers to displaying marketing information and as a whimsical way to discover content.
I caught sight of a few nice volvelles recently and decided to do a little research and share what I found with you. I hope this does not become a lost art—it’s been around for hundreds of years (here’s one from 1540).
The example below, titled Garrick and Hogarth, or the Artist puzzled, is from The New York Public Library’s Digital Collection. I animated a couple of frame to show you how it would have worked.
Ready to try your hand at it, here are two companies the specialize in printing and finishing wheel and slide charts…
As an aside, I thought that this was worth noting: From the United States Copyright Office’s Circular 33 (a 2011 version) regarding, Computing and Measuring Devices:
“Devices and similar articles designed for computing and measuring cannot be copyrighted. Common examples of uncopyrightable computing and measuring works include slide rulers, wheel dials, and perpetual calendar designs.
“Ideas, methods, systems, mathematical principles, formulas, and equations are not copyrightable, and the same is true of devices based on them. Printed material on a device—for example, lines, numbers, symbols, and calibrations, as well as their arrangement—is likewise not copyrightable, because such material is necessarily dictated by an uncopyrightable idea, principle, formula, or standard of measurement.”
“To be copyrightable, a work must contain a certain minimum amount of creative authorship in the form of original literary, artistic, or musical expression. A computing or measuring device as such ordinarily contains no copyrightable expression. It does not communicate facts or ideas but, instead, is a means for arriving at an almost unlimited number of readings or results. To the extent that the contents of a device are predetermined by its function, they lack creative authorship.”
Then, there’s this…