From Manuscripts to Clock Tower: A History of the Volvelle, 1240-1540


Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art


Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum


This project traces the development of volvelles in medieval and early modern Europe. Volvelles are wheel charts used for varied purposes: to calculate the date of Easter, convert non-Christians to Christianity, compute the positions of the moon and planets in their movements around the central Earth. The origin of this communicative device can be found in the computus tradition. This project investigates the changing iconography of volvelles as they are adopted and adapted to suit varied communicative needs and new audiences, as they move from manuscripts produced for elite patrons to codices produced in the vernacular for practical purposes, to printed texts and removed from their original textual contexts incorporated into the dials on monumental astronomical clocks.