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Prestolog
H. Kempenich
1935; 5.25”  Ø 


This is one of my recent acquisitions. It’s not flashy or colorful, but I love it. The font, the colon followed by a dash, the arrows: it’s aces. There are a lot of similar profit calculators, but this is the first one I’ve seen that I really wanted to add to my collection. 

The back, as with many volvelles from this period, has an imprint for a company, the Brown Bulb Ranch, with the slogan, “Figure greater profits on Bulbs.” 

The Existential Calculator (Take That Job?)
By Kelli Anderson for Adobe

Oh, hi there — I’ve been gone a while, haven’t I? Apologies for that! I still have SO MANY volvelles to share with you. Dozens. But first, I wanted to show you what I think is the most beautiful contemporary volvelle I’ve seen yet, designed by Kelli Anderson for the national AIGA conference. The top image is the front of the volvelle, and the bottom is the back. Check out her blog post for a full description (and it’s a great blog to follow if you’re interested in design). I haven’t seen The Existential Calculator in person, but I love it from the photos online. The multiple tabs, the rainbow center, and the clever architecture all add up to a home run of a volvelle. Beautiful!

If you’re curious about my absence, it’s been due to a combination of computer difficulties and being continually beat up by invisible fibromyalgia monsters (it’s my dream to one day get Allie Brosh to draw the fibromyalgia monsters for me) — I wrote a bit about Project Health over on Project Neon a while back. I’ve also been busy the last couple of weeks putting together a handmade 2014 Project Neon calendar, which is now for sale on Etsy.

I definitely plan to get back to scanning volvelles soon — thanks for your patience!

New York City Street Guide
National Dealers Service
1968; 6.75”  Ø 


I’ve got a big stack of new volvelles to share. Here’s the first one — a spiffy mid-century guide to New York City street addresses. The instructions in the middle are a little hard to read, so here’s a close up. The pale greenish-blue color is great, as is the font for the title of this volvelle. I also like the graphic punch of the black and white addresses around the edge. Back in the days before magic phones, I had a tiny little chart I’d made to help track down address cross streets, but how much smarter to carry around this snazzy wheel chart? Oh the lucky Marketing Research Trade Association conference attendees — I bet getting this volvelle was the high-point of the event.

PS: This is another volvelle where the publisher’s name is hidden inside near the center. Very strange!

RIGID-tex Metal pattern selector
Rigidized Metals Corp. — Buffalo, NY
Date Unknown; 6”  Ø 

I bet you thought The Volvellery had forgotten you, didn’t you? Of course it hasn’t! It’s just been a little busy with other things. And look, I just got a nifty gift from Paul Lukas: a pattern selector from Rigid-tex Metal. Look at all those patterns you can choose from! The back is basically the same as the front (just with additional patterns) except for one thing: a really great 3-Dimensional bit over on the right. Too bad there’s no company stamped into the “For prompt service call:” part, but otherwise this volvelle is pretty much perfect. Cheery green color, nice arrows, interesting copy. Thanks, Paul!

New South Wales By Train
Waite & Bull, 1938
9.75” Ø 

Despite its somewhat ragged condition, this is one of the gems of my collection. I’ve never been to New South Wales (or any part of Australia), but I have all kinds of romantic ideas about how wonderful it would be, based solely on this volvelle. The colors are lovely, the fonts for “TRAVEL by TRAIN” on the left are fantastic, and the Service Speed Safety is perfect. It’s interesting that the train is actually a pretty marginal part of the design, but it’s great that the signal is incorporated both into the map number indicator and the arrow.

Here’s a sentence from the back (which is just black and white): “This Souvenir is issued to perpetuate the great exhibit of the New South Wales Railways in the Commemorative Pavilion erected on the north-eastern corner of the Royal Agricultural Society’s Showground at Moore Park, Sydney, for the Royal Show of 1938.”

Wheel of Knowledge: Interesting Facts About The United States
A. Knapp, 1931
6.5” x 6.5”

I love this volvelle.  I love the map with time zones, I love the name, and I even love the cereal names that pop up in the boxes that are between items. Also: Pep Bran Flakes — what a name! Plus the one- or two-word nicknames under each state name. (Alas, the District of Columbia doesn’t get one.)

The compass rose is an odd addition (though also charming). My only beef with it is that it refers to the “continental” United States, clearly meaning the Lower 48. I hate it when people say that — what continent do they think Alaska is on? I guess I do wish it were just round instead of a circle in a square, but I can overlook that, given the sweet little drawings of cereal boxes in the corners and the cool green & red color combo.

At any rate, it’s a lovely volvelle and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

Gruen World Time-Teller
The Gruen Watch Company, pre-1983
4.375” Ø 

This is a sweet little blue & yellow volvelle that will tell you what time it is in Cairo, Nome, and Wake Island all with a simple spin of the dial. The text, although not handwritten, is nicely laid out, and the radiating arrows make it feel like a drawing of the sun.

I like that night is shaded blue and day yellow, that midnight and noon are without the AM or PM that everyone seems to incorrectly add these days, and that they’re circled so you can spot them easily. A great little wheel!

It doesn’t have a date on it, unfortunately, but it must be pre-1983, when Alaska consolidated all of its time zones except the Aleutian Islands, since Juneau and Nome are listed at 3 hours apart, (as they were when I was a kid). Gruen is also extolled as the “official timepiece of Pan American World Airways,” on the back, but Pan Am didn’t dissolve until 1991, so that doesn’t narrow it down any further. I wonder if Pan Am ever handed these out on flights?

100 First Words into Foreign Languages
Astrel Publishing, 2004
5.75” Ø 

Since it’s almost Fathers’ Day, here are some translations of the word “father” for you, in this handy dandy translation volvelle. Especially useful for the Russian speakers out there. The other side has the remaining words (50 per side). This seems like a pretty good way to learn some vocab in another language (or four) — more compact than flash cards, but less instantaneous than a list or computer (or smart phone), so you have a little more time to rack your brain for the answer.

Thanks to Kate for the translating the volvelle’s title!

Election Year Argument Settler
Time, Inc., 1956
7” Ø

No need to start barroom brawls, street fights, or other unmannered altercations over the presidency of Millard Fillmore or other obscure heads of state — simply carry your Election Year Argument Settler with you at all times and, as long as the dispute relates to pre-1956 presidents, the facts will be clear. (Facts about governors, congressional seats, and 1954 results take up the reverse, along with a cover of Time, clearly the unimpeachable source of all this info.)

The authoritative red, white, and black color scheme is great (though it reminds me of a London Tube sign on this side and a Do Not Enter sign on the other), but it’s the name that won me over. Who doesn’t want to settle all those election year arguments?

The text on the red side (probably the front) tells us that this wheel contains “818 useful facts” and covers all 48 states (Alaska & Hawaii had not yet been admitted to full statehood, of course). And all for 25¢! Maybe it’s time to update this for the 21st century…

ANAVAC-2
Micromass, Winsford, UK
Date unknown
5.75” Ø  

This volvelle was a gift from a lovely friend whose scientist father was clearing out his office. I gather it helps you read a mass spectrometer, but as I haven’t got one of those, I’ll just have to pretend that knowing that neon’s relative sensitivity is 0.24 makes me smart. Or something.

I love the gear-drawing in the center. Maybe it relates to the mechanical Anavac-2 I’m guessing this goes with? I also like the steps down of Mass and Amplitude, though again I have no idea what it all means. So much mystery for one little wheel chart. And if you want to geek out more, you can take a look at the back, which gives you ALL the facts you’ll need.