In the middle of a writing project --especially one that involves research-- I’ll sometimes find that I have what seems like a billion tabs opened on my laptop. The ability to move quickly back and forth between different reference items is crucial to the process.
Thomas Jefferson must have used my methods. Among his inventions (which include a secret decoder ring of sorts, a travel version of a printing press and a macaroni-making machine) is a book stand, designed to hold five opened books simultaneously.
The stand also rotates, and when not in use it all slides together into a simple wooden box. It’s hard not to imagine Jefferson working on a little something --the Declaration of Independence, say-- while flipping between John Locke and Thomas Paine, maybe giggling at some Rabelais (the thinking man’s Mad magazine) when he needed a breather.
Jefferson never received a patent for any of his inventions (Lincoln is the only president with that credential), but it’s clear that the book stand is the type of thing that can only be designed by someone who cares about their reading and writing and would do anything to streamline them.
Monticello offers a reproduction of the Jefferson book stand (pictured above), or you can have one custom made from this seller on Etsy for about half the price.
If you’re looking for the macaroni machine, though, you’re on your own.
How do you organize your reference materials? Multiple tabs? Index cards? Whirling Jeffersonian book stand? Weigh in via the comments section.