The technology of books has come a long way in the last 500 years. From hand-lettered volumes to electronic readers than can store vast quantities of literature, how we read is an ever-evolving process.

While Kindles and tablets are fun and versatile, there’s always something charming about physical books. The book we’re about to show you is a little text housed at the National Library of Sweden. This book is a small, 16th century text. When closed, it looks a little strange, more like an ice cream sandwich than a book, with all four edges of the paper exposed on the sides. It also features two decorated leather covers on top and bottom, as well as some metal clasps holding everything together. What really makes it special, though, is that this isn’t just one text, but six.

The book when closed, with decorated covers and page edges, as well as metal clasps.
A detail of the embellished page edges and clasps. Depending on which clasp is open, the book can be read several ways.
The intricately decorated leather cover.

The book is bound using a method called dos-a-dos binding (literally “back-to-back”). This process was repeated multiple times so that the book can be opened and read six different ways. Opening different clasps will reveal different directions.

This looks like a normal book…
All together now!

The little book, made by hand five hundred years ago, is still charming and surprising today. In a way, it’s a little like an early eReader, as it stores multiple texts in one book for more convenient storage and transport. Pretty nifty, right?

You can check out more of National Library’s amazing treasures on their Flickr page.

(via Colossal)