The international desk of the New York Daily News published a story today that … how can I possibly put this? Let me just say that as someone who edits a website about e-reading news, I honestly can’t imagine that I will ever come across a more picture-perfect example of exactly the sort of story I’m looking for when I go trolling the Web for ideas each day. This story really is that perfect. (Thank you, Lee Moran of the Daily News. I owe you a beer!)

Anyway, here’s the basic gist of the story:

Back in 1949, a Spanish woman by the name of María José Rodríguez Fortiz Ángela Ruiz Robles created a prototype of a device that was basically a very crude and primitive version of today’s e-reader. “It reportedly had a zoom function,” Moran writes, “where readers could focus in on a particular area of the text.”

The article also explains that “the device worked with pressurized air, allowing readers to add different spools containing the pre-loaded content.” Moran writes that “[Fortiz’s Ruiz’s] main goal was to reduce the weight of books in students’ school bags, and she believed the gadget would make reading more accessible to all.”

The 54-year-old Fortiz Ruiz called her device (she’s displaying it in the photo at right), and according to the Daily News story, she even applied for a patent. Unfortunately, her patent request was denied. And because she was never able to secure enough funding to take the Mechanical Encyclopedia into a production phase, it was never mass-produced or made available to the public. According to the story, “the prototype is now in the National Museum of Science and Technology in La Coruña, [Spain].”

Click here to read the piece for yourself.

UPDATE & REQUEST: I’ve found what appears to be a very detailed blog post about Ángela Ruiz Robles and her Mechanical Encyclopedia, but unfortunately, it’s written in Spanish. If any of you who happen to be fluent in Spanish would consider translating even a paragraph or two of the article, we’d be hugely appreciative. The article in question, by the way, is posted on the website of El Pais, which is generally considered to be the best newspaper in Spain, so I’d venture to guess that it’s probably a well-written and informative article, and worth translating. Any takers? If so, you’ll find the article here. Gracias.