One of the most interesting subjects, and a major field of book collecting today is pop-ups and moveables. For the past 150 years, children have been surprised and thrilled to see a dynamic, three-dimensional scene pop up before them upon lifting or turning a page. Quite often, they can then pull a tab or move a lever to make characters move or change the scene. Today, some pop-up books have the added features of sound and lights, thanks to the aid of small implanted batteries.
Pop-up and moveable books come in all shapes and sizes. They may operate very simply or have complicated mechanisms (paper engineering is what we call it today.) The work of Julian Wehr and Voitech Kubasta are as interesting and fascinating as many of the contemporary “paper engineers,” but there are also legions of fans for the modern intricate creations as well. These include works by Keith Moseley, James Diaz, David Pelham and John Strejan. Other contemporary names are Jan Pienkowski and Robert Sabuda. Sabuda recently created a marvelous Wizard of Oz pop-up book to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the first Oz book. Even Maurice Sendak, an admired illustrator for decades, has finally produced his first pop-up book, Mommy, with some help from author Arthur Yorinks and paper engineer Matthew Reinhart.
As is the case with all books, and particularly children’s books because they often receive a lot of handling, condition is of the utmost importance when building a collection. Your goal as a collector, or if you plan on buying or selling pop-up books, should be to always buy the best examples available. When you’re purchasing modern pop-up books–let’s say anything published in the last 25 to 30 years, and mostly with the resale values of less than fifty dollars–only buy books in VG+ (very good) to Fine condition, and with no damage to pop-ups or moving parts. Pop-ups and moveables from the mid 1970′s and before can be purchased with minor mechanical problems if you feel they can be repaired. A reattached arm or head or tab is acceptable in a book valued at $100 to $500, provided there are no original pieces actually missing and the repair is done with glue or reinforced with strips of paper or thin card (no tape!).
Some early names in pop-up books are:
- Thomas and George Dean (English) began creating “peep-show” books in the 1850′s and were apparently the first to invent the “tab” for moving characters in their toy books in the 1860′s.
- Lothar Meggendorfer (German) created perhaps the most original moving books of the 1800′s with lots of action on each page.
- Ernest Nister (German) took over a lithographic business in Nuremberg; in 1888, he opened a branch in London, and in 1890 he began producing elaborate, beautiful pop-up and moveable books.
- Raphael Tuck (German), also known for outstanding postcards, produced many wonderful pop-up books with his son Adolph from the 1870′s to the early 1900′s.
- Blue Riboon Books and McLoughlin Brothers (New York) were the first American firms to produce pop-ups.
- Julian Wehr (American) designed over 30 moveable books in the 1940′s and 1950′s.
- Voitech Kubasta (Czech) designed and illustrated about 100 pop-up books for Artia, in Prague, from the early 1950′s to the mid 1960′s. These books were published in English by Bancroft House in London.
Some early examples of pop-up books in excellent condition can run into thousands of dollars. Fortunately, some of the wonderful works of Meggendorfer, Nister and Tuck have been reproduced in modern editions and can still be enjoyed by all.
Many pop-ups and moveable books have been gathered into major collections, privately and publicly (in University Library Special Collections), but there are still many examples available on the open market. And, there are over two hundred new pop-ups published every year. If you’re interested, start looking, and start popping!
Terry Stillman is the proprietor of Stillman Books, an internet book business, in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada. He owned and operated a bookstore in Vancouver for twenty-one years and has been buying and selling children’s and illustrated books since 1972.