A Timeline History of Movable Books
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
Matthew Paris (1200-1259) English historian, artist, and Benedictine monk
used gatefolds to map pilgrimages from England to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. He is the first known paper engineer, devising volvelles to determine the dates of Easter and other Holy Days.
Ramón Llull (1235-c1316) mystic from Majorca, Spain sought to collate all areas of man’s knowledge and used volvelles as the organizing tool.
Johannes Gutenberg creates movable type and prints the Bible opening the doors for the proliferationof literacy.
Petrus Apianus, aka Peter Bienewitz(1495-1552), printed the Astronomicum Caesareum (The Emperor’s Astronomy) for Charles V in Ingolstadt, Germany using volvelles to portray the movement of the heavenly bodies (sun, planets and the moon).
Robert Sayer (England) Produced the first true movable for children, generically called a Harlequinade, after a popular character of that time. Illustrated paper flaps were folded up or down to change the illustration and thereby, change the story.
The First Golden Age of Pop-ups
Beginning with paper dolls (The History of Little Fanny, S.J. Fuller-1810), the use of movable paper proliferated as elements in books, especially in England and Germany.
The Industrial Revolution is underway creating a leisure class with money to spend on expensive books and the time to read them to their children. In 1870, the Elementary Education Acts in England/Wales provided for compulsory elementary education creating a more literate society.
The best-known publishers through the turn of the 19th century were:
- Ernest Nister (England & Germany) (animate Nister's movable!)
- Raphael Tuck (England & Germany)
- Dean & Sons (England) (see Dean's movable!)
- McLoughlin (USA)
The printing for most of these books was done in Germany where the chromolithography was best.
Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925-German) invented rivets for multiple action with one tab. He is considered the genius of all time for paper engineering. (animate Meggendorfer's movables!)
WORLD WAR I (1914-1918)
Production of movable books drops off due to scarcity of hand labor, paper, and access to German printing.
S. Louis Giraud (1879-1950 England) begins publishing books with true pop-ups, activated by turning the page. The series, The Daily Express, was then followed by the Bookano Books. (Theodore Brown is believed to have been the inventor and shares the patent.) The pop-ups were referred to as ‘spring-ups’. The last edition was published in 1949.
Blue Ribbon Press (Chicago, Ill.) copyrights the term ‘pop-up’ and produces a series of books of cultural icons (Mickey Mouse, Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy) as well as classical fairy tales.
Vojtěch Kubašta (1914-1992) begins making pop-up books and ephemera in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Read more about Kubašta.
The Second Golden Age of Pop-ups
Waldo ‘Wally’ Hunt (b.1921) sees the work of Kubašta, and forms Graphics International to use pop-ups for advertising. Bennett Cerf’s Pop-up Riddle Book is used as a sales premium for Maxwell House Coffee. Cerf, editor of Random House Books, uses the pop-up format for children’s books. Hallmark Cards buys Graphics International and produces its own series of children’s pop-up books. In 1975, Hunt forms Intervisual, the largest packager of pop-up books in the US.
Ann Montanaro (b.1942) forms the Movable Book Society for collectors, artists, librarians and packagers and publishes a quarterly newsletter, Movable Stationery. She also has published two bibliographies of movable books, both entitled, Pop-up and Movable Books; Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD, 1993, 2000.
Robert Sabuda (b.1966) wins the Movable Book Society’s first Meggendorfer Prize (1998) for his The Christmas Alphabet (1994-Orchard Books).
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