Hi, I am a graphic designer, book collector and antiquarian book seller in Australia. I am a member of the Movable Book Society, an international membership of artists, collectors, libraries and museum people dedicated to preserving and maintaining the history of these books.
My wife and partner are directors of our graphic design studio that we have run for the last 30 years. During these decades I have become an avid collector of hand-made movable and pop-up books from across the ages. The attraction of illustration, words, brilliant graphic and printing embellishments combined into visually tactile works of art transformed into books accessible to young and old. I could not resist. Upon finding out the 500 year history of 'movable' elements in books ranging from antiquarian celestial and medical volumes to today's architectural pop-up books, social, satirical volumes through to children's books, again I was hooked. I had found a solution to my previous dormant hunting and gathering instincts.
Although I am still an active collector, I have reached the stage where a collector, custodian and accumulator of 'things' realizes it is time to share with other collectors and the next generation of book lovers. From time to time I will list a range of books from the collection that will be available for purchase. Each volume sold and passed on will be accompanied with a distinctive book plate from the Allegro Collection.
The book plate certificate will have the name of the purchased book indicated on the front. The book plate certificate comes flat but it is die-cut and scored to easily fold into a three dimensional unique book plate. Below are images of the book plate certificate showing the front and back.
Please feel free to contact me for any inquiries on any movable books you are interested in. I am not listing the collection online but I'm happy to help pass on a book that you might desire and happens to be in the collection.
Over time I will post articles that I have published, links and resource information related to the world of movable books. My aim is not to duplicate what already is out on the web but offer a site with an individual flavor based on one collector's library of a unique genre of books.
A short time-line of movable/pop-up book history to the 1940s
Here is a very short summary of movable book history. There are many other sites that will give the reader a fuller insight into the history and production of these books and related material. Check out the Links on the home page for guidance.
The books illustrating this time-line are from the Collection.
The history of movable/pop-up books has a long pedigree. It has evolved from simple flaps and volvelles, circular paper wheels revolving on metal or paper grommets as fasteners from the 13thcentury to the 1600s. These basic elements were used to illustrate medical and astronomical texts, hand printed and coloured before the Gutenberg revolution of movable printing changed the flow of information and knowledge.
Early practitioners such as the Catalan poet and mystic Ramon Llull (1235-1316) of Majorca illustrated his philosophy with revolving discs, Petrus Apianus (1495-1552) at Leipzig University used volvelles to measure the movement of the sun and planets and Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) of Brussels utilised anatomical flaps with multiple layers for his atlas of the human body.
Even though these early publications were hand-made, many editions were copied, amended and published throughout Europe and today you can still come across these beautiful works with working movable parts and priced in the five figure dollar range.
By the 1700s printing technology had advanced to become a means to disseminate information to the mass market. It was the time of pamphlets, cheap prints, newspapers and books aimed at all classes of society. It was the spread of entertainment through the printed word and a chance to instruct the young in moral education. Robert Sayer in London published the first of many toy-books called a Harlequinade in 1765. These little books were made from pages folded perpendicularly into four and hinged at the top and bottom of each fold which made it possible to lift multiple pages to reveal another picture and text underneath.
Metamorphosis, fun for little folks,1830
This was followed, in 1810, by William Grimaldi in London who produced ‘lift-the-flap’ Toilet books, instruction manuals for little girls comprising short verses describing the virtues they should follow. Books aimed solely for children were still many decades away and the movable techniques were only used for family instruction and illustrating public events of the 19th century world.
A parallel development from the early1400s reached mass circulation in the 1840s and onwards. This was the Peep Show or Tunnel book, two flat pieces of card with concertina-folded paper scenes cut to any shapes, hand-coloured and usually housed in an outer sleeve. The cover has an eyehole or multiple level holes to peer through and experience a 3-D view. This medium was used to celebrate public events like the Great Exhibition in London and the opening of the Thames Tunnel in 1851. Tunnel Books became the generic name for these souvenir and educational toy-books.
The Thames Tunnel Peepshow, London, London 1847 with 3 viewing peepholes.
Crystal Palace Peepshow Tunnel Book, Lane's of London, 1851 with single peephole.
The 1850s brought the first movable books animated by inserting paper tabs and these books were published in large print runs of 4,000 or more by Dean & Son, printers and publishers of London. The ribbon-tabbed movements were made from cutout paper joined with wire pivots, hand coloured and of course hand assembled. Dean & Son described themselves proudly as ‘the originators of children’s movable books”. Here we have an example of their expertise in paper engineering, the term used today to describe the paper mechanics.
Old Woman and her Silver Penny, Dean & Son, London, 1858
Dean & Son also pioneered the use of transforming a picture by pulling a tab that enabled slats to slide under and over one another and create another picture. In the 1870s Raphael Tuck & Sons published ‘Father Tuck’s Mechanical Series’ of stand-up scenes and other movable books and by this stage this popular movable genre was well established.
Printing technology was making giant steps in the improvement of colour reproduction and quality. Germany was the leader in this field and publishers were quick to see the possibilities. In New York the firm of McLoughlin Brothers became a leader in publishing inexpensive illustrated children’s books. Using European licenses, developing their own movable devices and exploiting the advantage of oil based vibrant colour chromolithographic printing excellent for very large print runs, McLoughlin opened up a market with unlimited potential. The new technology sometimes became more important than the story that was attached and accordion folds, dissolving circles and other gimmicks ruled the field. The Little Showman Series used layered cut-out illustrations attached to each other that stood up once the cover was opened and some editions came with a tabbed movement.
Little Showman’s Series 2: Autumn, McLoughlin, New York, 1884 with tab operated movement
An early example of globalisation is seen with Ernest Nister based in Nürmberg, Germany, exploiting German lithography printing skills and English design, writing and marketing entrepreneurship. Nister set up offices in London and through E.P. Dutton & Co. publishers in New York and produced hundreds of books using interchangeable Illustrations and text.
Concentrating on revolving, dissolving and stand-up pictures, Nister’s books projected the wonderful make belief world of children in the Victorian age.
The Land of Long Ago, Ernest Nister,
We now come the acknowledged master of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century. Lothar Meggendorfer, a cartoonist, puppeteer, artist and creator of ingenious paper magic from his Munich base became the first published artist with control over his work. He developed the concepts, produced the finished artwork, and supplied the mechanical layouts and forms all ‘packaged’ ready for a publisher. The result was world-wide editions in many languages and it is because of the fragility of the paper and the handling of little hands by all the delighted children who received these special books that there are so few left for future generations to marvel at and play with these creative books.
He was the first to introduce simultaneous multiple movements from one tab controlled by hidden complicated levers held together with tiny curls of copper wire. Meggendorfer was a genius with a wonderful sense of humour and wit and he was never predictable in what he created for his audience.
Maurice Sendak, the great illustrator/writer, wrote that Meggendorfer, ‘…knew that children observe life more cannily than adults…the delights of colour, shape and movement…it is no accident that children delighted in his work, as did the adults who had the grace to remain children’.
(see fuller article under History)
It took until the late 1920s for the movable book industry to recover from the war turmoils and be able to create and offer new concepts. S. Louis Giraud was working for the Daily Express newspaper in London when he was offered an idea that might suit advertising tie-ins. Giraud saw the potential in a different light and a whole series of books promoted through the newspaper called ‘Living Models’ and later in the 1930s as an independent publisher of the Strand Publications and Bookano Stories.
He brought a new highlight to his books by having the ’self-erecting model’ once the page was opened, it could be viewed from 360 degrees and each book contained at least five pop-up illustrations. Printed on cheap pulp paper because of post-wartime rationing and off-set printing these books ‘complete with pictures that spring up in model form’ were cheap to buy and became popular to a wide audience.
The Depression brought on more austerity and book publishers were reaching for new ideas or patently ignoring copyright restrictions! Blue Ribbon Books in America duplicated what Giraud had achieved in England with great success. The man behind Blue Ribbon, Harold B. Lentz brightened the dark times by creating and publishing a series of books tied up with the Disney organisation, well known fairytales and his own titles with good quality production. Blue Ribbon had sales of over 300,000 books in 1935 and for the first time the key words “Pop-Up’ were patented as a description of what was to come over the next fifty years.
The ‘Pop-up’ Mother Goose, Harold .B Lentz, Blue Ribbon Books, 1933
Mickey Mouse in King Arthur’s Court, Disney, Walt, Dean & Son, London, 1933
In the 1940s Julian Wehr designed for publishers in New York and produced over 30 movable books in 10 years using a tab mechanism to make multiple movements imitating Meggendorfer with low cost production methods based on plastic spiral binding and cheap light weight paper. Wehr’s graphic background can easily be seen in his books and while he paid homage to the earlier pioneers, he was also careful to patent the animation methods used by the European masters.
The Cock, the Mouse and the Little Red Hen, Julian Wehr, E.P. Dutton & Co.1946
The period from the 1950s onwards covered innovative movable books from Czechoslovakia, Japan, England to America and the onus shifted from publishers to independent designers, artists and ‘packagers’ selling concepts at international book fairs for a global market.
Design and production moved to a very innovative stage and the movable/pop-up book can still surprise and delight us.