Mention Pop-Up books, and most people will immediately recall the delight they experienced as children when they first opened the pages of a book and were magically confronted with, not just words and pictures, but objects in motion!
Pop-ups actually evolved from 13th and 14th century European tomes containing gatefolds (folded pages) and volvelles (rotating paper discs) used for scholarly illustration. It was not until the late 18th century that movable books were produced for the enjoyment of children. These early British works, often referred to as "metamorphoses books" or "harlequinades," consisted of moveable flaps that allowed the illustrations to change.
By the mid-19th century, movable books of more complex design began to be published in larger quantities, and the "Golden Age" of pop-ups had begun. Lothar Meggendorfer, a German, was the most noted practitioner in the field. His intricate mechanical creations resulted in several actions occurring simultaneously on one page. Today, Meggendorfer original printings (in either German or English translation) can command several hundred to several thousand dollars each, depending on condition.
Unlike "regular" books, pop-ups are labor intensive. Each book must be assembled by hand, a process often involving up to 60 (or more) people at a time depending upon the intricacy of the design. For this reason, production runs are relatively limited. Add to that fact the inherent fragility of most pop-ups (simple repetitive use can damage paper), and it is easy to understand the prices set by a secondary market that values rarity and condition. (For a photo-illustrated look at the production of a pop-up, from original design to finished copy, check out Robert Sabuda's website listed below.)
If you are interested in more information on this most enjoyable collectible, the following resources are recommended:
"Pop-Up and Movable Books," by Ann R. Montanaro
"Pop-Up! Pop-Up!: Pop-Up Books: Their history, how to collect them and how much they're worth," by Albert A. Tillman, Laura T. Winningham (Editor)
Small British company specializing in the buying, selling, and repair of movables and pop-ups.
The Movable Book Society
Organized in 1993 "to provide a forum for collectors, artists, curators, book sellers, book producers and others to share enthusiasm and exchange information about pop-up and movable books." Publishes Movable Stationery, a quarterly newsletter; organizes conferences; co-curates exhibitions.
The Movable Book Society
P.O. Box 11654
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08906 U.S.A.
This is the website of the Popuplady (collector Ellen Rubin) who was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, 12 December 2004. History, timeline, glossary, articles, links, more.
The POP-UP World of Ann Montanaro
"World Wide Web exhibition created and maintained by the Rutgers University Libraries, of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey." Rutgers Librarian Ann Montanaro is a collector of movable books and founder of The Movable Book Society. Site offers well-researched history, gallery, links.
Website of the noted "paper engineer." Sections on how pop-ups are made, how to make your own, international pop-up gallery, more.
UNT Libraries: Pop-Up and Movable Books
History, with concentration from 1850 to present; information on several important designers; large gallery of images (some animated!) from the Weaver Collection, University of North Texas; references.
The Wonderful World of Pop-Up and Animated Books
Though this site is no longer being maintained, it remains a valuable resource, especially the Book Gallery section, indexed by title and author/designer/illustrator. The site also offers references; links to collectors, sellers, publishers; more.