Pop-up book

The term pop-up book is often applied to any book with three-dimensional pages, although properly the umbrella term movable book covers pop-ups, transformations, tunnel books, volvelles, flaps, pull-tabs, pop-outs, pull-downs, and more, each of which performs in a different manner. Also included, because they employ the same techniques, are three-dimensional greeting cards.

Demonstration of the action of a pop-up book

Pop-up types

A geometric diagram of the basic principle of a pop-up book: the parallelogram.

Design and creation of such books in arts is sometimes called "paper engineering". This usage should not be confused with traditional paper engineering, the engineering of systems to mass-produce paper products.

The artistic aspect of paper engineering is related to origami in that the two arts both employ folded paper. However, origami in its simplest form doesn't use scissors or glue and tends to be made with very foldable paper; by contrast, pop-ups rely more on glue, cutting, and stiff card stock. What they have in common is folding.

Animated books

Animated books combine three elements: story, colored illustrations which include text, and "two or more animated illustrations with their movement mechanisms working between a doubled page.".[1] In 1938, Julian Wehr's animations for children's books were patented as "moving illustrations" that move the picture up and down and horizontally at the same time with a single movement.[2][3][4]


Transformations show a scene made up of vertical slats. When a reader pulls a tab on the side, the slats slide under and over one another to "transform" into a totally different scene. Ernest Nister, one of the early English children's book authors, often produced books solely of transformations. Many of these have been reproduced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Volvelles are paper constructions with rotating parts. An early example is the Astronomicum Caesareum, by Petrus Apianus, which was made for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles in 1540. The book is full of nested circular pieces revolving on grommets.

Tunnel books

Lane's Telescopic View - The Ceremony of Her Majesty Opening the Great Exhibition (open)
Tunnel book

Tunnel books (also called peepshow books) consist of a set of pages bound with two folded concertina strips on each side and viewed through a hole in the cover. Openings in each page allow the viewer to see through the entire book to the back, and images on each page work together to create a dimensional scene inside. This type of book dates from the mid-18th century and was inspired by theatrical stage sets. Traditionally, these books were often created to commemorate special events or sold as souvenirs of tourist attractions. (The term "tunnel book" derives from the fact that many of these books were made to commemorate the building of the tunnel under the Thames River in London in the mid-19th century.) In the United States, tunnel books were made for such attractions as World's Fairs and the New York Botanical Gardens.

Recently the tunnel book format has been resurrected by book artist Carol Barton and others as a sculptural book form. Artists are interested not only in the book's interior views, but also in treating the side accordions and covers as informational and visual surfaces A selection of tunnel books by Carol Barton is archived in the special collections of Virginia Commonwealth University's James Branch Cabell Library.


The audience for early movable books were adults, not children. The first known movable in a book was created by Benedictine monk Matthew Paris in his Chronica Majora, which covers a period beginning in 1240. Paris attached volvelles onto some of the pages which were used by the monks to help calculate holy days. It is speculated that the Catalan mystic and poet Ramon Llull, of Majorca, also used volvelles to illustrate his theories in the early 14th century,[5] but no physical example of a paper volvelle created by him has ever been documented. Throughout the centuries volvelles have been used for such diverse purposes as teaching anatomy, making astronomical predictions, creating secret code, and telling fortunes. By 1564 another movable astrological book titled Cosmographia Petri Apiani had been published. In the following years, the medical profession made use of this format, illustrating anatomical books with layers and flaps showing the human body. The English landscape designer Capability Brown made use of flaps to illustrate "before and after" views of his designs.

While it can be documented that books with movable parts had been used for centuries, they were almost always used in scholarly works. In 1775 Thomas Malton published A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice, on the Principles of Dr. Brook Taylor. A Compleat Treatise on Perspective is the earliest known commercially produced pop-up book since it contains three-dimensional paper mechanisms. The pop-ups are activated by pulling string and form geometric shapes used to aid the reader in understanding the concept of perspective.

It was not until the very late 18th century that these techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment, particularly for children.

Some of the first three-dimensional and tab activated books were produced by Ernest Nister and Lothar Meggendorfer. These books were popular in Germany and Britain during the 19th century.

The great leap forward in the field of pop-up books came in 1929 with the publication of the Daily Express Children's Annual Number 1 "with pictures that spring up in model form". This was produced by Louis Giraud and Theodore Brown. Four more Daily Express Annuals followed and then Giraud setup his own publishing house, Strand Publications, this produced the groundbreaking series of Bookano books. The Bookano books are considered the first, true pop-up books for children because the pop-ups can be viewed from a full 360 degrees, not just the front side facing the viewer. There were seventeen Bookanos before the series came to an end with the death of Giraud in 1949.

In the United States, in the 1930s, Harold Lentz followed Giraud's lead with the production of the Blue Ribbon books in New York. He was the first publisher to use the term "pop-up" to describe their movable illustrations.[6][7]

The next advance in the field was made by the astoundingly prolific Vojtěch Kubašta working in Prague in the 1960s. His lead was followed by Waldo Hunt in the US with his founding of Graphics International.[6][8] He and two companies he established, Graphics International and Intervisual Books, produced hundreds of pop-up books for children between the 1960s and 1990s. Although intended for US audiences, these books were assembled in areas with lower labor costs: initially in Japan and later in Singapore and Latin American countries such as Colombia and Mexico. Hunt's first pop-up book was Bennett Cerf's Pop-Up Riddle Book, published by Random House as a promotion for Maxwell House Coffee and showcasing the work of humorist Bennett Cerf, who was then president of Random House.[6][8] The team of Waldo Hunt and Christopher Cerf created a total of 30 more children's pop-up books for publication by Random House, including books that featured Sesame Street characters. According to Bennett Cerf (in his book At Random), pop-up books were profitable for Random House.[6]

In addition to his collaborations with Christopher Cerf at Random House, Hunt produced pop-up books for Walt Disney, a series of pop-up books based on Babar, and titles such as Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and The Human Body by David Pelham.[6][8]

An exhibition of pop-up books curated by Carol Barton was shown at the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York.[9] Her pop-up books, movable books, and tunnel books are in the collections of The Getty Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Notable works

Some pop-up books receive attention as literary works for the degree of artistry or sophistication which they entail. One example is Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy, by Matthew Reinhart. This book received literary attention for its elaborate pop-ups, and the skill of its imagery, with The New York Times saying that "calling this sophisticated piece of engineering a 'pop-up book' is like calling the Great Wall of China a partition".[10]

The 1967 Random House publication Andy Warhol's Index, was produced by Andy Warhol, Chris Cerf and Alan Rinzler, and included photos of celebrities together with pop-up versions of Warholesque images such as a cardboard can of tomato paste,[6] as well as a plastic tear-out recording, an inflatable silver balloon, and other novelties.

Pop-up book artist Colette Fu designed China's largest pop-up book. In 2008, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to create pop-up books of the 25 ethnic minorities residing in Yunnan Province, China. Her work can be found in the Library of Congress, Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Museum of Women in the Arts.[11]


Since 1993, the Movable Book Society has provided a forum for artists, book sellers, book producers, collectors, curators, and others to share enthusiasm and exchange information about pop-up and movable books. The organization also awards industry prizes for best paper engineer (trade and artists’ book) and excellence in paper engineering by an undergraduate or graduate student.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Wehr, Paul (September 17, 2008). "Moving Illustrations: The Paper Engineering of Julian Wehr" (PDF). p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. ^ "A Guide to the Papers of Julian Wehr, 1885-2004, n.d. (bulk 1943-1949)Wehr, Julian, Papers12250". ead.lib.virginia.edu. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  3. ^ Wehr, Julian (1945). "Animated illustration". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  4. ^ Wehr, Julian (1940). "Moving illustration". Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  5. ^ Allie Townsend, Pop-Up Book, in "All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys," Time, February 16, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Steven Miller, Waldo Hunt, 1920-2009; The 'King of the Pop-Ups' Made Books Spring to Life, The Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2009.
  7. ^ Ann Montanaro, "A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books", The Pop-up World of Ann Montanaro (exhibition), Rutgers University Libraries.
  8. ^ a b c Valerie J. Nelson, "Waldo Hunt dies at 88; entrepreneur revived the pop-up book as art form", Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2009.
  9. ^ Olmert, Michael (1992). The Smithsonian book of books (1. ed.). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books. p. 233. ISBN 0-89599-030-X.
  10. ^ "A Galaxy in Your Face", The New York Times Book Review, November 11, 2007, children's book section.
  11. ^ Stinson, Liz. "A Mind-Blowing Pop-Up Book Shows China's Vanishing Tribes". WIRED. Retrieved 2017-08-17.
  12. ^ "The Movable Book Society". www.movablebooksociety.org. Retrieved 24 September 2016.

Further reading

  • The Elements of Pop Ups by James Diaz and David A. Carter, 1999. ISBN 0689822243
  • Hinshaw, Craig (November 1999). "Looking into Tunnel Books". Arts & Activities. 126 (3): 34–35.
  • Pop-Up! A Manual of Paper Mechanisms by Duncan Birmingham, 1997. ISBN 1899618090
  • The Pocket Paper Engineer, Volume 1, Basic Forms by Carol Barton, 2005. ISBN 0962775207
  • The Pocket Paper Engineer, Volume 2, Platforms and Props by Carol Barton, 2008. ISBN 0962775223
  • The Pocket Paper Engineer, Volume 3, V-Folds by Carol Barton, 2012. ISBN 0962775231
  • Reynolds, Janet M. (2013). Exploring Artistic Learning Through the Creation of Tunnel Books. Boston University College of Fine Arts.

External links

Andrew Baron (paper engineer)

Andrew Baron (born 1962) is a self-taught, award-winning paper engineer and singled out by Robert Sabuda, a leading children's pop-up book artist, as a wunderkind of pull tabs, specific devices used to cause movement in pop-up books.

Bruce Foster

Bruce Foster is an American paper engineer and graphic designer who specializes in pop-up books. Called a "paper magic master", he has created more than 40 pop-up books for both children and adults, in addition to the pop-up designs that appeared in the 2007 film Enchanted.

Colette Fu

Colette Fu is a photographer, book artist and paper engineer based in Philadelphia, PA who makes pop-up books from her photographs. She teaches pop-up courses and community workshops with marginalized populations at various art centers, universities and institutions internationally. Her large-scale, three-dimensional pop-up books feature photographic images which extend towards the viewer for many layers. During an artist residency in Shanghai, Fu designed China's largest pop-up book. Pop-up and flap books originally illustrated sociological ideas and scientific principles; she constructs her own books on how our selves relate to society today. In 2008, Fu was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to create a pop-up book of the 25 ethnic minority groups residing in Yunnan Province, China, from where the artist's mother's family descends. 25 of 55 minority tribes of China reside in Yunnan and comprise less than 9% of the nation's population, with the Han representing the majority. She uses her artistic skills to spread knowledge and provide a brief portrait of their existence.

David A. Carter

David A. Carter (born March 4, 1957) is an American author and illustrator. He is best known for his pop-up books for both children and adults. His Bugs series has sold over 6 million copies.

James Howe

James Howe (born August 2, 1946) is an American children's writer with more than 79 juvenile and young adult fiction books to his credit. He is known best for the Bunnicula series about a vampire rabbit that sucks the juice out of vegetables.

Jan Pieńkowski

Jan Michał Pieńkowski (born 8 August 1936) is a Polish-British author of children's books—as illustrator, as writer, and as designer of movable books. He has also designed for the theatre. For his contribution as a children's illustrator he was UK nominee in 1982 and again in 2008 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.WorldCat reports that Pieńkowski's work most widely held in participating libraries is Christmas, the King James Version (1984; US ISBN 0394869230), a 24-page picture book that "[u]ses the words of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew to present the story of the birth of Jesus."

Julie Chen (book artist)

Julie Chen is an American book artist.

Květa Pacovská

Květa Pacovská (born 28 July 1928) is Czech artist and illustrator. She received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1992 for her "lasting contribution to children's literature".Pacovská was born in Prague and studied at its School of Applied Arts, where she mainly worked in graphic art, arts, conceptual art and artist book fields.

The biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award conferred by the International Board on Books for Young People is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children's books. Pacovská received the illustration award in 1992.

Lothar Meggendorfer

Lothar Meggendorfer (6 November 1847 in Munich – 7 July 1925 in Munich) was a German illustrator and early cartoonist known for his pop-up books.

He was first published in 1862 in the Fliegende Blätter, an illustrated comic weekly, and from 1868 in the bi-weekly Münchener Bilderbogen. He was the publisher of Meggendorfer-Blätter, an art and satirical magazine, from 1888 to 1905. He also illustrated a number of books with text by Julius Beck, among them Neues Struwwelpeterbuch published by J.F. Schreiber in the 1890s, and created some 40 board games.

Every other year, the Movable Book Society awards a pop-up book prize named after Meggendorfer.

Matthew Reinhart

Matthew Christian Reinhart (born September 21, 1971) is an American writer and illustrator of children's pop-up books and picture books. His most recent books include Frozen: a Pop-up Adventure and Lego Pop-up: A Journey to the Lego Universe. He was born to Gary and Judith Reinhart in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His father joined the Navy and the family moved around the country, including Florida, Texas, Illinois, California, Virginia, and South Carolina. He has a sister named Erin.

Melcher Media

Melcher Media is a book packager and publisher in New York City, New York, founded in 1994 by Charles Melcher. The company’s focuses include magazine-, movie-, and TV-related books; environmental titles; pop-up books; and DuraBooks.

The company has produced more than 100 titles, including 15 New York Times best sellers, such as An Inconvenient Truth (Rodale), Domino: The Book of Decorating (Simon & Schuster), Eminem: The Way I Am (Dutton), The Lucky Shopping Manual (Gotham), The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style (Gotham), 100 Years of Harley-Davidson (Bulfinch), and Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell (Pocket).

Melcher Media is known for highly visual, innovative, and physically distinctive books, such as a pink faux-alligator binding of Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell and a green gel-filled cover for Not Just Cartoons, Nicktoons. The company also leads the market with adult pop-up books, such as the best-selling Pop-Up Book of Phobias and Pop-Up Book of Celebrity Meltdowns.

Movable Book Society

The Movable Book Society (MBS) is a nonprofit organization which provides a forum for artists, book sellers, book producers, collectors, curators, and others to share enthusiasm and exchange information about pop-up and movable books. The Society has nearly 450 members worldwide.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2 is a 2017 live-action animated comedy film, directed by Paul King and written by King and Simon Farnaby. Based on the stories of the character Paddington Bear, created by Michael Bond, it is the sequel to Paddington (2014), and is produced by Heyday Films and StudioCanal UK. The film stars Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington, with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Hugh Grant in live-action roles. In the film, Paddington tries to get a present for his aunt's birthday, but ends up being framed for a crime he did not commit.

Principal photography began in October 2016 and ended in June 2017. The film was theatrically released on 10 November 2017 in the United Kingdom and 6 December 2017 in France, and grossed $226 million worldwide. It has an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and is the highest-rated film on the site. It received three nominations at the 71st British Academy Film Awards: Best British Film, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for Grant.

Robert Sabuda

Robert James Sabuda is a children's pop-up book artist and paper engineer. His recent books, such as those describing the stories of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, have been well received and critically acclaimed.

Sally Blakemore

Sally Blakemore is an award-winning paper engineer and pop-up book packager based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is best known for NASCAR Pop-up: A Guide to the Sport, which includes two dozen pop-ups and a 12-second sound chip. Blakemore also heads Arty Projects Studio, a pop-up and novelty book packaging company.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999) is a psychological horror novel by American writer Stephen King. In 2004, a pop-up book adaptation was released, designed by Kees Moerbeek and illustrated by Alan Dingman.

Thomas Malton, the elder

Thomas Malton, the elder (1726–1801) was an English architectural draughtsman and writer on geometry.

Vojtěch Kubašta

Vojtěch Kubašta (1914, Vienna – 1992) was a Czech architect and artist.

Vojtěch Robert Vladimír Kubašta was born in Vienna. His family moved to Prague when he was four years old and he lived there his entire life. He demonstrated his artistic talent at the age of four. He had a great desire to become an artist. His father, however, had different goals for his son. He wanted him to study law.

Nevertheless, the young Vojtěch persisted with his aspiration to become an artist and, eventually, his father agreed that his son could become an architect. The study of architecture, at that time, was considered more of an artistic undertaking than a technical discipline. Some of the great Czech master painters, graphic artists, and illustrators were lecturing at the Polytech University in Prague. Kubašta graduated with a degree in architecture and civil engineering in 1938. His career as a professional architect was short. From the early 1940s, he worked as a commercial artist, and also as a book designer. His illustrations became increasingly popular.

When the communist government nationalised the entire publishing industry in 1948, Kubašta had to search for new venues to market his artistic talent. He was involved in designing advertising materials for Czechoslovak products abroad. He created three-dimensional cards that advertised porcelain, sewing machines, pencils, Pilsner beer, sunglasses, and other products. Every Christmas season, he designed and illustrated a new crèche in which he captured the Czech traditional Christmas setting. In 1956, he designed his first fairy tale pop-up book: Little Red Riding Hood. Kubašta offered this pop-up book to the Prague-based ARTIA publishing house for publication. ARTIA was a state-owned foreign trade corporation. In 1962, his illustrations were featured in Once Long Ago, a book of 70 fairy tales from around the world.

During the years that followed, Vojtěch Kubašta's three-dimensional books made him the publishing house's best-known book designer and illustrator. His pop-up books have been published in 24 different languages and 35 million copies have been sold. Today, original editions of his illustrations and books are sought after by collectors from around the world.The exhibition of his work in the Gallery in the Grove is the first time that Vojtěch Kubašta's original artwork had been viewed by the Canadian public. His magical pop-up books have been displayed in the Toronto Public Library, as a part of Osborne Collection of early children’s books in April 2002. His books have also been featured on Martha Stewart Living and CBS News Sunday Morning.

Kubašta's first sole retrospective exhibition in North America was organized by the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in February 2005. During a recent exhibition of pop-ups and movable books in Chicago in September 2006, Columbia College devoted its entire gallery to Vojtěch Kubašta's art. The city of Prague sponsored an exhibition of his work in December, 2006.

Waldo Hunt

Waldo Henley Hunt (November 28, 1920 – November 6, 2009) was a prolific producer of pop-up books, having nearly singlehandedly revived the genre in the post-war era.

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