Partisans and Pop-ups
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted from Movable Stationery vol.16 no.4 November 2008)
With the hoopla of the Democratic and Republican conventions now over, it was time for the Movable Book Society to make a lot of noise in Washington, DC, staging our own international convention. We assembled in the open, airy lobby of the Four Points Hotel Sheraton on Thursday, September 18, 2008.
What is a political convention without balloons?
As at any bona fide political rally, we proudly wore our ID badges announcing we represented 20 states, Washington, DC, The Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Canada, and the Philippines. Nancy Gottwald-Losario, a first-time conventioneer, off-handedly produced balloon animals and passed them around as she made acquaintance with other members. Acquiring an animal balloon became a de facto badge of honor throughout the Conference. I did wear my home-made pin declaring, ‘I’m an Obama Mama!’ that triggered passionate responses. Political talk could be heard insinuating itself among the pop-up conversations throughout the weekend.
As members gathered in small groups, introduced themselves, or renewed old acquaintances, I spied a slim gentleman I’d never seen before sitting on the sofa. Could it be Theo Gielen who the Movable Book Society had invited to be our keynote speaker? Adie Peña excitedly waved me over. Yes, it was Theo [Tay-O] and was I ever happy to meet him. Here was our very own historian who labors tirelessly to uncover the nuggets of truth about our past. I couldn’t help blurting out, “How many languages do you read?” He humbly replied, “I don’t know. So many I can’t count. Perhaps as many as fifteen?” GULP! I asked because it is clear to me that our pop-up history resides in European archives. We are so grateful to Theo for unearthing the legends of our movables and writing about them for us. What would we do without him? When asked about his own collection, Theo replied coyly, “[One] can’t research without collecting.”
Gathering in the multitude, Ann Montanaro, our tireless leader, invited us all to dinner. Arranging ourselves at round tables in the ballroom, Ann opened our program with greetings from Waldo Hunt, now 89 years old. Wally, our legendary primogenitor, is planning an exhibition at the Los Angeles Public Library some time next year. There’s no question that a life in pop-ups with all its Smiles and Wows! keeps Wally young. I can only hope pop-ups has the same effect on all of us.
Ann went on to describe the Silent Auction to be held throughout the Conference and organized by Rosalind Fink. A line had formed at Rosalind’s table and members were seen listing their great treasures for donation. Generously, Bruce Foster, who was ‘detained’ in Houston by Hurricane Ike, had sent the book and mock-up for his new pop-up, Sammy’s Suitcase; Robert Sabuda supplied a limited edition of Peter Pan, and Andy offered a copy of the Sony-Ericsson advertising pop-up book he had done with Kyle Olmon, and Kees Moerbeek. There truly were unique goodies to be had. Monies raised by the auction would benefit the Movable Book Society, now a non-profit organization.
Ann further extended an invitation from Tom Bannister of Pyramid Atlantic, an art cooperative hosting the exhibition, Hand Papermaking. We were all invited to dinner at the center in Silver Spring, MD tomorrow night. A paper keepsake would be given to everyone who attends. Our members, Emily Martin and Shawn Sheehy, have books in the exhibition.
After being introduced by her mother Ann, Abby Ranson, board member and program director, started off the Conference by presenting our first speaker, Paul Wehr, representing the Wehr Clan, Chris, David, and Jeanine, who were in attendance. Moving Illustrations: The Paper Engineering of Julian Wehr rounded out the lectures on Wehr we had had in the past. Paul concentrated on the movables themselves, including the 1940 patent for the rocker panels. Wehr’s mechanisms were primarily slides, pivots, and wheels that had actions moving in all directions. Most astounding to learn was that The Master produced 24 titles between 1943 and 1945 and16 titles between 1949 and 1961!! Talk about prolific!! What was fresh and exciting to see were artifacts from Wehr’s archives. Spread before us on two long tables were original art and mock-ups from several books, especially the one for “The Further Adventures of Finnie the Fiddler” that was never published. How exciting to actually hold Wehr’s working tools! The entire archive is housed at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Special Collections Library.
Paul described the social changes in the 1950s, such as the advent of TV, cheap Japanese toys, and the use of plastics that led to a decline in the call for his Dad’s wok. Wehr had tried to market a line of greeting cards with movable elements but that idea was rejected as was his idea for a storytelling TV show discussed with CBS. Wehr’s last book, in 1962, was Mother Goose. The Wehr family has done a remarkable job keeping alive their father’s legacy. More can be learned at www.wehranimations.com.
What is a political convention without a breakout session?
With the formal program over for the night, Uncle Larry [Seidman] was following his own agenda with a rapt circle of conventioneers surrounding him. As he did in years past, Larry pulled from a small box movable card after movable card eliciting "Oohs" and "Aahs" from his audience. What would become a theme of the convention could be heard repeatedly. “Theo, have you seen this?” Given Theo’s vast exposure to movable books, games, and ephemera, if Theo Gielen hadn’t seen the book or card, it truly was a rare one. The game of “Stump Theo” was launched.
What is a political convention without a Showman?
Friday morning, MBS member Larry Rakow illuminated our ballroom like fireworks on the Fourth of July. His performance would be much talked about and become a highlight of the Conference. Larry a dealer/collector of children’s books [Wonderland Books], and member of the Magic Lantern Society, entertained us with what, on the face of it, might seem a program outside our pop-up purview. He began by telling us how he couldn’t resist buying a collection of magic lantern slides, projector, and script and costume used by an itinerant showman of the late 19th century. The collection had been literally rescued from the dump. A form of entertainment, lantern slides were hand painted or chromolithographed, and germane to our interests, had auxiliary slides that effected motion. Levers or cranks controlled these movable slides.
After setting up his projector, screen, and wooden boxes of slides, donning a Lincolnesque top hat with a great flourish, and apologizing for no longer fitting into his costume, the ballroom lights were turned down. In his deep, stentorian voice, he cried out ‘Laaadies and Gentleman!!’ What ensued was an hour of riotous fun as Larry smoothly changed slide after slide while narrating its story. Most special to us were the slides with multiple parts he skillfully manipulated creating the illusion of movement.
Two scenarios he presented, most popular in their day, were The Rat Catcher, where we watched as the snoring sleeper ingested rat after rat with each intake of breath, and another of the British Armada battling against the French navy. The simulated motion re-created the cannons firing and the French ships sinking. There were jeers and cheers from the MBS crowd. Even today, we are still taking sides!
Thousands of such showmen traveled throughout the US and Europe performing these acts from the 1890s into the early 20th century. Often there would be a musical accompaniment. The lantern shows were so popular there were even toy lanterns for children. To help us understand the bridge between lantern slides and movable books, Larry showed us other books with gimmicks simulating movement like hold-to-light books and those using strings to tell their story. Answering the question, “How does the slide’s paint withstand the heat of candles?” or, in this case, a 500w bulb, Larry told us the paint used is made up of ground gemstones. No wonder the greens shone like emeralds!
We used the break to catch our breath before we started rollicking again. Emily Martin stepped up to the podium to tell us about the construction of “Five Flexagons in Two Years,” her newest limited edition artist book. Flexagons have always been, for me, the quintessential movable eliciting the most awe and Wow! How they work remains elusive even as they are manipulated in your hands. Ed Hutchins had shown me how to make a simple flexagon, and yet, even knowing how to make one could not divulge the secret of its movement.
Here was our comedic Emily weaving the events of her life into 5 flexagons, each varying in complexity. The events she shared evoked laughter and tears. [Sorry, Folks. You really had to be there.] For example, Gomez, the naughty dog of Emily’s Naughty Dog Press, had recently died. The flexagon, A Game of Fetch, introducing her new puppy, Truck, brought Emily back to the special times with Gomez. Frankly, with words like tetraflexagon and hexaflexagon, my old math anxiety started creeping up. Writing the operating manual on how to maneuver the flexagons was the “hardest thing to do in this project,” Emily confessed. I refer you to her website, www.emilymartin.com for further explanation.
What is a political convention without a Q & A?
Uncle Larry put aside his box of Show & Tell, distributed copies of his Movable Stationary article, Musings of a Movable Book Collector, and sat down with Jo Ann Reisler and her husband, Don, to ask them about their high-end collectible children’s book business. Don and Jo Ann have been antiquarian booksellers for almost 40 years. We had much to learn. Jo Ann buys books for their “visual appeal in the absolute best condition” and relies on her wisdom and experience to decide whether to buy imperfect copies. When asked if restoration decreases the value of a book, she said it “depended on rarity.” Larry added, “A bad restoration is worse than no restoration.” Don had prepared a slide show that had us marveling at a whole host of movable books spanning 2 centuries, including a Meggendorfer with a dust jacket, something I’ve never seen. Theo was feverishly taking notes and trying to keep up with the slides, while playing Stump Theo. Most interesting to me was the manuscript of Vojtěch Kubašta’s Sleeping Beauty published by Bancroft. When asked what collectors can do with their collections, the Reislers suggested donating them to libraries, but if you want the collection to remain intact, money would have to come along with the books to pay for the manpower to catalog and exhibit them. Don ended by philosophizing, “Our job is to pass [the books] on. We are caretakers across time.”
What is a political convention without a Power Lunch?
While we dined on salad, fish, and dessert, Andy Baron showed a video of the Maillardet automaton he had recently repaired for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. With 72 brass dials and multiple complex levers, this phenomenal 18th century "robot" is able to write three poems and draw four pictures. It was in desperate disrepair until Andy was brought on board, a job he was born to do. See the automaton at the Franklin Institute website.
Susan R. Frampton, Program Coordinator of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, followed Andy. Ms. Frampton told us of a proposed exhibit in early 2010 of pop-up books mostly from the Smithsonian’s collection at the Cooper-Hewitt. The exhibition will be small, about 900 sq.ft. and held at The National Museum of American History in Washington DC. The exhibit is to feature various mechanical techniques used in 50-60 books. If funding is made available, other smaller sites in Washington may showcase pop-up books.
As in the Halls of Congress where deals are made and information is exchanged, every break found our members sharing ideas, touting new books, and seeking advice. Chuck Fischer brought his new book, In the Beginning, The Art of Genesis, magnificently engineered by Bruce Foster. He showed me a short promotional video that will appear with the book’s on-line advertisements. Andy demonstrated, Birdscapes: A Pop-up of Songs in Stereo Sound, supported by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We have much to look forward to. Linda Costello, in her typical over-the-top style, had brought an enormous pop-up of the Eiffel Tower and asked all who cared to to add their comments, artwork, or movables during the Conference.
What is a fact-finding conference without an on-site inspection?
A highlight of all our Conferences is the pop-up and movable book exhibits that accompany them. Today we are invited for a private showing of an exhibit of artist books, “A Moveable Feast: The Book as Art” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts [NWMA], the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women artists. We moved in orderly groups like grade-school children to the Museum just a few blocks from the hotel.
Several years ago I had had the pleasure of seeing the Museum with a small group of women. When the tour took us at the library to the 4th floor, imagine my surprise and delight to find it filled with artist books, many of them incorporating some of the most imaginative movables I had ever seen! I’ve waited for this opportunity to visit again. Entering the former Masonic Temple fills one with awe at the majestic multi-colored marble floors, opulent chandeliers, and lacy, feminine staircases rising to the mezzanine. While we waited for our hostess, Krystyna Wasserman, to arrive, the Movable Book Society Board met in a corner of the mezzanine.
We had shoe-horned in both the time and place of our meeting. Finally we met Krystyna, Curator of Book Arts for the NWMA, in the Museum’s modern auditorium. She told us of the Museum’s history and that artist books had been collected before the building was occupied. The library now has over 1000 books. For its 20th anniversary, the museum published a coffee table book, The Book as Art, widely available and on the museum’s website, with color photos of selections from the NWMA’s library. Many members bought the book and had Krystyna sign it. [I had left mine home. :>( ] The slide show included books by Emily Martin, Lois Morrison, Carol Barton, and Julie Chen, among many others.
We all hurried to the 4th floor to see these books for ourselves. Most books in the exhibit were in glass cases, and a good thing too, because I would have salivated on them. But several books, including my favorite, Swiss Army Knife by Molly Van Nice, were there for us to handle. A one-of-a-kind book, this complex creation has drawers, pop-ups, and books within books. And through the kindness of Krystyna, we could ‘play’ with it! Movable Book people jostled together oohing and aahing, photographing, and pointing out unusual attributes of their favorites. We stayed in the library until we were shepherded to the mezzanine for a champagne cocktail party. So elegant. More information on the exhibit and NWMA may be found at the Museum's website .
Swiss Army Knife by Molly Van Nice
Robin Sutton, Maria Winkler, The Popuplady at theNWMA
Several of us waited around until it was time to go to Silver Springs, MD to the Atlantic Pyramid exhibition. We walked to the Metro passing the street vendor with Obama merchandise. Having seen mine, Ulla-Britt Faiella bought an "Obama Mama" pin. All day I had heard anxiety about what if Obama didn’t win and fears should the McCain/Palin ticket prevail. I suppose there were Republicans among us, but if there were, they were keeping their own counsel. I had many nods of approval for my pin from passersby and fellow train companions.
We waited outside the train station for a while for the last expected member, Natalia Romero, to arrive on a skateboard! And sure enough, she came sailing into view! Ah, youth!!
What fun! I haven’t traveled with a group by subway since I took the IRT to high school and college in New York City. Finding Atlantic Pyramid without a map was truly a group effort since each of us had just a part of all the information. We had been sent directions but OOPS! we didn’t bring them. Ann was determined to not BE IN CHARGE!
But we got there and were warmly welcomed. We watched paper being made for our keepsakes and viewed the exhibition. There was plenty of good food for dinner. Tom Bannister, our host, told us of Pyramid Atlantic’s focus on promoting hand-made paper as an art. In each of its semiannual publications, Hand Papermaking, there is a paper sample. Every two years, the organization produces a themed portfolio of paper objects. The next theme will be pop-ups and movables. Paper engineers who apply to be in The Portfolio will be paired with a papermaker and then work as a team. Robert Sabuda and Carol Barton will act as jurors. Ann Montanaro will write the comprehensive essay to accompany the portfolio. As we bid our adieus, we each collected a hand-made paper card, souvenir of our visit.
from the exhibit. Can you believe this is paper?
What is a political meeting without a budget hearing?
Ann began our Saturday session with a Board report, handing out a Budget Overview. She announced Kyle Olmon’s election to the Board. He is a very welcome addition. But most pressing on Ann’s list was the dire need for more members to write for the newsletter. Interviewing paper engineers from the 70s and 80s was suggested. A questionnaire already exists. For those interested in writing, contact Ann who has a list of suggested topics. In other words, IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY [WRITE] SOMETHING! Help is also needed for the webpage.
We have 450 members worldwide. European members have complained about being unable to pay for more than one year at a time and having to pay in cash. This problem will be addressed. The pluses and minuses of putting the newsletter on-line were discussed. Ann, echoing the Board, reminded us that we are Book People delighting in the tangibility of paper. Finally, we were encouraged to vote for the Meggendorfer Prize and get our bids in for the Silent Auction. The book sale, to open after lunch, was being coordinated by Eleanor Heldrich.
What is Star Wars without Ronald Reagan?
Sounding almost like an AA member, Matthew Reinhart began his talk by confessing to his addiction to all-things Star Wars. Starting in 1977, when the movie opened and he was merely a sprite, all facets of Matthew’s life encompassed the popular science-fiction movie. His birthday and Christmas presents were books and figures from the series. He has saved all those mementos and acquired much MUCH more in his studio. The penultimate Star Wars geek, Matthew always knew he would produce a pop-up of the series one day. After engineering Cinderella, and Noah, his favorite Bible story, he went on to make his dream come true. The iconic helmet of Darth Vader was the most difficult of all the pops to realize. Everyone helped with the helmet, and no one was spared Matthew’s scrutiny. Robert had to follow Matthew’s instructions “very carefully.” When the white dummy went off to Lucas Films, Matthew put a white band around it saying, “Thank you, Mr. Lucas, for letting me do this even if it doesn’t go through.” Thanks to Kyle’s electronic know-how, the sabers at the back of the book automatically shut-off after15 seconds conserving the replaceable batteries.
Matthew’s favorite Star Wars figure is Princess Leia since “she is the opposite of a princess in distress.” He even inserted what is known as an ‘Easter Egg’ into the book, in this case, a figure with Matthew’s likeness. Try to find it!!! Click to see and hear how Matthew made Star Wars: The Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy.
When asked what other ideas Matthew has for pop-ups, he said his next book would be one of nursery rhymes. He also has a large collection of Transformers that would translate well into a pop-up book. Matthew concluded his talk by sharing, “I love working. Love, love, love my job. [I’m so] thankful I can do it.” When asked by Natalie for words of advice to fledgling paper engineers, Matthew cautioned newbies not “to be disappointed when you can’t make what you see in your head.”
What would a political group be without a Holy Roller?
Leave it to Ed Hutchins to put his finger on the pulse. “It’s the politics, Stupid!” his lecture almost screamed out. Ed had us in the palm of his hand when he showed us a Jacob’s ladder unfurling American flags. The crowd shouted their hosannas.
Ed used his platform to highlight ten book artists who present their political viewpoints in their books. He gave each of us a keepsake, Raising a Ruckus, he had made on his train ride from Mt. Vernon, NY. The greeting card format opened to a base page image of the White House with a red, white, and blue donkey and elephant on top. Moving the tab, a la Wehr, the donkey kicks its hind legs as the elephant nods its head. Ed called K Street-the site of the Four Points Hotel- "the Ruckus Capital of the World," and a "Street of Shame" since this is where daily “lobbyists and special-interest groups buy and sell our government.”
Ed’s slides had Shawn Sheehy’s newest book, Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Fifth Millennium Bestiary, showing bioengineering "run amok" with post-apocalyptic roaches, pigeons, and fungi among other flora and fauna. Unique structures were also a focus of Ed’s presentation. He included Cathryn Miller’s, The Tower of Babel with interlocking cards shouting political, corporate, and military catch phrases, Carol Barton’s illuminated Italian bell towers conceived during her residency in Italy, and Carolyn Shattuck’s, The Blame Game, Too Much Order, part tennis ball, part slinky, among others. All artists in Ed’s talk are listed at the back of the Ruckus card and may be also found at Ed’s web site. Next year, Ed will be traveling all the way to Brisbane and Canberra, Australia to teach pop-ups for 3 weeks. Need someone to carry your bags, Ed?
Before breaking for lunch, Tom Bannister of Hand Papermaking addressed the entire Conference. He talked of the bi-annual Portfolio, ‘Handmade Paper in Motion,’ to be published in 2 years and dedicated to pop-ups and movables. Produced in an edition of 150 copies, each will sell for $495. Tom encouraged the paper artists among us to try their hands.
Ann continued to caution us to keep away from the book sale being set up. Of course, that meant that we had to walk through the book sale room to get to the ballroom and NOT look, NOT dawdle, NOT touch. Yeah, right!!!
What is a political conference without a fact-finding mission?
Did I already say how good and plentiful the food was at the Four Points? This day’s lunch was a ‘brown bagger’. Carolyn Hughes of Cincinnati dined with me and used the time to ask about how my collection was organized on my computer. She wasn’t the only one at the Conference to be interested in keeping track of their collections. I offered to talk about my on-line catalog at greater length at the next Conference. If you’re interested, let Abby or Ann know.
Members used the lunch break to look carefully at the dozen vetted books up for the Meggendorfer Prize and frantically scrambled to get their bids in for the Silent Auction. Winners of both would be announced at the evening’s banquet.
What we needed was straitjackets or handcuffs!! Keep our hands off the book sale items AND off the delectables being displayed by Daveen Herley, our next speaker? Impossible!! On tables across the entire ballroom, Daveen, with the help of Don and Jo Ann Reisler, spread out her early movable books. The rarely seen original Meggendorfer Circus stood precariously behind the many pieces of The History of Little Fanny, the 1810 paper doll book. A host of Darton’s, Deans, and Tucks had us ogling. But DON’T TOUCH!!! Don stood guard and patrolled the tables keeping us a bay with a glare that said, “You wouldn’t dare!” How extraordinarily generous of Daveen to bring and display these books! And then, she held up each book with their fragile bindings and pages!!! The woman is a saint or is daft. But Oh how she delighted us. Poor Theo scribbled furiously and was seen to shake out the cramps in his writing hand numerous times. “Theo, have you seen this?” the group called out repeatedly, all getting into the Stump Theo game. We whooped with joy when he said, “No!” Theo offered more precise dates or publishers not listed on the books. A veritable walking encyclopedia, Theo is.
Daveen, a retired schoolteacher originally from South Africa, began collecting when she noticed that she had her students’ “immediate attention when using pop-up books.” Her husband would often double-back to sellers to secretly buy the books Daveen would pass up after declaring them “too rich for her pocketbook.” What a Dear! Much of Daveen’s collection was acquired from the Reislers, and when a Jacob’s ladder bought on eBay tore during a demonstration, Don chimed in, “That’s what happens when you buy on eBay!”
Oh, the palpable joy of seeing such rarity up close, Meggendorfer’s Doll House in its original box, Dean’s Rose Merton with each figure dressed in real fabric, a response to the Toilette Book, Requisites for Dandies, by an Irish woman, a saleman’s sample book of Meggendorfer’s Damian. Daveen is the consummate collector!
What is a capital city without visiting dignitaries?
While conferees dashed to the exits to get to the book sale with Mother Ann’s admonition “to wash your hands!” ringing in their ears, I scurried to the table occupied by packagers and paper engineers from the UK, Michael Wells, Michael Haines, and Keith Finch all now of Brushfire, Ltd. The name, Wells, may be familiar to you from Brown, Wells, Jacobs Ltd. producers of numerous books in the 1980s, including The Ultimate Cocktail Book. Michael Wells was kind enough to share stories of Vic Duppa-Whyte, now gone, and Paul Wilgriss, still working as a paper engineer. Around 1978, Wells, in the design business, met Paul Jacobs, a magazine art director, and Graham. They banded together as packagers of pop-up books. Graham introduced them to Paul Wilgriss who, according to Wells, was “painstakingly accurate” and had experience in package design. Wells reminisced about ‘the good old days’ saying, “It was easier [to produce pop-ups] in those times. People would see you and make decisions.” Eventually, Wells sold out to Graham. It was Keith Finch and Ken Wilson-Max who had engineered and illustrated the Botanical Garden spread from Brooklyn Pops Up. Finch is now a partner in Brushfire. There are other paper engineers working for Brushfire as well.
Michael Haines shared with me the up-coming books being produced by Brushfire. The Hungry Caterpillar will soon be simultaneously released around the world. Also on hand was the mock-up for Ice Age, a movie tie-in planned for March ’09. Brushfire has been unable to finish the last spread of the book since the movie team keeps changing the ending of the movie.
At this point, I looked over my shoulder and saw Uncle Larry at a table in the corner with yet another small box. The man runs a veritable Itinerant Museum! I called him over to exhibit his wares to the Brushfire group. I knew this crowd of worldly guys had never seen the likes of what Larry had to offer. And I was right! The Hoots and Hollers could be heard all over the ballroom. Theo, sitting upright and holding his notebook, was repeatedly questioned about an object’s probable publication date. He and Larry often differed. Knowledge of history, typography, and paper was essential.
Photo-Left-right: Larry Seidman, Keith Finch, Michael Wells, Michael Haines (standing), Theo Gielen
The book sale must have been a great success because by the time I left the ballroom, there were slim pickings at the tables. I missed buying from Larry Rakow the pop-ups from the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 I had been searching for. But it was gratifying to hear Bruce Currington of Texas exclaiming, “I’ve got an Ib Penick!!” Before the book sale, Bruce had been unaware of the Pop-Sites series engineered by Penick. He came away with the San Francisco trolley car and a new series to investigate and collect.
What is the conclusion of a convention without a Ball?
Our Saturday night banquets are always bittersweet. They signal the end of our Conference and a closer proximity to saying “Good bye” for another two years. The ballroom was alive with our spiffily dressed members. The tables were decorated with a book for each of us from Piggy Toes Press. The book, Gracie’s Gallery: A Magic Mirror Book was engineered and illustrated by Kelly M. Houle whose anamorphs had dazzled us in San Diego.
Adie Peña emceed the evening. He started by thanking all the many people who had made the Conference special: Abby Ranson, Rosalind Fink, Eleanor Heldrich, and, of course, Ann Montanaro. A pop-up book, The Castaway Pirates: A Pop-Up Tale of Bad Luck, Sharp Teeth, and Stinky Toes, a gift of its paper engineer, Ray Marshall, was raffled off. Using our numbers from the Silent Auction, Theo won! So glad he’ll be going back to Utrecht with more than a notepad filled with notes.
What is a political convention without a dissident?
Theo walked up to the podium smiling broadly. Not surprising after he shared the anagram of his name, Theo Gielen- Into Glee, eh? Before he began to speak, he moved the American flag standing behind him much closer to the lectern. He invited us to take photos. “I always wanted to be able to do this,” he confessed. Many years ago, Theo planned to come to the US to study but was refused a visa “due to his political beliefs.” Shocking to think this mild-mannered, gentlemanly academic would be denied entrance into our country. But, that’s all Theo would share. And here he was!
The very act of speaking at our Conference presented several problems for Theo. To begin with, he had no idea what a "keynote" speaker is. There is no such title in the Netherlands. In fact, the only person who is allowed to stand up to speak is the Queen! Having read my reviews of previous speakers, Theo feared he would have to be a stand-up comedian. Unable to comfortably fill that role, he decided he would do what he does best and speak on a scholarly subject but read from his prepared text in English.
His interest in movable books is very broad and includes their cultural history, marketing, the artist’s contribution, and the end use. Theo titled his talk, El Pintor or The Joys of Researching Movable, Novelty, and Pop-up Books. He painted a broad overview of the history of movable books from 1740-1955, breaking it down into three components he wishes to publish in 3 books: Pre-history, including the Englebrecht peepshows, paper dolls, and harlequinades and many others; movable books from 1840-1955; and the 3rd book, a bibliography of the 1st two books. Unique to his viewpoint was the focus on books from the 1920s through the 1940s, a period he calls, The Silver Age. He selected for intense study the designer named El Pintor, Spanish for The Painter. He was delighted to see the question marks on our faces now certain he would be imparting information to which we hadn’t been previously exposed.
Theo spread before us Dutch novelty books produced during the German occupation of the early 1940s and a few more produced up to 1946. Until this time, the Dutch had no real history of novelty books. The El Pintor publications were “remarkable for their diversity and educational impact.” Digging deep into historical papers, Theo discovered that El Pintor was the pen name for the Russian-born Galinka Ehrenfest. He proceeded to spin a tale that had us spellbound. Galinka was trained at the New School of Arts [Nieuwe Kunst School] in Amsterdam where she met her Jewish husband, Jaap Kloots. After marrying in 1941, the two worked under the single name El Pintor effectively hiding the fact that they were a duo and that Kloots was Jewish. Their first book, 1001 Arabian Nights, for their company Corunda, was a commercial hit. Kloots managed to work “under the Nazi radar” helping the company be successful. So successful that Corunda books were exported to Germany during the War! Sadly, Corunda’s good finances led to the couple’s downfall. After Jaap and Galinka bought a house, Jaap was identified as a Jew and sent to Sobibor, a Polish concentration camp, where he died. The entire story of Galinka and Jaap and the publications of toys, games, and novelty books in pre- and post-WWII Europe will one day be published by Theo.
It was clear from Theo’s talk how passionate he is about unearthing the past of these books we all love. He begged us “to go into the stories [and history] behind our books,” Blue Ribbon Press, Saalfield, and Whitman, to name a few. He guaranteed such research would “bring a deep satisfaction.” I know I was inspired. We hope you will be too!
What would an election be without a winner?
With much to think about we moved on to the last items on our agenda. Abby and Adie teamed up to read the auction winners. Truly everyone was a winner since the Movable Book Society netted $2410!!
At last it was time to award the Meggendorfer Prize. Attendees were first told how important it is to make the MBS Board aware of any books worthy of the Meggendorfer Prize. Pop-up and movable books are not uniformly distributed in the US or in the world. Books of great artistry, originality, ingenuity, or having a fine integration of text and theme should be considered for the Prize. But first, the Board must know of their existence.
How fortunate I feel to be the one to call out the winner’s name. I intoned, “In our very own galaxy, not so long ago, a paper engineer was born. Matthew Reinhart you have won the 2008 Meggendorfer Prize for Star Wars: A Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy.” Matthew, beaming that brilliant white smile, charged up to the lectern to receive his honor.
“ Congratulations!” rang out all around, followed by warm goodbyes. We came. We saw. We learned. We conquered.
I am The Popuplady and I approve of this message.
Photo below: LtoR-Theo Gielen, Robert Sabuda, The Popuplady, Matthew Reinhart
LtoR-Linda Costello, Ann Montanaro, Matthew Reinhart, The Popuplady, Adie Peña