Los Angeles, CA 1998
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted from Movable Stationery Vol.6 No.2, May 1998)
Like children who have long awaited the return of the carnival, the participants of the Second Biannual Movable Book Society Conference celebrated ebulliently at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton, April 30-May 3. From the first evening, the line between strangers and old friends was quickly blurred with handshakes, kisses, and introductions. No sooner were packets with nametags, program, and rolling pin bookmark for Cookie Count, signed by Robert Sabuda, put aside, were pop-ups whisked out of pockets and handbags. The ‘Show and Tell’ Sideshow had begun. “Have you ever seen this book?” “I made these. What do you think?” “I found this on the Internet!” And the question most often asked on Thursday and still heatedly debated on Sunday, ”Where will the next Convention be?”
Adding to the Carnival atmosphere was the concurrent convention of ballroom dancers who filled the corridors and elevators with bespangled women, heavily made-up, elaborately dressed and coifed, squired by pomaded men in either cutaways or tight pants and shirts open to the navel. We appeared schoolmarmish in comparison, especially with our ever-present children’s books in tow.
Wally Hunt graced our first evening, dropping pearls of pop-up trivia everywhere he went. When shown a copy of “My Friend the Dragon” for Random House’s Magic-Motion books, he explained why there are bibliographical pages at the back, as there are in several other early books.* Some of us fought off jet-lag while intimately sitting around a small table examining the pop-ups of the “wunderkind”, Andrew Baron, a self-taught paper engineer. While deservedly proud of himself, Andrew acknowledged, “Wally is the taproot.”
Friday morning opened with the sunny presence of Ed Hutchins giving his lecture, “Toying With Books: Playing with Conventions”, the same title as his UCLA show. Eschewing self-promotion, Ed gave an overview of his work with movable books beginning in 1974 with an annual report for his Dad. While admitting all his books start with a conventional book format, they almost never end up that way. My “books have so much more than is immediately apparent.” Ed, in professorial vest and beard, gave an overview of his work from The Rabbit Report with scrolling text to Moving the Obstinate with panoramic text housed in an obelisk to intricate tunnel and unfolding books. Like a magician giving away his secrets, Ed showed how a complicated book ,such as The Shape of Things, was made from a single sheet of paper. There were “Oohs” and “Ahs” from the appreciative audience. In Twisted, the rotating covers keep changing the message much as the moving tiles change the message in Mosaic. Asked if these books can take the rough handling, Ed responded, “Yes, but dog-eared is a good quality for a book.”
Chuck Murphy, our next lecturer, echoed this thought. When I gave him his Smiley’s Super Station to sign, he told me some of the punch-out figures were missing.* But, he added, since my books are intended for children, “If a book doesn’t show signs of handling, I haven’t done my job.” Chuck gave us an A-to-Z (really 1-15) of how pop-ups are made, from concept to bookshelf. This was “The World of Pop-ups, According to Chuck Murphy.” First is Murphy’s Law: “What pop-ups up, must fold down.” Despite all the fanciful pop-ups we have seen, it all boils down to two types, both triangles, sitting on the base page. The triangle allows for pivoting, and the art and additional folds add to the complexity. Striving for the maximum pop-up on a page, he clearly takes delight in making his readers wonder how the folded pop-up ever fit inside the book.
Purity of design is achieved by using fewer pieces of paper. Although children are his usual audience, he always strives for the “Wow! factor” to appeal to adults. Using his forthcoming book, Jack and the Beanstalk, as an example, Chuck took us through the steps of putting this book together. He talked of the “opportunity for serendipity” in manipulating paper and the tedium inherent in completing the artwork. Jack will be part of a fairytale series for Little Simon, with signed, boxed editions being offered. Murphy admits to “thinking like a child” and when asked, if he ever took formal child development courses, he responded he didn’t have to, “I’m the oldest of seven children.”
It was now time for our outing. With growling stomachs, we descended upon Intervisual Books begging to be the first of the three groups to have lunch. After an elegant bite, al fresco in the California sunshine, we were escorted to the inner sancta of Chairman Waldo Hunt’s Pop-up Museum. Unlike any other office I have ever visited, desks and shelves spilled over with toys and toy books. The corridors were lined with well-lit glass exhibition cases housing movable books from 1860 to the present. Among the many Meggendorfer’s and Nister’s, was The Motographa Moving Picture Book (1898) sporting the only book cover ever done by Toulouse Lautrec. Wally walked us along the cases, pointing out the historical highlights as well as the trivia. There is no finer docent for pop-up books.
The final segment of our tour was the humbling experience of making pop-up valentines, ably instructed by our Disneyland-like guide, Jim Rives. Some of us (me) needed remediation in folding the pre-scored sheets, artwork by David A. Carter. The paper engineers at my table, Robert Sabuda and Ed Hutchins, tried not to jump ahead and successfully refrained from yawning. As with the 8 year olds who usually take this course, we were repeatedly reminded not to put too much glue on the tabs, a lesson lost on our leader, Ann Montanaro.
The last leg of our tour took us to see Ed Hutchins’ exhibit in the august stacks of the UCLA University Research Library, Department of Special Collections. Ed, with his usual determination to give us his best, had finished the catalog the night before, complete with movable cover. Spread before us in the minimally adorned cases, was a visual history of Ed’s body of work. We were grateful we had had the opportunity to see many of these books in action as part of his lecture. Totally exhausted, both from jet-lag and excitement overload, we made our way back through the LA traffic to a much-deserved rest before dinner.
Well…maybe we weren’t so exhausted. After dinner, and a brief foray trying to attend the dance contest, several of us got word that there were two dealers selling books in their rooms. Dealers is a perfect name for the people we stealthily sought with our addictive personalities, whispering their room numbers from collector to collector. The sweating dancers in the elevators eyed us with suspicion.
Saturday morning, we were prepared for a full-day’s schedule.Our first speaker, Betty Traganza, delighted us with her off-hand style, accepting ‘coaching’ from her husband, Gene, in the front row. These Hallmark Book collectors were an impressive team between the wealth of knowledge gleaned from years of collecting and a trip to the Hallmark Visitor’s Center in Kansas City to the wonderful slides of her presentation. Betty’s years as a pre-school instructor was obvious by her insights into what children love in pop-up books and her infectious enthusiasm telling the stories, as she did with Gulliver’s Travels and Dr. Dolittle. We learned the history of Mr. Joyce Hall, founder of Hallmark, from his birth in David City, Nebraska in 1891 to his mail order postcard business in Kansas City at 18 years of age. The Hallmark Editions began in 1967 as gift items and the Children’s Editions were started in 1970 with ten titles, all dust-jacketed. Often titles were sold and resold and artwork lost, so that books were reissued with newly designed covers. * Betty broke down the various books into categories, fantasy, activity, and instructional. The Remarkable Mr. Franklin an example of the latter.
Betty’s topic made a wonderful segue for the next speaker, Pat Paris, the illustrator and paper engineer who started working for Hallmark in 1961. Pat painted a picture of Hallmark artists “treated as prima donnas, working in a family atmosphere, their styles the point from where new artists “had to start”. Paris’ pixie appearance was heightened by her enthusiasm to share her wealth of knowledge and experience. Her original artwork, mock-ups, and storyboards served as a colorful backdrop for her talk. We were grateful to see them considering most unwanted artwork was shredded! Hallmark was always a “wealthy” company, with lots of new products under development and even had their own palate of inks. Early on, 1965-1970, Hallmark produced a series of shaped, spiral bound greeting cards with fold-down dioramas. The titles, Cactus Creek, The Red Barn Farm, The Christmas Story, The Paper Doll House, and Bunnyland had punch-out figures, a mailing envelope, and were sold for $1.00!! Pat continued to lay-out the sequence of Hallmark’s involvement with pop-up books, covering the purchase of Hunt’s Graphic International and licensing products such as Snoopy and Mr. Rogers, and a cast of artists and paper engineers recognizable to all who collect Hallmark books. Ib Penick, the paper engineer who worked with Waldo Hunt, is credited with teaching the people at Carvajal how to do pop-ups. Dean Walley, writer of many books, is still with Hallmark today.
Pat walked us down a circuitous path of Hallmark titles with changing covers and publishers, an almost impossible trail to follow. The Haunted House was one of Hallmark’s most successful books, with over 300,00 copies printed, while the first ten titles with dust-jackets (previously mentioned by Betty Traganza) had only 10,000 copies printed. No wonder they are so hard to find…especially with dust-jackets!!! Paris went on to be a partner at Compass Productions with Dick Dudley and outlined her career there. Recently, she has designed the characters at Sea World in San Diego, the Ewoks of the third trilogy for Lucas Films, and Indians and Greece, multi-media activity packs.
Not to lose the momentum of our lectures, we broke briefly for another delightful al fresco lunch and returned to the surprisingly professorial demeanor of Robert Sabuda. In clear, measured cadences, Robert marched us through the history of pop-up books from early medical texts of 1660 using volvelles, through the harlequinades for young readers, circa 1770, to Dean & Sons, Raphael Tuck, and Nister, founders of “The Golden Age” of pop-up books, just around the turn of this century. Meggendorfer was given a deferential nod. In command of the dates, Robert recited the progression from these pre-World War I publishers to the Bookano series, later “ripped-off with better color” by Blue Ribbon Press (1930s). The Jolly Jump-ups appeared in the ’30’s and 40’s as well, having fan-folded pop-ups with text parallel to the spine. In the 1960’s, this format was continued by V. Kubašta, working in Prague. Kubašta, however, increased the number of cuts and folds, creating “elegant and humorous” pop-ups, daring ”to show the dark side of fairy tales.” Robert rounded out his talk by referring to “The Second Golden Age” begun in 1970, heralded by Waldo Hunt working with Random House and Hallmark. Responding to a question about the colors of his own work, Robert told us, like Hallmark, he has been known to mix his own inks.
Howard Rootenberg of B&L Rootenberg Books specializing in antiquarian medical and scientific texts, our next speaker, induced the most sighs of awe. A former copyright lawyer, Howard now works for his mother, Barbara, “one of very few women dealers of rare books”, according to Biblio Magazine (Feb.’98). While many of us struggle to secure movable books from the 1800s, Howard started his talk with a movable astrological text from 1507! This antiquity, with volvelles, was followed by a star atlas dated 1588 in the rare condition of having its volvelles intact, meaning uncut. Readers were expected to assemble the volvelles themselves. Among his peers, movables are called “flap books”. He continued with anatomical flap-books made not only for doctors and surgeons, but later produced for barber shops and bath houses which did bloodletting. Responding to a question about first editions, Howard told us there were no copyright laws back then, and it is only with great subtlety first editions can be determined. The sweep through flap-book history continued with the 19th century books of William Tucson which were hand-colored teaching aids. Most books of this type were continually used until they fell apart and then discarded, contributing to their rarity. The last medical book was “The Body Scope”, a 1935 folio with several wheels changing organs on both the male and female. It sells for $1250. Parenthetically, Howard noted that in most anatomical books of all ages, the female anatomy was initially concealed by a finely drawn towel or garment. This fact provided the introduction to our final speaker, yours truly, on the topic of “Pop-ups for Grown-ups.”
The slide-show was an overview of books from my collection which, by virtue of their subject or the level on which they were written, I considered books for adults. Overlapping Howard, I started with my oldest book, Spratt’s Obstetrical Tables (1848), teaching obstetricians with chromolithographed flaps how to deliver babies, and continued through medical and veterinary texts from the turn of the century. A 1914 sales aid for the internal combustion engine was demonstrated highlighting it’s unique double-sided movable. The collection then skips to recent years with books on Science, People from Elvis and the Beatles to Queen Elizabeth, Sports, and Art including Andy Warhol’s Index Book. Saved for the end were those books strictly for adults, presented with increasing torridness. The Roaring Twenties and The Naughty Nineties were artistically evocative of their times. Many collectors had never seen Pornographics by Dan Greenberg (1969) using movables to hide the nudity in great works of art or Man’s Best Friend by Peter Mayle featuring the cartoon stand-up comedian, Wicked Willie. While many knew the tepid presentation of sex in The Kama Sutra, few had seen the German reproduction of the 17th century French book, Aber Dahinter (But Behind That..). Although using only lift-the-flaps, these beautifully colored plates depicted explicit sex scenes, and also managed to poke fun at the Church. Finally, with some embarrassment, I showed some of the plates from The Secret Carnival (1988) by David Russell. This limited edition book graphically presented a pornographic ‘story’ set in Venice. The hand-colored plates were well appreciated.
Much like children dismissed from school, we
ran, en masse, for the sale and swap tables
and the paper engineers poised to sign our
displays by booksellers and the orderly name tags for paper engineers,
chaos reigned as collectors sorted through the many books they had schlepped
all parts of the world. The smell of idolatry was in the air as we had
to talk with David Carter, Jim Deesing, José Seminário, Linda Costello,
Robert Sabuda, and John Strejan, the most seasoned of the engineers present.
John, better known as “Silverblade”, had many a tale to tell. * The
younger artists, Renee Jablow, Allison Higa and especially, Willabel Tong, were
awestruck by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the collectors. Ms.Tong, a designer “removed
from the consumer”, had “no idea the excitement these books cause.” Lamenting
that Roger Smith and Lynette Ruschak were ‘no shows’ but
grateful for what we had, we crawled back to our rooms, looking wilted
against the ram-rod
posture of the dancers prancing their way to the ballroom.
Well, our fairytale weekend was coming to a close. The banquet started with Wally Hunt telling us all about the untimely death of Ib Penick that week in South Carolina. Only several seconds of the minute of silence had elapsed before Wally broke in saying, “It wasn’t a minute but Ib worked very fast.” The laughter was followed by words of praise.
Our keynote speaker, Robert Sabuda, was atypically dressed in suit and tie, looking like a little boy in his Sunday best. Robert sketched his roots in rural Michigan where at 7 or 8 years old, he saw his first pop-up book in a dentist’s office. Immediately, Robert was drawn to the wonder of these books, peeking between the pages, teaching himself to make them using manila folders his mom “lifted” from the Ford Motor Company where she worked. It was his “destiny to be a bookmaker.” Leaving Michigan at 17 for Pratt Institute where he is now an associate professor, Robert began as an illustrator of children’s books. He has now dedicated himself to reversing the ‘unhealthy perception’ that picture books are better than pop-ups, “the stepchildren of children’s books.”
It was time for the last item on the program, the presentation of “The Meggendorfer Prize.” It was my honor to describe The Prize to our members. Like the Caldecott and Newberry Awards for children’s stories and illustrations, it was felt that there should be recognition of the best movable book. The Prize is called The Meggendorfer to honor the paper engineer members agree set the highest standards for movables and, therefore, would set the standard for The Prize. At the start of the convention, a ‘ballot-like’ list (see “Choosing the Best Pop-up Books”, Movable Stationary -Dec ’97) was given to attendees to vote on the best movable book. The winner was The Christmas Alphabet, and Ann Montanaro presented The Movable Book Society’s first Meggendorfer Prize to Robert Sabuda. Robert was at a loss for words.
With spirits high and a hopeful vision of pop-ups
no longer being the ‘stepchildren’ of
children’s books, our fairy tale adventure ended. The ballroom dancers,
who colored our weekend, heard the last of their music fade away. But Waldo Hunt
heard music of his own and asked Ann Montanaro to dance. Were they dancing to
the silent strains of Beauty and the Beast? Will ‘happily ever after’ be
another convention in two years in some exotic location?
* Convention Trivia
Books imported from Asia had to have a certain
number of pages to NOT be considered advertising
and be charged a higher duty, therefore, the
bibliography was added to increase the length
of the book.
• According to Wally Hunt, in The Pop-up Mice of Mr. Brice, Waldo refers to
• Theo LeSieg is Geisel backwards referring to Dr. Seuss.
• Thomas Beach, author of Creepy, Crawly Halloween Fright, is really Robert Sabuda. Compass Productions wanted Robert to create a holiday book but Robert couldn’t use his own name. Beach is an old family name on the Sabuda tree.
• In Smiley’s Super Service (1971) by Chuck Murphy, the girl character is Murphy’s daughter.
• First edition Hallmark books sold for $4 indicated in code on the books’ back cover, have double-sided artwork, and illustrated endpapers.
• Adie Peña came from the Philippines, the furthest distance traveled by a MBS member to the Convention.
• David A. Carter is married to Tor Lokvig’s daughter.
• Jim Deesing is married to Wally Hunt’s daughter.
• John Strejan is called “Silverblade” because of his reputed speed with a pair of scissors, his silver hair (in a long ponytail), and his nickname, “The Gayblade,” earned when he was between marriages.
• The story, “Friend of the Dragon”, (Random House-Magic Motion Series) was one Wally told his daughter, Jamie, at bedtime embellishing Wally’s train ride home from New York City to Scarsdale.
• The cigars in The Consummate Cigar Book are called, Hualdos, after Waldo Hunt.
• Michael Hague used his own face for that of Gulliver’s in Hallmark’s pop-up, Gulliver’s Travels.
• Dr. Edith Dowley, acknowledged on the back of several Hallmark Children’s Editions, was a psychology professor at Stanford University.
• Four small books (4X6) previously published in larger format by Hallmark were issued in a box. The titles were: World of Horses; Kingdom of the Sea; Backyard Zoo; The Terrible Lizards