mbs

about the movable
book society

Introduction to MBS

Join the
Movable Book Society

Meggendorfer Prize winners

Movable Stationery
Read a sample issue

Brooklyn Pops Up!
Exhibit in 2000

after the conference

MBS in Boston, MA 2016

MBS in Philadelphia, PA 2014

An Electrifying Conference
Salt Lake City, Utah 2012

The Movable Book Society
Conference-A First 1996

Convention Roundup
Los Angeles, CA 1998

Dear Diary
MBS Meets in NYC '00

MBS Grows Up
Milwaukee, WI
2002

With a Song in Our Hearts
San Diego, CA 2004

Open House
Chicago, IL 2006

Partisans and Pop-ups
Washington, DC 2008

Magic and Passion
Portland, Oregon 2010

 

With a Song in Our Hearts 2004

By Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted from Movable Stationary Vol. No. 2004)

And the song, from beginning to end, I found in the heart of a friend.
Longfellow

Thursday, Sept. 30, 2004
Melody or harmony we have found “the song” that has unified us; one that vocalizes our passion for pop-up and movable books. We have become a chorus, all singing our parts. In San Diego at the end of September, 2004, we gathered to celebrate the Movable Book Society‘s 10th Anniversary. This convention was the best attended ever and that augurs well for our future.

As is our tradition-this being our 5th meeting, we can now talk in terms of traditions- the Convention was centered on an exhibition. In San Diego, it was Stand and Deliver: engineering sculpture into a book format, curated by our own, Ed Hutchins of Editions, and sponsored by the Brookfield (CT) Craft Center and the Movable Book Society. Fifty-two spectacularly unique books were chosen from over 150 submissions, each with movable parts. That first evening, we left the Hilton Gaslamp Quarter, piled into the bus and van, and headed out to the Mesa College Art Gallery, which hosted the exhibition. The small room of the gallery was a maze of tables covered edge to edge with books. Those who were too warm in the close quarters enjoyed the refreshments and the camaraderie of fellow conventioneers and Mesa College students and faculty who joined us.

Like a chorus of frogs, individual voices were homogenized while exclaiming this book or that. Still, as I walked around the tables, I heard:

Matthew Reinhart on Shawn Sheehy’s stickleback fish in Welcome to the Neighborhood- “What a movement!

Super job!

Kelly Houle’s honest response to the accolades for her amazing first pop-up book, Why is a raven like a writing desk? (a riddle asked in Alice in Wonderland)-“I stole from everybody.”

Kyle Olmon’s reciting an anagram for bookmaker- OK. I am broke.

Books took every form imaginable from a baby’s shoe to an iron to a ukulele (about and FROM which you’ll hear more later). There were awards for the best books in six categories chosen by noted paper engineers, such as Robert Sabuda and Hedi Kyle. Ed hosted a mélange of book artists who described their processes and intent in the books they offered the exhibit. The catalog is a treasure all should own (contact Ed Hutchins at ed@artistbooks.com) with pop-up, pop-outs (thanks to Kyle) and a gloriously interactive CD-Rom of the entries.

 

Friday, October 1

Our first full day dawned bright and beautiful. (Of course! We were in San Diego!). Frank Gagliardi took the podium as our host for the duration of the conference. Frank, a librarian, talked briefly about his collection of bibliographic catalogs from pop-up exhibitions. He handed out a list of catalogs he owns, asked for others we may know of, and highlighted the Yale catalog of Eccentric Books from 1988 that had a pop-up dinosaur. (This is the exhibition that jettisoned my collecting habit.) Frank spoke sadly of the losses our pop-up world had experienced since the last convention with the deaths of Barbara Valenta, Jim Sinski, Guillermo Holguin, and John Strejan.

The first speaker of the day was Adie Peña, one of  ‘The Gang of Seven’, who worked on the Movable Book Society‘s Celebration book, first conceived at the Milwaukee Convention. Adie began his PowerPoint presentation with an Alice in Wonderland quote, “What is the use of a book without pictures and conversation?” He scrolled and read many of the emails written by The Gang (Robert Sabuda, Adie, Ann Montanaro, Andy Baron, Larry Seidman, Jessica DuLong, and yours truly), emails that had shot around the world over the course of two years. (Robert and I cringed in the back of the room fearing to see emails we thought would never see the light of day.) The chronological arrangement and sheer quantity of correspondence gave a clear picture of the enormity of this undertaking, the publishing of the Celebration book.

The messages highlighted the roles members played in the effort. Robert (as in Robert’s Rules of Order) kept calling for ‘the virtual vote’ to ensure a timely consensus on the multitude of decisions, e.g. how many spreads, how many pop-ups, which paper engineers, titles, colors, etc. [He was]”breathing down our necks,” Adie sighed.

Andy obsessed over the details, such as where to put the long string-tabs of the Nister spread when the book is packed. Jessica DuLong, our young but very able editor, “whipped everyone in line” insisting on our adhering to deadlines. (Imagine that!)

Somehow, I was ‘the comic foil’ pointing out various options along the way and exclaiming, since I hate the color pink, my biography of Kubašta should not be on pink paper, especially since Kubašta wore a clashing orange shirt in the photo! With the deadline clock running on fast, the final graphic design fell to Adie. (I admit here to have lost focus when the emails talked heavily of die-lines, colors, font size, etc.) Andy working in his studio with Kyle logged over 300 hours on the project. Robert’s and Adie’s studios put in similar efforts. Adie spoke of dealing with the book’s “kilometric” title of 16 words (A Celebration of Pop-up and Movable Books: Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Movable Book Society) and trying to “unify the book with the font.” Ann had insisted that certain words be in the title for librarians to search.

A “glorious” moment arrived when Adie received the white dummy. With the aid of PowerPoint, Adie let us see it has he had, opening each spread slowly. The presentation was set to the uplifting music of Ravel’s Bolero. We ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ experiencing what Adie had experienced, a tangible culmination of months of work by many hands over great distances. Adie ended his talk by also referring to the paper engineers we had lost recently and suggested that we not stop at ‘Celebration’ but move on to ‘Continuation.’ We silently let him end on that note.

The next lecture was a love song if there ever was one. “Love’s Animation: The Books of Julian Wehr,” was given by Paul Wehr, Julian Wehr’s middle child. Paul, a professor emeritus in Sociology at the University of Colorado, spoke of “how love crafted animated books for children.” He brought a “sociologist’s perspective” to his father’s life explaining that the animated books were “a family product.” Julian Wehr, born August Julian Wehrfritz in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York, had a ‘sad childhood’ darkly colored by a domineering mother. He never finished high school but did attend the Art Students’ League in New York. His marriage to Margarite ended in 1932 after the Stock Market Crash. They had one daughter Camilla who never was a part of his life.

The love story, however, centered on Wehr’s second wife, Juliette (called Julie), a stalwart supporter of Julian’s art. Julie, an art teacher herself, had originally planned to open an orphanage in Connecticut with money she inherited from her father. This plot of land would later benefit the Wehr family. From the beginning, art was a family affair. For example, Julian did woodcuts to illustrate the book, The Island by Claire Spencer and Julie used the dustjacket as advertising to attract more work. Woodcuts and sculpture were really Wehr’s first love; the areas he attempted to concentrate his efforts throughout his life. In 1940 he applied for a patent on a rocker design animation with as many as 5 moving parts. Other patents were to follow.  In 1941, when their daughter, Jeanine, was born, (eldest son, David, had been born in 1934) Wehr lost his job. The country was facing war and living in New York seemed dangerous, although Julian was able to produce some propaganda posters. Julie had begun a girdle business, which now also fell on hard times. The one resounding success was Wehr’s first movable book, The Exciting Adventures of Finnie the Fiddler, published by Cupples & Leon Co. of N.Y., and printed by Duenewald, in 1942. Paul hypothesized that his father, whose parents were German, was probably familiar with the work of Lothar Meggendorfer and so appreciated movable illustrations.

With royalties coming in, the Wehrs packed themselves into their ’37 Dodge and settled in rural Roxbury, Vermont in a home without indoor plumbing or electricity. Wehr cut wood for a living and received ‘care packages’ from New York. Still a young boy, Paul remembers these times as excruciatingly happy having filtered out the privations and, as is common with tots, unaware of the stresses on the adults.
Wehr’s publisher, Duenewald, began demanding new titles, and the prolific animator brought mock-ups to New York. He called the animated books, ‘monkey books’, and they sold well to those who had been deprived of such luxuries during the Depression. Duenewald Publications produced most of Wehr’s books, doing the lithography, die-cuts, printing, and assembly in upstate New York. Paul delighted us by showing a Rube Goldberg-like cartoon his father drew outlining the process of making a movable book, from conception to market.

A brief time in the mid-40s would be Wehr’s happiest days. He converted a barn to a sculpture studio and used teak, marble, and exotic woods for his art. This joy was not to last. A fire in the studio burned all but one piece of sculpture, Introspection, of a man from a NYC subway. It now sits proudly in Paul’s house. The late 40s also brought ‘cooling’ of the demand for animated books in the US. Europe’s market remained better, however, and Raphael Tuck began publishing several titles. In the ‘50s, Argentina also began publishing additional Wehr titles.

Despair settled in on Julian Wehr. In 1948, on the Connecticut property Julie thought she would use for an orphanage, the Wehr’s built a house. The move brought the grandparents, including Julian’s abusive mother, under the same roof. The innovative animator thought to make movable toys but this idea never went anywhere. He occasionally drew family portraits as well. Down on their luck, Julie went to work for Stanley Home Products. Whatever their circumstances, Julie was uncomplaining and supportive.

In 1960, the Wehr family moved again, this time to Deland, Florida. Julie worked as a teacher, and Julian at small jobs for $3 per hour. His health was flawed with a heart condition and emphysema. Florida’s bright light for Julian was his ability to continue sculpting at home using steel, bronze, mosaics, and marble, which he began to sell. He received minor recognition in a retrospective exhibition at Earlham College, in Indiana. Julie wrote a book on their life, The Wehrwithal or Never a Dull Moment.

The great love affair ended in 1970 with Julian Wehr’s death at the age of 72. Julie died in 1993. The Wehr family has decided to reproduce their father’s books, beginning with Snow White, the edition with movables on the endpapers only. Paul had several copies for sale at the Book Sale on Saturday. The Wehr Collection, Julian Wehr Animated Book Papers, 1937-1962, is available at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia in Charlottlesville. The love-song Paul Wehr crooned filled our hearts and made Julian Wehr a closer member of our pop-up family.

We floated from our seats to the patio where beautiful tables were set in the California sunshine. In a flash, books were on the tables: the Celebration book members were seeing for the first time, mock-ups of work fledgling paper engineers were trustingly showing to members to register reactions, and special books members just wanted to share with others in our tradition of ‘bring show-and-tell.’ The din of happy conversation floated up like moats of dust into the air.

Charlotte Johnson is a like a pop-up illustration. She is quiet, reserved, even shy with others when covertly observed. But, she is only waiting to be made ‘interactive.’ Ask her to talk on her favorite topics, edible books and book sleuthing, and she virtually pops into action. Who would have thought the ins-and-outs of Googling could be so much fun? Speaking on “Movable Books on the Internet” and with many librarians in the room, the whole lecture was interactive! Charlotte coyly maneuvered between the terms, ‘networking’, ‘appropriating’ and ‘stealing.’ Of course, plagiarism was defined and put in its proper place. Tsk, tsk! She warned of searching for ‘pop-ups’ without excluding the word, Viagra. We hadn’t imagined that there could be 13 million hits on the term ‘pop-up’ which would also include the popular drug. If you want pop-up books, search for pop-up+books, without any spaces. She digressed to add putting a zip code into Google, will get one to local places. Finally, we were apprised of the term, Amazoogle. Those of us still with one-and-a half feet in the 20th century had no idea we were crossing into another age, one with computational hubs made up of Ebay, MapQuest, Amazon, and Yahoo, to name but a few electronic catalogs. To help us completely cross into this new age, Charlotte provided lists of websites giving us virtual exhibits, museums, libraries, and personal websites of paper engineers, publishers, and collectors from around the world. Interactive, indeed!

Ambar Past, our next speaker, is a self-proclaimed “Renegade Housewife” who left home “with the breakfast dishes still on the table.” She certainly looked the real deal in a long peasant skirt, embroidered shirt, pigtail down her back, and earrings with images of Spanish saints. At 23 years old, Ambar had moved from the US to Meso-America, south of Mexico City, and lived in mud huts through the generosity of the native people. One could imagine her Spanish to be flawless. Ambar told us of the Aztec/Mayan 1000 year old history of bookmaking, and that long before the coming of Columbus, paper was made from bark and fan-folded to make codices. Samples of the bark were circulated in the lecture room for us to feel and appreciate. In those times, “poets worked full-time for the gods”, poetry was considered an “essential part of daily life,” and “despite primitive conditions…[people] prayed to the god of letters.” So connected were the Mayans to writing that they later  called the Sun, “El Escribiano”-the writer. When the Spaniards came, they burned the natives’ books. Fewer than 100 Aztec books exist today and only 4 Mayan books.

Archaeological digs are continually finding papermaking stones, which were common household objects in pre-Hispanic Mexico. The musical thread was picked up again by Ambar’s video which played enchanting pan-flute music while we watched her make the book, The Lady of Ur, which won for Serious Content in the Stand and Deliver exhibition.

We returned from a short break complete with snacks to find our lecture hall turned into a ‘theater-in-the-round’. Our moderator was Audrey Goldrich who was gushing with enthusiasm. In her ‘real’ life, Audrey is a psychotherapist who keeps pop-up books in her waiting room. We were being treated to a ‘group session’ on “Showing One’s Own Books,” the ins and outs of setting up small exhibitions. Audrey’s intent in doing exhibitions is “to share something [she] love[s] with other people.” She stressed that one’s collection need not be large to mount an exhibit.

Audrey gave us the benefit of her experience, from the political pitfalls of turf-wars between reference and children’s librarians to the innovative use of multiple paper tablets to prop up books. Improvisation seemed the key element to displaying a book properly in different exhibit cases. She even had cleverly used rocks from her garden to keep open the books for a dinosaur exhibit. Displaying pop-up books is a ‘visual experience’ and one must choose books by taking into account both the intended audience and the size and number of display cases the venue has to offer.

Audrey cautioned against leaving books open too long exposed to light and heat. Where she can, she uses Styrofoam supports to relieve stress on the spines. She tries to use ‘cripples’, duplicates from her collection that may only have one or two pop-ups worth showing. While her exhibitions have not necessitated formal paper work, others in the room suggested exhibitors having insurance. There were many other suggestions by MBS members, such as remembering to turn off micro-chips so that the Elvis book, for example, doesn’t continually play, “Love Me Tender.” C.J. Grossman, who had produced The Book of Chiles, cautioned to use chopsticks when handling her book. When Ann Montanaro does an exhibition, she puts masking tape on her home carpet the size of an intended vitrine and then lays out the books. For those of us who want to “Shop and Share,” this lecture gave us much to go on. Audrey’s most sober take home message, not to be ignored, was “Make friends with the handyman!”

We thought we were weary and at the end of the day’s lectures. Many had already hurried to the elevators to freshen up for dinner around San Diego. For those of us who dragged our feet-and there were many-a final treat lay at the back of the room. Unscheduled, but hardly unprepared, Larry Seidman had laid out a table filled with never-seen-before delights. The ‘King of Show-and-Tell’, Larry always has a surprise on hand. (I once ran into him at a local book fair and Larry pulled from his pockets and various envelopes movables that made my eyes pop…and my collector’s mouth drool.) It was Larry who offered Nister’s Come and Go with its unique mechanism to the Celebration book. None of us in The Gang of Seven had ever seen it…and that’s saying a lot considering the collections The Gang represents. Coupled with Larry’s examples of early rivets, games, and singular mechanisms is an encyclopedic knowledge of printing techniques and publishers’ histories. He pointed out, using examples from his collection, that Dean and Sons used very fine rivets around 1850 and after 1840, the rivets were often made of copper. Until 1840, many ‘rivets’ were made of knotted string. He showed us free-standing cards of a pair of musicians, hand-colored around 1800. The violinist was very similar to Meggendorfer’s famous one with finely articulated limbs. For the Dean’s Book of Games and Pastimes, Larry talked about the difference between stone lithography and copperplate printing. The ages and uniqueness of Larry’s treats plus that extra ‘layer’ of knowledge put the icing on our lecture-cake. Let’s give him a formal slot for our next convention! We’ve much to learn from Dr. Larry!

Dinner was a time for us all to relax, especially me who intentionally left my notepad in my room. This was the first conference I could remember where I really got to know book artists and paper engineers who were new to the group. At dinner, for example, was Val Van Sice a perky person if there ever was one. Val was the youngest at our table but easily held up her end of the discussion with those of us longer-in-the-tooth, Adie Peña, Andy Baron, and Dagmar Kubaštová and Colleen Moore. Val’s book, A Little Knowledge…., seen in Stand and Deliver, showed the depth of her maturity is belied by her appearance.

During lunch that first day, I had been able to continue my conversation, begun at the Exhibition, with Shawn Sheehy who was working on a Masters Degree in Fine Arts at Columbia College in Chicago. His Welcome to the Neighborhood in the exhibit had originally been made of cereal boxes. After showing the prototype at the Milwaukee conference to Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, he made substantial changes, which he feels contributed to his entry being a better book. The final book used hand-made paper.


Saturday, October 2

So do the San Diegan’s ever tire of their incessant sunshine? I threw open the curtains and there it was blazing down, smiling. And smiling too was Ann Montanaro, our MBS leader, ready to give her first lecture to the Society. How has she managed to avoid it all these years? I guess building on her 10 years of experience with MBS, she had the convention under control and could now turn her inexhaustible energy to preparing a talk. Of course, her topic, Raphael Tuck and Sons, was huge but her supreme research ability and organizational skills would serve us all well.

German-born Raphael Tuck (1820-1900) worked as a carpenter but at some point began selling prints and frames in London. Like Julian Wehr, he was greatly helped by his wife. The Tucks had four sons, who later came into the business, and three daughters. The advent of chromolithography (Ann explained etching vs chromolithography) allowed for mass-produced prints, books, and cards at cheaper prices. The German printers remained the most sophisticated for decades and Tuck had his material printed there. Die-cut cards originated in the 19th century and son, Adolph, greatly promoted them. A “dynamic personality” and “perfectionist”, Adolph offered prizes to his designers to come up with original Christmas cards. The cards became a staple of the business, and by 1910 Tuck had over 4000 designs.

Tuck’s trademark, an easel and palette, were introduced in 1880. Raphael Tuck retired in 1881 turning his successful business over to his sons, principally Adolph. Continuing to be the innovator, Adolph was able to persuade the British post office to allow a full side of a post card to be a design element. Illustrated postcards became a mainstay of the company followed later by trade cards. Like baseball cards today, Tuck and Sons produced them in sets and prompted the public to buy the whole set.

Among other innovations that kept the company at the top of its game were number series cards, die-cut cards that had removable pieces, puzzle cards, and in 1893, paper doll books. Scrapbooking became popular in Victorian times and the Tuck company cashed in with their die-cuts cards and other paper items used for, among other things, decoupage. The Christmas Card, invented by Louis Prang, a German-born Bostonian, continued to give Tuck a lucrative market.

All the while, Tuck was publishing flat, fabric-‘untearable linen’-shaped, and movable books. It is unknown how many titles were included in their extensive inventory, though it is estimated somewhere between 500-1000 titles. Several of these genres were produced in series, such as, The Golden Gift and Welcome Gift Series, Father Tuck’s Mechanical Series, with pull-tabs, and the Panorama Series begun in the 1890s. All of these were printed in Germany, and Tuck maintained an office in Berlin. Raphael Tuck died in 1900. In 1910, Adolph Tuck became a Baronet with the title, Sir. The company already had on their products, Publishers to Their Majesties The King & Queen.  The Tuck grandsons, Reginald and Desmond, carried on the family’s business.
World War I brought difficulties to the Tuck organization as it did to printing the world over. Tuck’s Berlin office was taken over by the Germans, and the Germans called for a boycott of Tuck’s products. Still, the Tuck group showed pluck (couldn’t resist, sorry) and revived their production of valentines, helping them through the Depression Era. Among the spectacular images Ann showed us -for which she thanked her many friends and the Lilly Library website-was a unique negative Valentine. I guess the British weren’t afraid to ‘tell it like it is.”

The “Come to Life” series and the Tuck Annuals With Realistic Surprise Pictures of the 1930s were especially full of pop-ups, some in diorama form, some with “support braces.” Many of these books were lavish productions with beautifully illustrated endpapers. Theo Gielen was especially helpful to Ann here with “invaluable documentation.”

World War II brought further devastation to the Tuck family with the London office destroyed in the bombings. Shortages in all materials, including labor, drastically decreased the company’s output. But the 1950s brought new opportunities. There were multiple paper oddities for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1954, and a movie tie-in for Annie Get Your Gun. Julian Wehr saw several of his animated books revived by Tuck usually with movables only on the endpapers. In 1954, Reginald Tuck died, and Desmond retired in 1959. In 1962 Purnell acquired Tuck and Sons and the venerated name fell from use.

Ann had several examples of books for us to see and admire, originals as well as reproductions. As she demonstrated some of the books one could feel her awe and respect for the tangible objects of her talk.  She concluded by saying that what the publishers, Raphael Tuck and Sons, did not have in sophistication, they made up in the sheer volume of unique objects loaded “with charm and appeal.”

A break was definitely in order now to absorb so much information and was I ever glad we were not to be tested on the material. (Well, technically I was. How did I do?) Our next speaker, Peter Thomas, ‘The Bard of Books’, spoke with an impish grin giving one the feeling he was letting us in on a secret. His presentation style combined the demeanor of the absent-minded professor and a “Hey, it’s cool, Man” hippie. Peter’s ‘talk’ would be the apogee of our music-themed lectures.

There was no question that this book artist from Santa Cruz, CA who often collaborates with his wife, Donna, had one life-long goal, that is, to “create books.” He challenged us with a series of questions. “What is a movable book?” he asked. “What is an accordion book or concertina?” He delighted us by ‘demonstrating’ the answers with books shaped like the eponymous instruments. “What is a book at all?” he queried, then showed his first book, a rock, called The House of Rock. We roared with laughter.

His early books were “undeniably” art, continuing on to define the difference between art-“unencumbered by function” and craft, which has a function. “Until 1880,” Peter explained-now wearing a professorial hat-“books were pure craft.” With the arrival of William Morris’ fine press books in 1890, we began to see the origins of artist books, a phrase which didn’t exist before 1980. We were then treated to: The Gospel According to Peter (Thomas). “Due to the PC, books are now free to be art objects.” Books were now free of solely giving information.

Peter sees book art as a 4-D art-form, time being the 4th dimension. His books’ concepts and materials are often totally integrated, as they were with the accordion and concertina books and a new book he made on the occasion of Donna’s birthday. (He makes books for most of her birthdays. Lucky girl!) Based on the 60’s singing duo, Jan and Dean, Peter took their song, Surf City, and crafted with Donna a one-of-a-kind book from a woodie. (Hey! Get hip! He’s talking about a ’30 Ford Wagon. Duh!!  Thank, G-d for Amazoogle. *grin*)

The “connection between the cultural and spiritual” was made with the Thomas’ cylindrillic books, ones whose text pull out on scrolls. Peter cited the Torah and Megillah (commonly known as The Book of Esther, read on Purim) as examples. His final book combined the movable and sculptural. Peter produced his A Brief History of the Ukulele, seen in Stand and Deliver. In the CD from the exhibition, Peter said, “When a book is static it risks becoming only a literary sculpture.” The ukulele book was in no danger of being called a sculpture. He opened the 20 inch-long, stringed ‘book’ and panoramic pages fell out. When he closed it, he strummed the strings and sang to the tune: Has anybody seen my gal?

What's a book? I used to know,
But things have really all changed so,
Has anybody seen my book?

Some have pages, others don't.
Some tell stories my mother won't
Has anybody seen my book?

Now if you want a book that will look
Like most old books do.
You'll have to go to a show,
A museum or a library too.

Mine is green, it has a screen,
7 million books are in between.
Has anybody seen my book?

It's a computer,

Has anybody seeeeeeeeeen my booooook?

What an animated performance!!!

How to segue from the ‘latest and greatest’ to the ‘oldest and grandest’? One could worry how to recapture the audience’s attention after such a rabble-rousing recital. Howard Rootenberg, who had dazzled us in Los Angeles with his ancient fugitive books, would have no problem. As if his wealth of knowledge were not enough, Howard had brought along Kathy Donahue of UCLA’s Biomedical Special Collections who, much to our amazement, had brought books we had only seen under glass and in front of security cameras.

Howard, a former lawyer and entertainer, (No, he didn’t sing!) mesmerized us with 16th century folio-sized books of movable woodcuts and etchings. This was truly a booklover’s version of ‘Shock and Awe’. What Howard calls, ‘fugitive’, we would know as flaps. He speculated that the movable illustrations were called fugitives because originally they had not been bound with the book’s spine and were often lost.

Several things made these mostly anatomical books popular in the 16th century, such as the proliferation of “corner presses” making for cheap publications, and the public’s fascination with anatomy which literally uncovered “the hidden wonder of the body”, a veritable communing with G-d. Some texts were in Latin for doctors and medical students and others in the vernacular for barbers and surgeons-often the same person! And in the vein of ‘nothing ever changes’, simply put, Sex Sells.

I never would have thought that Versalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica from 1543 I had seen at the New York Public Library would now be in my hands! The Fabrica, as it is known, brought “illustrated anatomy to a new level,” Rootenberg said. A companion to it is The Epitome, a ‘condensation’ of The Fabrica, material for the student, allowing for them to cut out anatomical parts and put them on other sheets. Other remarkable books present was the Euclid Elements of 1570with strings to make geometrical figures 3 dimensional, Remlin’s The Mirror of the Cosmos-1619, and a cosmography of calendars and astronomy from1456. The latter is called incunabulum, the term for printed matter made between 1450 and 1500. Without benefit of gloves, I hesitantly touched the books, lightly running my fingers over the flaps as one would over Braille text, feeling for the edges. Howard used fine pincers.

More recent books were brought as well, including an early (1833) Spratt’s Obstetrical Tables, a manikin book of large anatomical flaps-a teaching tool for doctors- and the most fascinating to Andy Baron, a collector of old phonographs, an 1888 flap book representing The Phonograph, A New Technology. We were all humbled by what we saw, were allowed to touch, and Kathy and Howard’s daring to bring it all to us. Kathy did stress that all her Special Collections books were available to visitors who called to make an appointment. Any takers?
Yes, Lunch! And what would a convention be without conventioneers wearing silly hats? One member (c’mon and own up to it!) took newsprint lying about and made ‘sailor’ hats for those of us loopy enough to wear them. And there was a whole bunch of us. The yummy buffet gave us time to talk to those not seated at our tables.

Formal lectures over, we proceeded to the hands-on part of our meeting, a kind of ‘Arts & Crafts meets ‘Humble Pie’. Admittedly this is my favorite activity BUT, faithful envoy to Our Leader, initials A.R.M., as in ‘You don’t have to twist my ARM,’ I was asked to fill a gap in the preparation. I returned successful from my mission to hear Emily Martin, clearly the ‘Erma Bombeck of Paper Engineers’, completing the instructions for a flexagon. I took an empty seat next to Shawn Sheehy who took pity on my ten thumbs and vacant stare to bring me up to speed. Well, sorta. Thanks to Shawn and Ed Hutchins, ‘The Flexagon Floater’, I did come away with a working finished product. I could tell from the satisfied expressions on everyone’s faces all had had a great time. As we left the lecture room for the Book Sale, members carried their treasures in their hands like kindergarteners looking forward to Mommy displaying their work on the refrigerator door.

OK. Here is where I get to whine. Briefly. Imagine having your first book published, a toy-book, and dreaming about sitting at a signing table with all your friends holding your book to be signed. Imagine your books never making it to the MBS Sale. Thus was the fate of my Hanukkah Puzzle Book, Pitspopany Press-2004. OK. Wipe your tears. I’ll get over it.

I did have great pride signing MBS’ Celebration book. No tears here! And sitting next to Kyle Olmon, I was able to see his moment(um) book in action….all one second of it. David Carter, Robert Sabuda, and Matthew Reinhart were ensconced at a table busy signing their latest efforts, and Paul Wehr proudly displayed the first reproduction -and I hope there will be others to follow- of Julian Wehr’s animated book, Snow White. There were tables for book artists to sell their wares and chat, as well as vendors selling pop-ups of many vintages. The California sunshine came in handy here and RELAX was the word of the day!

Running tandem with our convention was the San Diego Film Festival with awards to be given on Saturday night-tonight! I had had a sighting of Phyllis Diller-no overlooking her!-and the rumors were the other award winners to be present were Cliff Robertson and Rick Schroder. We could see evidence of Security and a large set-up for the band. Would our own festivities be drowned out with blaring music? Could we crash their party? Who would we see?

Our party room cum lecture hall was transformed for our event, the Banquet. At each place setting was the small version of Kees Moerbeek’s Countdown to Christmas Roly Poly. Also gracing the tables and sideboards were colorful pop-up invitations to an exhibition in Houston. (Pop-up Books: The Art of Paper Engineering, The Museum of Printing History,10/28-04-1/9/05) These were courtesy of Bruce Foster who found himself with a scheduling conflict and was desperately unhappy not to be able to attend the Conference. As recompense, he sent invitations (which he had hand assembled!) for all of the attendees. What a guy!

David A. Carter was our Guest Speaker and was seated next to Dagmar Kubaštová Vrkljan. The two seemed to have much to converse about. Frank Gagliardi, who had ably sheperded us through the past two days, thanked all those who had helped with the Convention, then introduced David.
Beginning David’s slide talk was a photo of him at about 5 years old in Western garb. The photo highlighted the question David asks himself before he starts a new project, „What would little David like?“ Best known for his bug series, David told us outright, the series he started after his daughter Molly was born and earning a living was paramount, is finished. His newest books, One Red Dot-published in „Spain, Japan, Italy and Korea in Fall ‚04 and for Simon & Schuster in ‚05, and Who’s Under the Hat?-Harcourt Children’s-Fall ‚05 leave the bugs behind and move into new territory.

In terms of process, David did the artwork for the beginning Bug books by hand. It wasn’t until Bugs in Space in1997 that he fully used the computer. Drawing did not become his passion until at 17 years old he broke his femur and was laid up for a year. He didn’t see his first pop-up book until he started to work for Intervisual in 1981 where he started doing paste-ups. Today it may take him 1.5 years to complete a book, and he works on 3-4 ideas at once.

David ‘came of age’ at Intervisual, privileged to work with Tor Lokvig, then marrying his daughter. (We rejoiced at seeing his pop-up wedding invitation!) He had the opportunity to witness the thought processes of Ron Van der Meer, and work under the sharp eye of Art Director, David Pelham. It was Vic Duppa-Whyte who taught David the humility of seeing great ideas never get published. Duppa-Whyte’s work was often too complicated to make it to publication.  David admitted to many rejections of his projects. We, of course, only see the ones that get into print. He talked admiringly of Sandy Tiller and told us we may know her as Ruth Tilden of What’s in the Fridge? and other delightful movable books.

With maturity on the job comes seeing the good and the bad. Being as diplomatic as he could, David described the rise of Intervisual as the giant in the pop-up field, the tandem rise of Carvajal in Columbia and Ecuador, and finally the slide of both to almost oblivion. Carvajal’s pop-up assembly plant is gone and, with Piggy Toes Press, Intervisual has added publisher to its role as packager.

Not one to hide reality, David showed slides of his work areas at home and at Intervisual; it looked like total chaos to us. He was very game to talk about his newest book, One Red Dot, which he had worked on for 7 years. Moving up on the art-by-technology’ scale, David showed us the video he used as a sales tool to sell the book. Now having squashed the bugs, he was free to do something “very geometric [and] sculptural…without constraints of art or editorial [departments].” His new firm, CDA, Carter-(Jim) Diaz Associates, is taking on new creative efforts. He was clearly soured on S&S holding back One Red Dot until 2005 while they published Stephen Kings’ Tom Gordon pop-up and Robert’s America the Beautiful. Carter vowed, “I won’t let that happen again.”

With the Bugs squashed, at least for now, David is enjoying making pop-up books for adults. His Tibetan Buddhist Altars : A Pop-Up Gallery of Traditional Art and Wisdom, which sold briskly at the Book Sale, was packaged by Becker-Mayer of Seattle. When asked about other ideas, he offered The Kama Sutra as a possibility. Did we hear him say he may call it, How Many Positions in a Box?” (And didn’t we hear Robert also ruminate about doing this title? I guess the maxim stands, Sex Sells.)

David delighted us with arcane thoughts and inside ‘jokes’ of the trade, such as, his initials hidden on pull-tabs in What’s in a Cave and What’s at the Beach?”  He answered some questions: “What is your least favorite book?” Answer: What’s Under There?, which he would love to redo; “Which book do you wish you had done?” Answer: The Griffin and Sabine series. “I felt envy,” he lamented. Speaking of envy, in response to “What is the highest compliment one paper engineer can give another?” Carter growled, “We have to break [their] fingers!” It was the answer David gave to “What do you think of Kelly Houle’s work?” Ouch!

As David took his seat to a resounding applause, A.R.M. whispered in my ear that the Film Festival was about to get underway and that they would soon be in need of the lectern! Were they kidding? We were now about to give out our most prestigious award, The Meggendorfer Prize. It would be me, Ellen-from-The Bronx, presenting. I made it clear I had dealt with ‘tough guys’ before and the lectern was NOT available until I was done with it! (Phyllis Diller would be getting a new wrinkle first! Imagine the Hilton having only ONE lectern!)
In fact, I had two awards to give. The Meggendorfer Prize had been voted on by the convention attendees, after inspecting about ten titles. (Robert had recused himself.) I was thrilled to be the one to present the Prize to our members’ overwhelming choice. So I said,

“and in the spirit of Peter Thomas….”
then sang to the tune of: This Old Man, He Played One :

This year’s book-so much fun!
The Meggendorfer Prize is won
by Andy Baron
step right over here!
KKP has won this year!

(I come by my chutzpah honestly!)

Andy was like a deer in the headlights and practically had to be led to the lectern. I handed him the mike for comments but, totally uncharacteristically, he was dumbstruck and could only murmur, “Thank You!”

And a good thing too, for now, from the corner of my eye, I could see the henchmen waiting at the door for the lectern. Fat chance! We had waited ten years for this! I proceeded to laud, extol, and exalt Our Leader, Ann Montanaro. She was shocked and embarrassed and came to the podium in near-tears. It was a tender and grateful moment for all of us. Her plaque, with the MBS logo, read:
Presented to
Ann R. Montanaro
by her friends from
The Movable Book Society
1994-2004
on the occasion of
The Society’s 10th Anniversary
With grateful recognition
for her founding of the Society,
 and being a driving force in
promoting the appreciation and understanding of
pop-up and movable books.

Now they could have their lectern back!
And we went on to party to the Film Festival music. It had all been music to our ears, from start to finish.

 

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