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

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


The Pop-ups Are Coming! The Pop-ups Are Coming!

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Many of us related to book artist, Laura Davidson, when she said she “couldn’t throw away ticket stubs.” She especially likes to work with ephemera. Taking inspiration from her love of travel and the views they provide, she creates a new tunnel book every 2 years. Her first was the view from her window at Boston’s Big Dig. Watching the ever-changing construction site “became a source of entertainment.” Shown in the Boston Globe, the tunnel book sold out. To do research for the tunnel book, Fenway Park, she managed to be at the Red Sox game when there was a no-hitter! Other views are of Florence, Paris, with guidebok pages glued on, and the Piazza San Marco in Venice.

Laura loves cutting by hand with an X-Acto knife. It took her 3 years to complete her last project, Flora and Fauna, using copper drawn with a diamond point pen. Only 20 copies were produced and “it was truly a labor of love.” Laura has designed and hand-made many other artist books which are held in some of the finest institutions.

It was an easy segue from Laura’s tunnel book creations to Emily Martin’s research on the genre. The essay, A Brief History of Tunnel Books, will be included in The Suave Mechanicals series-Vol.4, [Legacy Press, Ann Arbor, MI]. The usually humorous Martin seemed exceptionally serious about this project. She started by telling us that tunnel books originally depicted scenes of everyday life coming out of the “continuum of optical exploration.” Beginning in the late 17th century, tunnel or peepshows, as they are alternatively called, began without hinges linking the panels together, and had 1-5 peepholes. The tunnel books served as entertainment for the wealthy usually recreating theaters. In 1719, Martin Englebrecht [1684-1756] of Augsberg, Germany was granted a monopoly to make the multi-panel paper toys. He hand-colored them in 3 sizes, etched without text. The 6 or so etchings per peepshow were supported in slotted boxes recreating a tableau with perspective. Eighteen hundred twenty five saw the addition of hinges, some on top and some along the sides. The souvenir for the Thames Tunnel gave the genre its name. There were as many as 50 variations. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a vast collection. This mechanical is still in evidence today as attested to by Laura Davidson’s work. They are known by many names, such as peepshow, perspective box, aerorama, teleorama, etc. Emily teaches tunnel book construction in Iowa City at the University and in her workshops.

And speaking of workshops, our final communal activity was a workshop conducted by Kevin Steele, a faculty member at Indiana University. Kevin’s The Movable Book of Letterforms won Best in Show at 23Sandy Gallery as part of our Portland, OR conference. Brave soul that Kevin is, he prepared one of the most challenging movables to make, the waterfall. Pull the tab and the swans in the Boston Commons lake dive into the water a little at a time. [Named Romeo and Juliet, they are both female.] But Kevin had it all worked out. We cut. We folded. We glued. And this, my favorite movable, functioned perfectly. We were elated with our movable souvenir of the conference. Thanks Kevin!

Waterfall Pull the tab below and a cascade of swans appear.

Next on the program was an ‘off-campus’ activity. We could sign up for tours of the Boston Public Library [BPL] or an MIT exhibit or demonstrations by paper engineers. Marie Oedel had arranged the tours. I opted to go with Marie, our guide, for the short walk to BPL. The sun shone brightly and Boston’s student population, with their ‘billboard’ T-shirts, were out in large numbers.

The BPL is an august building inspiring us to higher thoughts, as it should. Jay Moschella, Curator of Rare Books, greeted us in the rare book room. Like a convert, Jay was first discovering the wonderful world of movable books never having had focused on them before. I was excited to see on-line Jay’s creation of .gifs of Apianus’ Cosmographia, showing the volvelles in motion. Generously, Jay allowed me to use them for my upcoming presentation on the history of pop-ups. We entered a long quiet room where he had laid out a panoply of books. The earliest from 1485, Jacobus Publicius’ Artes, orandi, epistolandi, memoranda, had a volvelle and was used as a memory aid. Besides the usual astronomical texts, the books Jay presented covered seamanship, perspective, mathematics, and anatomy. The latest was from 1930. While we were unable to handle the examples, they still were exceptional to behold.

Our afternoon ended at Bromer Booksellers across from the library. The Bromers and staff had generously laid out a welcomed spread of goodies, both edible and visual. As if that were not enough, we were each presented with a small movable token gift, one of the Tareyton cigarette inserts of a landmark of England in an illustrated envelope. These are miniature pop-ups, 24 to the set. There seemed to be something for everyone; Meggendorfer books, peepshows, anatomy flap books, and much ephemera. The party gave us time to talk about what we had just seen, had learned at the conference, and our thoughts on the exhibits we had attended.

Dinner was on our own. Pop-up talk if we wanted or just sampling a taste of sophisticated Boston.

Saturday began our “official” meeting, the one mandatory to meet the criteria for our non-profit status. Ann Staples provided our financial report, membership statistics, and geographical distribution.
         299 members [now 311], 247 from the USA, 10 each from the Netherlands and the UK + others
         227 declare themselves as collectors but many have multiple designations, like artist, dealer, curator, etc.

Our membership dues will stay the same-$30 US members, $35 abroad. We can pay with PayPal for an additional fee. Ann stressed the need for newsletter articles—it doesn’t have to be a magnum opus. Back issues are available at http://library.si.edu/digital-library/book/movable-stationary. We are looking for suggestions for the location of the next conference and new ways to publicize the Society and secure new members.

For the past 2 days, Shawn has been stressing bidding at the Silent Auction. Based on the Philadelphia conference receipts, we were able to offer scholarships to Olli Johnson and Kang Peng. The most material ever has been spread around the room. All monies collected go for scholarships for the next conference. There were limited editions, BLADs, unusual advertising, and much more; in short, something for everyone and at reasonable prices. The Meggendorfer Prize candidates were also out for inspection. Ballots were in our welcome packets. This morning we were treated to a magnificent breakfast spread. Boston is an expensive town and to keep the conference costs as low as possible, catering had to be kept to a minimum.

Denise Denise Price with Freedom Trail

MBS has been aware of the efforts of Denise Price to bring to fruition her “love letter to the city of Boston” in the form of a pop-up book, Freedom Trail of Boston. In Philadelphia, where she “found [her] tribe,” Denise had shown mock-ups of the book and consulted with the paper engineers. Her almost 6 year journey took her from an injured college basketball player in Colorado to a ‘transplant’ in Boston where her love affair began. Seeing Matthew Reinhart’s Cinderella in a storefront triggered her love of pop-up books. From the first idea for Freedom Trail, Denise had to learn every step along the way from paper engineering, layout, printing, and marketing. YouTube and eLance.com provided the ladder of experts. Like Flat Stanley, materials circulated and re-circulated the globe. There were disasters, natural and man-made, like the Boston Marathon bombing which had people shelter-in-place.

Early on she had received the blessing—and she thought the funds—from the Freedom Trail Foundation [FTF] to produce the book. They allowed her to use their trademark. In her slides, we simultaneously watched her progress building the pop-ups as the Foundation sequentially lowered the monies promised. She ultimately was left with their, “Good Luck with that, Denise.” Her struggle and determination awed us all.

A Kickstarter campaign added to her stress. Would they raise the money? In the final 20 seconds, the funds came through. But more calamities ensued. Not realizing the effect the difference 210 gram vs 230 gram paper would have on the pop-ups, the last four pages failed and had to be fixed by Denise. Unbelievably, the FTF had given Denise a flawed history of Boston, so she assumed the role of editor too. A highlight of creating the book was Denise’s trip to Vietnam to see her baby ‘born.’ It was 5 years in the birthing. We cheered Denise on as she showed a video covering the making of Freedom Trail from start to finish. She proudly held up a trade copy; there are also 450 limited editions in a slipcase. Denise said not a word about a follow-up pop-up book.

Matt Shlian, a lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and our keynote speaker, took us to a “galaxy far, far away” from those previously visited by paper engineers. “Hi,” he said. “I’m Matt and I like to fold things.” I have never heard of a paper engineer working with NASA but Matt’s talk related paper-folding to science and technology. He outlined the levels of paper-folding:
         1. Origami                     folding is the only form
         2. Kirigami                    folding plus cutting
         3. Paper craft                         adding glue
         4. Paper engineering                all of the above
Matt wasn’t introduced to paper engineering until the end of his art school days. After graduation, he began working at Structural Graphics and made large and small-scale structures. He introduced us to Akira Yoshizawa, a Japanese origamist, considered to be the grandmaster of origami, and Robert Lang, a physicist, who worked with NASA using folding paper to understand and build air bags. My notes with my Magic Pen turned to scribble as Matt used terms like tessellation, triggering my math anxiety. But, professor that he is, he showed us the practical uses for origami folding without equations and tech talk.

Shlian Patrick

Matt Shilian with one of his creations. Patrick Kershner with another Shlian experiment.

When Shlian spoke of paper engineering, he stressed its kineticism, movement from a “lifeless object.” He sees creating movable paper structures like “painting a painting or composing a musical score.” Each fold added to another builds on itself and adds movement. He used Lothar Meggendorfer as an example as “pulling a tab causes a chain-like reaction on the page.” Like all paper engineers, Matt takes these mechanisms apart to study the fulcrum and levers. He lauded Vojtěch Kubašta who created 3D pop-ups in the round. Matt had written to Robert Sabuda 16 years ago after he had thrilled to seeing the spinning tornado in The Wizard of Oz. He asked where he could use paper engineering skills and Robert suggested Structural Graphics.

“When nothing is known, anything is possible.” Paper-folding has been used for solar cells so that they cast the smallest shadows. How proteins fold in the body is better understood when using origami techniques. The proteins’ mis-folds, more importantly, may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, which is being studied at the Univ. of Mich. Origami techniques have also been used to allow cardiac stents to unfold in a blood vessel or have stomach wounds be patched with unfolding bandages. When Matt graduated from college, he didn’t own a computer. But an “artist doesn’t fear.” His collaborations have spanned from Sesame Street to Apple Computers to the U. S. Mint. An artist, like Matt Shlian, experiments.

AnnEllen Ellen G. K. Rubin & Ann Montanaro Staples

Before our lunch break, Ann Staples and I, The Popuplady, tag teamed The Origins of Movable Paper; 800 Years of Paper Engineering. The earliest uses of movable paper elements were all tools of one kind or another. I began with Matthew Paris [1200-1259], the Benedictine Monk who devised a volvelle to use as a calendar for Christian holidays. A facsimile opens the Movable Book Society’s 10th anniversary pop-up book, Celebrat10n. In addition, Paris used gatefolds or flaps of vellum to extend the pages of his Chronica Majora, that illustrated a virtual pilgrimage from his monastery in England to Jerusalem.

Ramon Llull [1232-1316], a Catalan mystic, used volvelles to collate man’s knowledge in an attempt to understand G-d and the Universe.  He created sectors of information, drawing upon the extensive knowledge of the Arab world. Each wheel had different alphabetic sectors and by manipulating the wheels, new combinatory information emerged. Since he was the first to mechanically collate information, he is considered the Father of Computers.

Generally, literacy was low in Medieval and early Renaissance times. That changed with Gutenberg’s use of movable type, which made books cheaper and more readily available. The same was true of illustrations that were also easier to replicate. These advances allowed for the encouragement of the scientific revolution and the promotion of dissemination of ideas. Volvelles were used primarily for astronomical and astrological calculations. Paper flaps mimicked human cadaver dissection. Dissection was banned by the Church except for using the bodies of executed criminals or those who died in prison or in the poor house.

Books for children did not appear until the mid-eighteenth century coinciding with the Industrial Revolution which created a middle-class who were more literate, had funds for books, and whose children did not have to work in the factories. The Harlequinade—named after the popular character of the time—or turn-up book was the first book targeting an audience of children. A fierce competition between publishers ensued reaching an apogee in the latter half of the 19th century which MBS calls, The First Golden Age of Movables. Lothar Meggendorfer was the star of that period. He used a single pull-tab to cause complex action. In a time before the entertainment devices of today, his work delighted the entire family with several levels of wit. Most movable books were published in Germany. The first use of the term “pop-up” was in a book published around 1912.

I ended the talk at the end of World War I, which decimated the German printing presses. The final slide was of Liber floridus [1121], a memory book with a movable paper flap, the earliest known example. Its discovery moves our history back over 100 years. Theo Gielen [1946-2015] would be pleased that research is being done, and I encouraged attendees to continue to study the genre and publish their findings.

Ann picked up where I left off taking us to the present day.  While the production of movables languished between the wars, several were published but on poor paper. Most prominent was S. Louis Giraud in England who created “an authentic pop-up.” He produced 10 annuals between 1929 and 1949. The coarse absorbent paper muddied the illustrations. Blue Ribbon Press in the 1930s copyrighted the term ‘pop-up’ and used cultural icons as subjects. Julian Wehr’s animated books dominated the 1940s. There were a few series published in the 1950s: Geraldine Clyne’s fan-folded Jolly Jump-up series, boxed Christmas booklets with toys, balloons, and candy, and the Catechetical Scenes series to teach Catholicism. The latter books had pop-ups and strings.

The Second Golden Age was ushered in when Waldo [Wally] Hunt [1920-2009] saw the work of Vojtěch Kubašta [1914-1992]. ­Unable to import Kubašta’s work from Communist Czechoslovakia, Wally worked with Bennett Cerf, editor of Random House, to produce “Pop-up Riddles,” given away with Maxwell House Coffee for $1. Random House went on to produce an entire series. Hunt coined the term “paper engineer” to give credit to Tor Lokvig. After selling his company Graphics International to Hallmark, Hunt founded Intervisual Books and became the largest packager of pop-up books worldwide. Unique for the time, Hunt gave credit to the paper engineer.

Ann marched us through the progress of paper movables with the greater use of mechanicals especially in John Strejan’s Leonardo De Vinci. She mentioned Heidi Kyle’s flag book, one of the first artist books, David Pelham’s “Sam’s Pizza” in a box, and her favorite—and mine—Robert Sabuda’s, Cookie Count.
Much like the publishers in the First Golden Age, paper engineers strive to animate books with unique movables or those used in a unique way, all the while trying not to be gratuitous by making paper move for its own sake. Ann showed us some new books to be published this year, like Courtney Watson McCarthy’s Hokusai Pop-Ups. We can look forward to many “new pop-ups and new creations to add to our collections.”

After a mad scramble for lunch, we settled down to hear a panel from Candlewick Press who set a high bar for movable books. The panel included Chris Paul, Creative Director/Associate Publisher, Andrea Tompa, Senior Editor, and Kim Lanza, Director of Production. MBS rarely has anyone from the publishing community speak and the ballroom, crowded with MBS and Ticknor members, was all ears.

Candlewick specializes in children’s books and has a reputation for turning out high quality books, “creatively driven.” Since they are employee-owned, they don’t have to answer to a large conglomerate. They are “seduced by aesthetics” and “admire” art, craft, and paper engineering. In publishing their books, they take into account the idea, paper textures, its uniqueness, the text and/or vision, and the appropriateness for the audience. Candlewick is a socially responsible company not using rain forest fibers but only sustainable materials.  All of these criteria factor into costing out the book, which takes about 3 years to make.

The panel used Shawn Sheehy’s Welcome to the Neighborwood to demonstrate the production sequence. When a copy of Shawn’s original artist book was shown to Karen Lotz, the President and Publisher, she ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and said, “let’s do it!” As the slides were shown, Shawn proudly walked around with the actual white dummies to demonstrate. Books are produced in Thailand, now Laos, where, unlike China, the factory only works one shift. Robert Sabuda’s Christmas Story will take 5-7 months to assemble, then 6 weeks to ship to the US. Remember “one if by land; two if by sea?” The panel assured us that pop-up books have a “strong future” at Candlewick. When asked about their profit margins, they responded that “pennies matter” when negotiating with printers. It was clear that of the 150 books a year they publish, the pop-ups are something close to ‘loss-leaders.’ It is their intention to print and assemble in Laos and publish more diverse books. Print runs are down from the past but depend upon the author. It is best to submit book ideas via an agent but they will make an exception for MBS members. Write to: andrea.tompa@candlewick.com.


Additional information and related websites at the end of the article.

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