The Golden Age of Pop-Up Books
by Carin Graves, Public Services Intern
Movable and pop-up books became increasingly popular in the 19th century, as publishers looked for inventive ways to create and market books for children. Previously, movable elements like the volvelle (a turnable wheel of paper) had been used to demonstrate concepts in astronomy as well as concepts in scientific and religious literature, but only in the 19th century did movable elements become primarily associated with children’s literature and toy books.
What we think of today as pop-up books were pioneered during the mid- to late-19th century. During what is now referred to as the “Golden Age of Pop-Up Books,” the foremost publishing company was Dean & Son.
When George Dean joined his father’s publishing company in 1847 to form Dean & Son, he was already working within the decades-long history of Dean publishing. With George Dean’s arrival the company started selling toy books for children and later moved onto movable books. Between 1850 and 1900 Dean & Son published more than sixty movable books, dominating the market for several decades.
Dean & Son’s first forays into movable books were the Dean and Son’s New Scenic Books Series, which included titles like Little Red Riding Hood, Robinson Crusoe, Aladdin, and Cinderella. The Lilly Library owns the first of this series, Little Red Riding Hood. The style of the Dean and Son’s New Scenic Books is reminiscent of earlier peep shows, which had three dimensional images created by separate layers of the scene folded into an accordion-style book. The foreground, middleground, and background of each scene in Little Red Riding Hood are pulled back by a single string to form a three dimensional picture. Dean & Son also created another version of Little Red Riding Hood titled Dean & Son’s Moveable Red Riding Hood. This version featured individual movable parts, one of the first instances of such an innovation in pop-ups and movables.
Another type of movable developed by Dean & Son was the “dissolving view,” created using two images cut with slats. When a tab was pulled, the first image would be replaced by the underlying second image. The first instance of the dissolving view, Dean’s New Book of Dissolving Views is also owned by the Lilly Library and was first published in 1860.
The Golden Age of Pop-Ups coincided with a time of innovation and growth in Victorian England. Another Dean & Son moveable at the Lilly Library exemplifies this; A Visit to the exhibition: in eight changeable pictures showing its beautiful objects of art and how they were made … illustrates some of the exhibits that were on display in the Crystal Palace during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Each page displays an exhibition object on a stage with Victorian onlookers in the foreground. Once a tab is pulled down, a second illustration beneath the object reveals how it was made.
By the last two decades of the 19th century Dean & Son’s grip on the market had diminished as people like the artist and writer Lothar Meggendorfer and the artist Ernest Nister developed other pop-up publications. During the World Wars, the market for movables and pop-ups was further reduced and only saw a resurgence beginning in the middle of the 20th century.
Follow us on Twitter @IULilly Library to see gifs and videos of some of the books described here.
Little Red Riding Hood: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/5100064
Movable Red Riding Hood: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/230545
Dean’s New Book of Dissolving Views: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/1409860
A Visit to the Exhibition: http://www.iucat.iu.edu/catalog/1403103
DuLong, J., Baron, A., Boehm, A., Montanaro, A. R, Rubin, E. G. K, Sabuda, R., & Ziegler, R. (2004). A Celebration of Pop-up and Movable Books. Special limited ed. [New Brunswick, N.J.]: Movable Book Society.
Haining, P. (1979). Movable Books: An Illustrated History: Pages & Pictures of Folding, Revolving, Dissolving, Mechanical, Scenic, Panoramic, Dimensional, Changing, Pop-up and Other Novelty Books from the Collection of David and Briar Philips. London: New English Librar
Montanaro, A. R. (1993). Pop-up and Movable Books: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press.