The Pop-Up World!

Pop-up books are probably the reason I started reading early. The very idea of a book that would move, that you could manipulate with the help of flaps and triggers to reveal surprises at every step, was fascinating for me. I suspect my mother loved pop-up books too since there were loads of them lying around the house when I was growing up. Goldilocks, Red Riding Hood were a few of my favourites.

Mostly I loved the surprise element. Having things jump out at you when you turned each page. Princesses, teddy bears, fairies. Hidden objects that came into view when you pulled flaps. It was like a tableau being enacted in front of your eyes. One you were in complete control of.

When I became a mother myself, I tried to get as many pop-up books as I could for my daughter. I wanted to share them with her. I had so many questions about the books. I was curious to know how it all began. Who invented the first pop-up book? How were they made? So I did some digging.

I found out that the first movable books were not intended for children. They were used for texts on medicine and astronomy. The earliest example is a manuscript dating to 1121, titled Liber Floridus that demonstrates the orbits of the planets around the Earth. Catalan mystic and poet Ramon Llull of Majorca is also believed to have used a revolving disc or volvelle to illustrate his theories in the 13th century.

The first movable for children, the turn-up book or the harlequinade as it was known was printed around 1750. Blue Ribbon Press filed the first copyright for the term “pop-up” for a book in 1932. Among the renowned artists in the history of movable books were Kubašta and the leader of the form, Lothar Meggendorfer. In fact, an award named after Meggendorfer is given by the Movable Book Society for paper engineers, the people who create the movable pieces and work with illustrators and printers to bring pop-ups to life.

How are pop-up books made?

You need a plan for the story at the start. The engineer figures out which parts will be the pop-ups and creates a prototype using card stock. The pop-up then goes into production. The fantastic part is that they are still made by hand as each story is different. One can use software to design it but the design needs to be cut into shape by hand.

Different kinds of pop-ups

Transformations: When you pull a tab and a new scene is created.

Volvelles: Involves the use of rotating parts.

Tunnel books: You can view the book like a tunnel.

One of my favourite books in our collection is this collectible, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Robert Sabuda. Sabuda is one of the most innovative children’s book creators who is known the world over for his amazing pop-up paper engineering. I don’t know about my daughter but I never tire of looking at it.

Here’s a list of some of the must-have books for your collection!