Saturday, October 30

Pop up Books 2

Along with the subjects they illustrate, the techniques behind movable and pop-ups paper art have evolved from its earliest known origins. Traditional terminology, unusual techniques and personal creativity combine to form unique volumes and timeless illustrations.

The art of paper engineering encompasses a range of methods and techniques for creating pop ups. Some basic mechanisms are:

  • Mouth mechanism. It's the simplest folding technique to form a mechanism that unfolds when the card is closed.

  • Push and Pull (Slide mechanisms). As the name suggest this means that you cut two areas in the back of the book and slide a piece of paper through the gap. From there you can push or pull the mechanism.
  • V Fold. A piece of card or paper will be cut in such a way that it can be stuck to both sides of the paper. When the book is closed these two folds will be up against each other, when opened, the sides pull them enough to make it "pop up".

    • Box card. Interesting pop up designs can be produced by making two cuts to a backing card and bending the card inwards so that it forms a small stand (inside the card). Drawings or images can be placed on the stand so that when the card is opened the image "pops".

    Some advanced mechanisms include:

    • Volvelles. They are paper constructions with rotating parts.

    Transformation. It starts with a scene made up of vertical slats. Pulling a tab on the side makes the slats slide under and over one another to "transform" into a totally different scene.

  • Tunnel (also called peepshow books). It consists of a set of pages bound with two strips folded in a concertina manner on each side. The pages are then viewed through a die-cut hole on the cover and the effect is like you are looking through a tunnel. Openings in each page allow the viewer to see through the entire book and images on each page work together to create a three-dimensional scene inside.

  • Pop-out. The most commom type of pop-up is the pop-out. With this method the pages open fully and a 3D model appears miraculously in the middle of the page.

  • Sound and optical illusions which besides paper are made of wood, different types of plastic and rubber, metal and electronic chips depending on when they are produced.

  • The extreme pop-up. An extreme pop-up is where various different types of pop up mechanisms are used withing one page to create a big desired effect (Alice in Wonderland by Robert Sabuda)

  • Using all these mechanisms it's easy to imagine that the most commom problems with pop up books is to survive children's hands and handling. Other problems are mechanical damages with the consequences that the construction either do not work properly or do not work at all.


    Although today pop-up books are often found in the children's book section, the earliest movable books were tools to educate and document information, such as a calendar, the moon's movements, or the inner workings of the human heart.

    The first mechanical book dates back to the 13th century when a Catalan poet Ramón Llull used a revolving disc or volvelle to illustrate his theories.

    By the 14th century, scholars were using paper flaps to superimpose layers of the human body into detailed books about human anatomy. After this, there was little technical development in paper engineering until late 18th century when these techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment, particularly for children.

    The first Golden Age of pop-ups began with the "History of Little Fanny" by S.J. Fuller, 1810. A paper doll book with movable paper clothes. The Company Dean & Sons marketed about 50 different titles of movable and pop-up books between 1850s and 1900.

    The Industrial Revolution is underway creating a leisure class with money to spend on expensive books and the time to read them to their children.

    The best known publishers through the turn of the 19th century were: Ernest Nister and Raphael Tuck in England and Germany, Dean & Son in England and McLoughin in USA. The printing for most of these books was done in Germany where the chromolithography was best.

    The paper engineer considered the "Genius" of this Golden Age was Lothar Meggendorfer, the Munich artist, prolific, humorous and inventive. He wasn't satisfied with only one action on each page, he often had five parts of the illustration moving simultaneously in different direction with highly ingenius and complicated mechanisms.

    The First World War brought to an end this Golden Era and few movable books were produced. It became difficult to gather the manpower required as they were hand-assembled and labor-intensive. The demand for "frivolous" pastimes decreased as well.

    It would be over 50 years before these inventive books would again be in demand and published in large numbers.

    During the inter-war years, S. Louis Giraud in Britain begins publishing books with true pop-ups, activated by turning the page. The series, "The Daily Express", was followed by the "Bookano books". In the USA, "Blue Ribbon" animated Walt Disney characters and traditional fairy tales with pop-ups. It was Blue Ribbon that coined the term, "pop-up" and used it in their titles.

    The Second World War presented another interruption to the development of the pop-up. In the 1950s Vojtech Kubasta begins making pop up books in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

    The Second Golden Age of pop ups starts in the 1960s with Waldo Hunt who sees the work of Kubasta and inspired by them begins to produce his own pop up books.

    The beginning of the "New Wave" of pop up books began with the revolutionary "Haunted House" by Jan Pienkowski. Readers were enraptured by the book and it was a runaway success.

    With the market firmly established for pop-ups, there was an explosion in the number of publishers producing pop up books.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, there are excellent contemporary paper engineers such as David Hawcock, Bruce Foster, Chuck Fischer, David Carter, Marion Bataille, and the pop up masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhardt exploring new ideas and creating awesome pop up books.

    Sunday, October 3

    Pop up books

    Who can resist the allure of pop-up books?

    They are fascinating, amazing books which appeal and delight to children and grown-ups alike. There is something very satisfying and magical about being able to touch, manipulate and interact with the illustrations which makes the reading experience much more enjoyable.

    The epithet "pop up" is applied to any book that contains three-dimensional paper pictures or any mechanical or movable elements such as flaps or pull-tabs made of paper, they unfold and rise above the level of the page to our surprise and delight. Through the use of rivets, flaps, tabs, folds and cut paper, these books perform before our eyes. Each page becomes a stage inviting action and participation.

    They look like ordinary books but these "magical" books conceal withing their two dimensional covers magnificent structures and many different complicated mechanisms that can leave us in awe at the precision and power of paper engineering, as the design and creation of such books is called.

    Ingenious pop-up images bring graphics to life and always introduce an element of surprise. A successful pop up design is the result of the image, message and mechanisms all working together effectively. Pop-ups vary inmensely in terms of sophistication and complexity but even the most basic card with a single, simple mechanism can produce interesting effects, have a lot of visual impact and make us smile.

    Pop up books are still hand-assembled after the sheets have been printed and die-cut. Their publication involves the skill of a number of individuals. Publishers and packagers are continually seeking the least costly labor forces , so modern pop-up books are manufactured by a very few specialist factories in Colombia, China and Thailand.

    Nowadays there are many fine paper engineers exploring new ideas and ways of making breathtaking pop up books. I would highlight: David Hawcock, Bruce Foster, Chuck Fischer, David Carter, and for me the two "geniuses" pop-up masters Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

    I will give a list of my favourite pop up books:

    "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by Robert Sabuda

    "Alice in Wonderland" by Robert Sabuda

    "Star Wars" by Matthew Reinhart

    "Cinderella" by Matthew Reinhart

    "Encyclopedia Prehistorica" by Sabuda and Reinhart

    All these works by Sabuda and Reinhart are meticulously crafted with intrincate pop-ups and fold-outs that explode right out of the page and they are very cleverly engineered creating awesome pop-up books.

    "One Red dot"

    "Blue 2"

    "600 Black Spots"

    "Yellow Square"

    "White noise"

    All these excellent and brilliant works by David Carter.

    "Boticelli's Bed and Breakfast" by Jan Pienkowski.

    This book is meant to be opened up completely and tied end to end to reveal a 360 degree view of all the rooms.

    "ABC 3D" by Marion Bataille

    French graphic artist. She takes the alphabet to a sophisticated, three dimensional level. Prepare to be amazed. Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters move and change before your eyes.

    Through the years, the craftsmanship behind the creation of these books has grown more creative and complex and people are now no longer buying the books just for their children. Pop-ups are now being bought by adults for themselves, as works of art and collectibles.

    As you can see I am a lover of the magic of pop-ups, I appreciate them and the hard work that goes into creating interactive, pop-up books. I can't remember when my love for pop-ups began. As a child I was fascinated with Christmas pop-up cards relatives sent to us and I think I've kept this passion for them from those days.

    Pop ups and movable books are must haves for any library.

    (My next post will be about the techniques used to create pop-ups and a brief history of these books) You can download some books about pop ups here.