by Edric Vredenburg
Paper engineering is the cutting, gluing and folding of paper to create books and ephemera with pop-ups, pull-tabs, flaps and a variety of other moving parts. Pop-up and moving books are most commonly associated with children, but some of the earliest movables were academic titles that used the technique to explain anatomy and astronomy.
It wasn’t until the Victorian era that publishing pop-up books became more affordable and they were marketed toward children. Much of their popularity can be attributed to Ernest Nister or Louis Giraud. Nister worked in both Germany and England in the 1890s and his publications became well known for the high artistic quality of the pop-ups and illustrations. Nister introduced many techniques including three-dimensional scenes that lifted into view with the pull of a tab – he also held a patent for the revolving picture mechanism that first appeared in Twinkling Pictures in 1899.
By the 1920s, Giraud burst onto the pop-up scene in Britain. He had been working in the Daily Express book department where he produced its Children’s Annual, which contained popular cartoons as well as nursery stories and, of course, moving pictures. Seeing the success of books with spring up models, he formed his own publishing house that would produce the highly successful Bookano series (a combination of Book and Meccano). Bookano combined popular children’s stories and nursery rhymes with the same pop-up illustrations from the Daily Express annuals. Like Nister, Giraud’s greatest success came with movable books, but his crowning achievement was producing the Bookano series at affordable prices that would appeal to a mass audience – he pretty much defined the modern children’s pop-up book. We recommend browsing the pop-ups offered by Columbia Books of Missouri, in the United States, for a fascinating selection of moveable books.