Celebrating the acquisition of over 600 pop-up books collected by Dr. Francis Molson, a retired member of the CMU English Department, the exhibit documents the delights of pop-up books for children and adults, as well as the very serious work of authors and paper engineers, who make the surprise and wonder occur. What is fascinating about pop-up books is that the person who picks one up becomes director, performer, and audience, controlling a performance engineered for them but completely under their power.
While moveable parts within a book have been a part of book design for centuries, originally they were almost always used in scholarly works and in books for adults. How better to illustrate an anatomy text, for example, than with little tabs, allowing you to see what lay beneath the skin? It was not until the 19th century that these techniques were applied to books that were designed to entertain and delight children. Once children became the audience, story began to emerge, particularly stories like fairy tales and mythology, as well as adapting stories from the theater.
The main feature of a moveable book is its interactivity. The book's mechanisms cause the content of its pages to transform, engrossing the reader through the element of surprise. Its effects cannot be completely anticipated, and in general when a good moveable book is opened, each page is like a Christmas present, provoking a sense of wonder.
Imaginative paper engineers continue to explore and to innovate new ways to fold paper, devise complex pull tabs that create movement, design intricate three-dimensional pop-up forms, and use cut paper, string, and other mechanisms to make figures magically twist and turn. The possibilities seem endless. Today, the simple, dynamic quality of the cut paper forms and mechanisms can create books that are a sculptural work of art.
The exhibit was curated by Doctors Gretchen Papazian and Anne Hiebert Alton, both faculty members in CMU's Department of English Language and Literature. Janet Danek, the Libraries' Exhibits and Projects Coordinator, designed the show. Opening on March 17, 2020, the exhibit will run through August.
We hope you will join us and share our sense of surprise and wonder at these amazing books.