Story posted July 31, 2008
Wondrous treasures are unfolding within the Bowdoin College Library's George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives. Pop-up books — 1,900 of them — have been donated by collector Harry Goralnick '71.
Ninety linear feet of books cover a wide range — from the children's literature of Grimm and Sendak, to the pop culture of Star Wars and Warhol, and even the Boston Red Sox.
"This is an extraordinary collection, and it instantly places Bowdoin among the nation's top repositories for 'toy and movable books,'" said Richard Lindemann, director of special collections.
"As a resource for students and scholars in the book arts, in children's literature, in popular culture and visual arts, the collection is of immediate value both in the curriculum and for the wider research community.
"And it represents a vivid example of how the Library has built world-class collections chiefly through the generosity of its alumni and friends."
Goralnick, of Haverhill, Mass., began collecting pop-up books in the summer of 1999. He had been reading Nick Bantock, the writer and artist behind the popular Griffin and Sabine series, and in researching Bantock's earlier works, discovered his first pop-up book.
"I was off and running," Goralnick says. "I familiarized myself with various paper engineers.
"My 'want list' quickly expanded to include other books created by my favorite designers.
"Soon I was buying books from new and used bookstores to fill in gaps in series or just find better copies. I became an eBay addict, bidding on auctions late into the night.
"As I became more proficient, I used an auction sniper and got a lot more sleep. My searches extended to England, Germany, Australia, and Italy, always meeting the nicest people with similar passion."
Goralnick says his friends were initially amused that an adult was seriously collecting what they dismissed as children's books.
"However once they saw my collection and the breadth of topics that it covered, they showed a much healthier respect," he says.
"Pop-up books cover many, many themes, always entertaining, many educational. Common themes include dinosaurs, the alphabet, numbers, fairy tales, movies, books, history, space, art, Disney, religion, et cetera. All of these and more are included in my collection. My collection spans back to the 1960s, with reproductions of some 18th and 19th century designers.
"I took particular interest in the first editions of V. Kubata (1960s) and Julian Wehr (1950s), whose creations originally sold for less than $2 and now command prices up to $500."
Goralnick says he considered selling his collection, but found that many collectors preferred to cherry-pick his collection, rather than buy an entire series or grouping of books.
He thought that in selling his books in that way, the true value of what he had accomplished would be sacrificed.
"Assembling and maintaining the integrity of a collection of movable books in good to excellent condition from around the world spanning over 50 years is a legacy that I was proud of," he says.
Inspired by his late brother's decision to distribute assets to people who would truly enjoy them, Goralnick began to think about donating his prized possessions to the College — a decision that was cemented after meeting with Richard Lindemann.
"Initially, I had planned to downsize one-half to two-thirds of my collection," Goralnick says.
"Richard's enthusiasm and energy totally disarmed me and I offered him virtually the entire collection."
Goralnick says he hopes providing books featuring paper engineers like Kubata, Sabuda and Meggendorfer will help raise the level of awareness and appreciation for the art of paper engineering, and says he feels privileged to contribute his collection.
"I definitely feel a synergy with Bowdoin College, and I truly hope that many others will share my fascination, if not my passion, for movable books."