Pop-Up Books: They’re Not Just for Kids

Story posted February 07, 2011

Pop-up books by their very nature are intended to surprise and delight. They bring elements of animation and visual depth to what is normally a two-dimensional page, so that as readers, our assumption of a flat, static expanse is completely disrupted by the added stimuli of motion, shadow and form.

Pop-ups! They're Not JUST for Kids from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

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Cinderella (Berkhout, Netherlands: Miniatuurbokbinden Tine Krijnen, 2002).

Just such a diversion is unfolding at Bowdoin College’s Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, home of one of the larger collections of pop-up books in the country.

More than 150 books from the 1,800-volume Harold M. Goralnick Pop-up Book Collection are on display during the spring semester.

Items range in date from the late 19th century to the present, and run the gamut from works by Andy Warhol to those depicting Fenway Park and R2-D2.

Because children’s responses are inherently immediate and uninhibited, pop-up features are particularly suited for children’s books.

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Andy Warhol’s Index (Book) (N.Y.: Random House, 1967).

This is where they first appeared and where they continue to thrive in contemporary book publishing.

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Jerome Corsi’s Leonard da Vinci (Rohnert Park, Calif.: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1995).

But increasingly complex paper engineering and technological advances in book production have broadened the application of pop-ups far beyond illustrating fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

Pop-up books for adults appear in a wide range of works—literature, erotica, political commentary, books about art and architecture, advertising—and pop-up features are also found in artists’ books, where the book form and the process of reading are appropriated for artistic expression.

Goralnick, of the Bowdoin College Class of 1971, began acquiring pop-ups and other “movable” books in 1999.

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John Boswell and David Fisher’s Fenway Park (Boston: Little Brown, 1992).

"My friends used to think that I was crazy," says Goralnick.

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Harold Goralnick '71

"It's over a ten year period of collecting. I never grew up with pop-ups and was never aware of them.

"I found somebody on the Internet who specializing in pop-ups and she gave me a list of the 100 most collectible pop-up books and I was off and running."

In 2008, Goralnick donated his collection to the College to make it publicly accessible and to complement the Library’s broader holdings in the book arts.

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Rebecca Goodale’s Salix/Willow (Portland, Me.: R. Goodale, 2005); photo by Luc Demers.

The collection contains editions by V. Kubasta and Julian Wehr, whose movable books from the 1950s and 1960s now command prices up to $500, and by such contemporary artists as David A. Carter, Robert Sabuda and Keith Moseley.

Most of the books have been published in the U.S. or Great Britain, but some, particularly fairy tales, also appear in German, French, Czech, and Italian, among other languages.

Bowdoin’s exhibition demonstrates the wide diversity of pop-up books—for children and for adults.

In addition to items from the Goralnick Collection are other books from the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives that also celebrate pop-up engineering at its finest.

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Neiman Marcus Pop Up Book (Dallas: Neiman Marcus, 2007).

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