Pop-Up and Movable Books

Image from "Dinosaurs, A Pop-Up Book"

The term pop-up book is often applied to any three-dimensional book; however pop-up books are really just a subset of the broader category of movable books, which also includes transformations, tunnel books, volvelles, flaps, pull-tabs, pop-outs, pull-downs, and more. Aside from pop-up books, the most common movable book types are transformations – a scene made up of vertical slats and when a tab is pulled the slats slide under and over one another to make a completely different scene; and volvelles – books that utilize rotating parts.

Image from "Pop-Up Mickey Mouse," published in 1933

When people think of movable books and pop-up books, they usually think of books for children; however this was not always the case. In fact, movable books for adults were around for centuries before the techniques were used in children’s books.

Image from "Leonardo da Vinci: a three dimensional study"

It is believed that the first use of movable mechanics appeared in a manuscript for an astrological book in 1306. Most movable books were scholarly in subject matter, including anatomy and astronomy.

Movable books for children did not appear until the 18thcentury. The first real pop-up books were produced by Ernest Nister (who also produced books focusing solely on vovelles) and Lothar Meggendorfer.

Image from "The City Park" by Meggendorfer

Many of Meggendorfer’s movable children’s books have been reproduced during the 20thcentury.

A top veiw of Meggendorfer's "The City Park"

While the Walter Havighurst Special Collections holds examples of the many types of movable books, I’ve selected just a few of my favorite, classic style pop-up books to share.

Image from "The Working Camera"

In The Working Camera by John Hedgecoe (published in 1986) the book’s movable parts, including pop-ups, pull tabs, flaps and volvelles, are used to illustrate the many aspects of photography. The image below demonstrates the use of a view finder. The image on the left is the full page in which both the subject and the camera can be seen. The image on the right is what is seen when one looks through the view finder of the pop-up camera.Some of my other favorite pop-up books in the collection are versions of beloved children’s classics. For example, this pop-up version of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Another favorite is this more contemporary children’s book The Knight’s Castle.










The Walter Havighurst Special Collections is home to over 150 movable books, ranging in subject from the human reproductive system, the British Royal Family, cameras, computers, and architecture to three dimensional versions of the Hobbit, dinosaurs, Cinderella, and haunted houses. You can also find many of Ernest Nister’s transformation and volvelle books from the late 19th century as well as several original and reproduction copies of Meggendorfer’s fantastic works.

Image from "The City Park"

Ashley Jones
Preservation Librarian