Pop-Up! at the National Library of Scotland aims to delight adults and children alike

By Sarah Jackson | 25 November 2013

A Christmas treat that adults and children alike will enjoy opening at the National Library of Scotland

A book with a pop-up gingerbread house, trees and bushes.
Louise Rowe, Hansel and Gretel (2010)© Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland
As a child, a pop-up book or two may have been amongst your most treasured possessions, with the pop-up books in the school classroom library among the most treasured and fought over books. But how many of us consider this art form outside of childhood?

A new display at the National Library of Scotland this Christmas draws attention to this under-rated art form and reveals the skill and ingenuity that goes into creating books with movable and pop-up parts.

The display features 24 examples of this art form by some of the world’s leading designers, dating from the 19th century right up to the 20th century with a pop-up version of Hogwarts.

"This was an opportunity too good to miss to bring these books out of our collections to be admired at this special time of the year," says Andrew Martin, the curator of Modern Scottish Collections at the National Library of Scotland.

“Pop-up books have delighted us for a very long time."

Although largely associated with children’s books these days, moveable parts in books have a long and surprisingly academic history. Some of the earliest examples date back to the 13th century and were often found in books used for scholarly or scientific purposes; for example, a revolving disc set into a page that revealed new information as it was turned.

By the 18th century paper engineering had advanced enough that 3D scenes could now be created inside a normal book, creating the pop-up book as we know it.

The exhibition includes work from some of the most prominent and outstanding paper designers in Europe, including Lother Meggendorfer, whose 1887 International Circus (pictured below) used various paper mechanisms to create spectacular effects.

Louis Giraud, the editor of children’s books for the Daily Express newspaper, produced a series of annuals during the 1930s which featured pop-ups printed on both sides of the paper, enabling the design to be enjoyed from all angles.

“These were the Christmas presents of yesteryear,” continues Martin. “They delighted the children of the time and will provoke memories in many adults.”

Despite the advent of digital technologies and entertainments, pop-up books remain popular today. Artists have drawn inspiration from fairy tales, science, the natural world and popular culture such as Harry Potter or the Incredible Hulk.

Pop-up! gives visitors the chance to view these modern examples next to their precedents, revealing how this art form developed and endured for more than 500 years.

  • Runs until January 19 2014. Follow the library on Twitter @natlibscot.

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Pop-up scene of a crowd watching circus performers.
Lothar Meggendorfer, International circus (1979 facsimile of 1887 original).© Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland
Pop up book featuring a pagoda on a hilltop above a stream.
Louis Giraud, Daily Express children’s annual (1931).© Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland
Pop-up book featuring Rupert the Bear and a friend in a snowball fight.
Louis Giraud, Rupert Bear, Daily Express children’s annual (1930).© Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland
Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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