The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Pop-Up Books Day *

* (Restored)


Medical Oddities, Nature’s Anomalies and Carnival Gaffs: A Pop Up Book for Children, a rather odd book from the Colmore Collection. The mummy face in the middle does not appear to be made from paper. It has a pliable leathery texture. It is quite similar to a mummy that was part of the American Dime Museum’s collection. There is no author or publishing information listed anywhere in this volume. I suspect it is a one of a kind privately produced work. Note that the titular card has the word “anomalies” misspelled. It appears correctly on the cover and title page of the tome itself. Many of the items depicted throughout the book appear in other forms as part of the Colmore Collection.’ — crowolf



Pop-up books: an introduction


The audience for early movable books was adults, not children. It is believed that the first use of movable mechanics appeared in a manuscript for an astrological book in 1306. The Catalan mystic and poet Ramon Llull, of Majorca, used a revolving disc or volvelle to illustrate his theories. Throughout the centuries volvelles have been used for such diverse purposes as teaching anatomy, making astronomical predictions, creating secret code, and telling fortunes. By 1564 another movable astrological book titled Cosmographia Petri Apiani had been published. In the following years, the medical profession made use of this format, illustrating anatomical books with layers and flaps showing the human body. The English landscape designer Capability Brown made use of flaps to illustrate “before and after” views of his designs.

While it can be documented that books with movable parts had been used for centuries, they were almost always used in scholarly works. It was not until the eighteenth century that these techniques were applied to books designed for entertainment, particularly for children. Beginning in the 1990s, pop-up or moveable books have grown in prominence, chiefly due to the innovations of Robert Sabuda, Matthew Reinhart, and other great paper engineers. Another such example is David A. Carter’s Bugs in a Box books which have combined sales of over four million copies. In 1987, Camel cigarettes launched a series of pop-up print ads with several innovative folding techniques featuring Joe Camel.

Some pop-up books receive attention as literary works for the degree of artistry or sophistication which they entail. One example is STAR WARS: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy, by Matthew Reinhart. This book received literary attention for its elaborate pop-ups, and the skill of its imagery, with the New York Times saying that “calling this sophisticated piece of engineering a ‘pop-up book’ is like calling the Great Wall of China a partition”.


Capability Brown ‘Stourhead secret tunnel’, 1765 (0:44)

French Biedermier moveable card, ca. 1820 (0:06)

Flower Girl moveable card, ca. 1920 (0:05)

The conservation of antique Pop-Up books (11:32)

Pop-up Winnie the Pooh wheel, ca. 1960 (0:13)

David A. Carter ‘Pop-up Tibetan Buddhist Altars’, 2004 (2:44)

‘Star Wars: A Pop-up Guide to the Galaxy’, 2007 (6:09)

Robert Sabuda ‘Peter Pan’, 2008 (6:14)


Selected Links


Movable Book Society
Brooklyn Pops Up: A History of the Movable Book
Exploring Tunnel Books
The Pop-Up World of Ann Montanaro
The Great Menagerie: Pop-Up and Movable Books, 1811-1996
Pop Goes the Page


The greatest pop-up book?


‘In the late 1970s there was an international boom in pop-up books that first lead them away from their longtime status as a novelty form and niche marketing tool. The most memorable and innovative by far was Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House: robust both in concept and construction, with its intricate, multiply entwined moveable parts, marvelously theatrical final spread and brilliant sound effects, the likes of which had never even been attempted previously, Haunted House (1979) was – and, having recently been voted #1 in a poll of the most respected artists and scholars in the field, remains- the best pop-up book ever. Born in Poland in 1936, Pienkowski made his first book when he was only 8-years-old. It was a gift for his father. Due to the war his family left Poland and eventually settled in England where he would attend Kings College. Tor Lokvig was the “paper engineer” on Haunted House and that was the first time anyone had ever heard of such a thing.’ — The Guardian




Click & animate 5 pop-up and moveable books


Julian Wehr ‘The Animated Circus: the Clowns’
Julian Wehr ‘The Animated Circus: the Acrobats’
Ernest Nister ‘What A Surprise:The Three Bears’
L. Meggendorfer ‘Allerlei Tiere: Beetle’
L.Meggendorder ‘Grand Theatre de Animaux Savants’

Brian Dettmer’s book autopsies


Brian Dettmer’s work is created by altering books. Dettmer seals, then cuts into older dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, science and engineering books, art books, medical guides, history books, atlases, comic books, wallpaper sample books, and others, exposing select images and text to create intricate three-dimensional derivative works that reveal new or alternative interpretations of the books. Dettmer never inserts or moves any of the books’ contents. (read more)




5 high & low end pop-up books


Lexus Pop-Up Book (0:30)

The Royal Family Pop-Up Book (3:38)

The Pop-Up Book of Sex (4:03)

The Pop-Up Book of Celebrity Meltdowns (3:52)

Neiman Marcus Limited Edition Pop-Up Book (4:20)


Deutsche Soldaten (Schreibers Stehauf-Bilderbucher)
Rare Third Reich Children’s 3D pop-up book


This unusual book is very rare. Few examples managed to survive both the rigors of use by little German children and the destruction of World War II. The 6 x 9 inch, full-color hardcover book is called simply ,,Deutsche Soldaten’’ (German Soldiers) and of course, soldiers of the German Wehrmacht is exactly what is depicted and written about in it. The book consists of five very heavy, stiff chipboard pages, each containing a 7-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch, full-color Richard Friese illustration of soldiers in action and a poetic verse by Hans K. Meixner describing the action in the scene.


8 Pop-up books recommended by Ellen G.K. Rubin aka the Popuplady, an avid collector of pop-ups and board books, with over 5000 titles in her collection. Ms. Rubin, a recognized expert on movable books, served as curator of the exhibition, ‘The History and Art of the Movable Book’, held in early 2008 at the Brooklyn Public Library.


Ken Ishiguro’s ‘Pop-up light’ (0:07)
‘Pop-up Alice falls into wonder hole’ (0:27)
‘Inside the Personal Computer’ (2:19)
Colette Fu’s pop-up books (4:59)
Shitdisco ‘OK’ (3:35)
ABC3D (1:20)

立體書: Moby-Dick (白鯨記) (3:19)

Pop-up tornado (0:26)

van gebouw tot kaart (Tirion Uitgevers B.V.)
Ingrid Siliakus


Ingrid Sikikus’ work has been displayed and sold in The Netherlands and beyond. In 2001, it was displayed at the American Craft Museum in New York for four months along side work from Marivi Garrido, Takaaki Kihari, Masahiro Chatani and Keiko Nakazawa. Last Spring she published a book of her pop-ups Van Gebouw tot Kaart (‘From Building to Card’), featuring her original designs of famous buildings in The Netherlands and Belgium.


How to make a pop-up
by Joan Irvine


1. Take two pieces of paper, each 21.5 cm x 28 cm (8.5 in. x 11 in.). Fold each paper in half. Put one aside. 2. On the other, put a dot in approximately the centre of the folded edge. 3. Draw a 5 cm (2 in.) line from the dot towards the outer edge. 4. Starting at the folded edge, cut on the line. 5. Fold back the flaps to form two triangles. 6. Open the flaps again. Open the whole page. 7. Now comes the tricky part! Hold your paper, so that it looks like a tent. Put your finger on the top triangle and push down. Pinch the two folded edges of the top triangle, so that the triangle is pushed through to the other side of the paper. 8. Put your finger on the bottom triangle and do the same thing. The top and bottom triangles will now be pushed out to form a mouth inside the card. When you open and close your card, the mouth will look like it is talking. When your card is closed it will look like this:



9. Draw a monster, a person or an animal around your mouth. 10. Glue the inside and outside cards together. Do not apply glue in the area of the pop-up mouth. You now have a cover for your card.


7 utopian pop-up books



The Hadron Collider Pop-Up Book
Emma Sanders


‘The ‘Voyage to the Heart of Matter’ book by Emma Sanders aims to explain the science behind the experiment in which protons travelling at nearly the speed of light collide 40 million times a second within the heart of particle detectors. Pages detail how big the 27km tunnels are in relation to Geneva, how the particle detectors were built and readers are even able to build their own ATLAS device – one of the six particle detector experiments at LHC – albeit a non functioning paper one. n this unique collaboration between ATLAS and renowned paper engineer Anton Radevsky, 7000 tonnes of metal, glass, plastic, cables and computer chips leap from the page in miniature pop-up, to tell the story of CERN’s quest to understand the birth of the universe.’ —




p.s. Hey. I’m in Caen, France rehearsing the actors for the imminent filming of Zac Farley’s and my film PERMANENT GREEN LIGHT. Try some pop-books?


  1. Bill

    Great to see this favorite again! Of course, I immediately went to bookfinder to troll for a copy of the Medical Oddities book. Turns out it’s already in my search history; I’m most predictable, sigh.

    Dennis, did you catch the movie “The Babadook”?

    Hope the film work is going well…

    Bill (first, ha)

  2. New Juche

    Good Luck Dennis, I hope you recover quickly and that the shoot goes swimmingly.



  3. _Black_Acrylic

    A beautiful selection of pop-up books! Hope all goes well in Caen and the evil cold is being kept at bay.

    After work today I went over the road to the DCA cinema to see Mad To Be Normal, all about the Glaswegian psychiatrist RD Laing. He’s a fascinating figure but this was kind of like a TV movie in feel. David Tenant is really good in the lead, though. A few years ago Luke Fowler made a great film about Laing called All Divided Selves that I think’s about a million times better.

  4. _Black_Acrylic

    RIP Mika Vainio.

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