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A Serious Collection of Fun Books: Decline and Rebirth


Decline and Rebirth

Timeline: ca. 1890 - 1950


elephant wearing pants and jacket

Movable books have become a marketing gimmick. Our holdings include flap books packed into cereal boxes from the early 1900s and pop-up souvenirs from the 1893 and 1939 world fairs. 


giant with mustache facing off with a short jack

Very few movable books are published in the 1920s. The disruptive effects of the First World War and changing fashions in children's books create a lull. But the annual production of movable and especially pop-up books steadily increases across the 1930s. 

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, German artists and illustrators dominated paper engineering and their pop-up and movable books enjoyed international sales. But the First World War and its aftermath put an end to the flow of sophisticated and expensive movable books produced in Germany.

In the United States and England, pop-up and movable books witnessed something of a resurgence in the late 1920s and 1930s as American and English artists began creating relatively simple mechanisms in books that could be inexpensively produced. Beginning in 1928, Walt Disney Studios commenced publishing a number of pop-up books about Mickie Mouse and other characters from the Studio’s animated films. Across the 1930s illustrator and paper engineer Harold Lentz put forward a series of pop-up fairy tale books. And in England, between 1929 and 1949, Louis Giraud published sixteen carousel books in his “Bookano Living Pictures Series.”

front cover with red robin

A B C Surprises,  Front cover

alphabet book cat and duck

A B C Surprises, image of illustration on p. 1.

unfolded with ape, bear, cat, and duck

A B C Surprises, image of illustration on p. 1 unfolded.