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A Serious Collection of Fun Books: An American Master


An American Master

Julian Wehr ca. 1890 - ca. 1950

portrait of julien wehr

From 1942 to about 1955, Julian Wehr publishes nearly 40 movable books with simple but highly original animations.  Unlike Meggendorfer's mechanisms elaborated from paper, tiny metal rivets, and small springs, Wehr devises and patents a method involving multiple movable elements mounted on a single piece of paper and set in motion by a pull-tab.  Trained at the Art Students League of New York by John Sloan, he pursued woodcut book illustration in his early career. Family and financial pressures lead him to movable books. Many of his titles see multiple editions with sales figures in the hundreds of thousands.


cover of finne the fiddler with animate characters and animals
drawing of patent for movable book
dark woodcut with people around a fire
raggedy ann and andy book cover


Innovative, humorous, clever, prolific, and influential, Julian Wehr is recognized as the American master of pop-up and movable books. In 1942, he began creating and publishing what he called “animated books.” These utilized high-quality color printing and plastic spiral bindings with precision die-cut shapes inserted between double-folded pages. The die-cut shapes included pictorial elements and a pull-tab that, with a tug of the tab, gave motion to as many as a half-dozen details of the whole illustration.

characters in a boat on the ocean


The exciting adventures of Finnie the fiddler, 1942

snow white surrounded by dwarves

Snow White, 1942

bearded rip van winkle bowling in a field

Rip Van Winkle, 1945

sassy cat walking with red boots

Puss in Boots, 1944

fox peaking in through a door into a kitchen

The cock, the mouse, and the little red hen, 1946

Wehr’s mechanisms were pure simplicity. The books were easy to assemble and not at all expensive. Of the approximately 40 animated books he published between 1942 and the early 1950s, a number of titles sold over 200,000 copies and were published in multiple editions. All told, his pop-up books likely reached total sales of 9,000,000 copies worldwide, for they were marketed in Europe and South America with translations in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Icelandic.

Walker Library’s holdings of Julian Wehr are substantial.  These include all but a few editions of his pop-up books, foreign language editions, modern reprints published by his son Paul Wehr, and various novels, plays and poetry editions representing his early work as an illustrator.