Blog—Source Material

Five Self-Guided Tours of “Pop-Up Books through the Ages”

Can't make it to one of our guided exhibition tours? Not to worry. Here are five self-guided tours you can take during your visit.

Pop-up book by Ernst Nister. 1890s.

Pop-up book by Ernst Nister. 1890s.

Pop-Up Books through the Ages includes over 50 books, maps, and printed artworks for visitors of all ages. Don’t have time to see everything at once? Below, you’ll find five quick self-guided tours, from kid lit to Renaissance science to zoological sightings! There are also six facsimiles scattered through the galleries that you can interact with and enjoy comparing to the original books.

Kids’ Stuff Tour

Coming to see children's books? They only entered the picture in the late 18th century, but we do have a few kids’ books and toys on view. In the first gallery, there's our pop-up Pinocchio from 1932, and a toy-like pair of acrobatic monkeys on horseback in an oversized facsimile that you can rotate yourself.

Artist unknown (German, ca. 15th century) Apes Performing On Horseback, Reproduction Strasbourg: Paul Heitz, 1913

Like illusions? Near the second column of the main gallery, there’s a Metamorphosis book in which folding paper reveals fantastical creatures. To the south, there are naughty pop-up kittens! Lastly, on the west wall, our die-cut paper dolls are colorful, removable fun, and if you look closely, their die-cut lines are showing. These machine-perforations allowed their owners to punch them out and use them as real toys.

M. A. Donohue, publisher Cut-Out Dolls: Ted and Bob. Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., 1950s. John M. Wing Collection Modern Manuscripts

Literary Tour

Looking for a good read? In our first gallery, you'll learn that Jane Austen didn't precisely name-drop Humphry Repton in Mansfield Park, but her characters did consider trying out his architectural makeovers. Nearby you’ll find Pinocchio being swallowed by a whale in a 1932 edition of the classic tale.

Harold B. Lentz (active 1930s), illustrator and paper engineer The “Pop-Up” Pinocchio New York: Blue Ribbon Books, October 1932. Bequest of Richard Holbrook Brown

Moving back in time, and into the main gallery: We found our 15th-century bookmark volvelle in a religious text with a very tiny and red marginal hedgehog (east wall). You turn it to mark the column number that you were most recently reading.

This little dial on a string could have been used to mark your place in any book—even in our (unexpectedly interactive) Roman de la Rose manuscript, a medieval poem about courtly love and sensual flowers. Our 19th-century copy even has some handmade flaps added (central south).

Volvelle Bookmark. Found in Orationarium in vita domini nostri Jhesu Christi (Orations in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ) Manuscript, ca. 1425

Movable Mayhem Tour

Moving parts don't always stay put. Several of the books in our main gallery could have been assembled better. One of our Peter Apian dials (in the long eastern wall case) had the entirely wrong parts inserted! Another book was bound much too tightly for the folded-over volvelles to turn, despite the best efforts of its ambitious (and possibly pirate) author, Robert Dudley, to make them as impressive as possible.

Peter Apian, Cosmographicus Liber Petri Apiani (Book of cosmography of Peter Apian) Landshut: Joannis Weyssenburger, 1524. Edward E. Ayer Collection
Peter Apian, La Cosmographia de Pedro Apiano (The cosmography of Peter Apian) Antwerp: Juan Bellero, 1575 Edward E. Ayer Collection

Others lost their parts over the years. Our 1618 broadside map of a disastrous rockslide in Plurs, near Switzerland, has shed its liftable mountain flap (northern map wall). Finally, in the center-south of the gallery, there’s a case of books with naughty pop-up kittens, and a range of others printed on fabric to deter damage. Did it work? Not so much!

Johann Philipp Walch (active ca. 1619) Warhafftige Abbildung desz Flecken Plurs . . . (Truthful illustration [of the shocking destruction] of Plurs . . . ) Nuremberg: J. P. Walch, 1619.

Renaissance Science Tour

16th-century printing was big, bold and experimented in multiple dimensions. The north-eastern corner of the main gallery boasts an entire wall full of pre-1800 maps and globes, and a long case of timekeeping volvelles. Can you find Renaissance rockstar Albrecht Dürer's world map and his perspectival flap book nearby? The five books by his contemporary, mathematician Peter Apian, show each movable dial from the book in turn. There’s also his illuminated tour-de-force of oversized astronomical volvelles in the first gallery.

Albrecht Dürer, Underweysung der Messung (Manual of measurement). Nuremberg: publisher unknown, 1525. John M. Wing Collection

Want more flaps? Or party games? Why not both? Andreas Vesalius's famed anatomy text (in another case nearby) has a manikin and organs to cut out for a macabre game of “pin the tail on the donkey.”

Broadside of the body and organs to cut out and attach, in Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), De Humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books) Basel: Joannes Oporinus, 1543.
Broadside of the body and organs to cut out and attach, in Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564), De Humani corporis fabrica libri septem (On the fabric of the human body in seven books) Basel: Joannes Oporinus, 1543.

Zoological Tour

How many animals can you find in the exhibition? Do your dragons hoard books and calculate eclipses? Ours do! Check out the colorful Peter Apian astronomy book in the center of the first gallery, and Hannah Batsel's detailed drawing (and blown-up detail) on the exhibition's final wall.

Hannah Batsel (b. 1989) Original drawing of book-hoarding dragon for the Pop-Up Newberry, 2023. John M. Wing Collection Modern Manuscripts

Snakes on the brain? The first freestanding case in the main gallery boasts some of the earliest books in the show. One 15th-century dial has a tiny movable snake or worm that helps you memorize words, phrases, and concepts. Here there be monsters, unicorns, and puppies: the map wall on the North side of the main gallery includes several playful surprises among the engraved globe gores (which fold up to make spherical globes). And, finally, find those darn cats (to the south). We can’t leave our naughty pop-up kittens alone for long. They’re only pretending to learn their school lessons.

About the Author

Suzanne Karr Schmidt is the Newberry's Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and the curator of Pop-Up Books through the Ages.


Pop-Up Books through the Ages

Mar 21–Jul 15, 2023

Pop-up books have a longer history than you might think. For centuries, books with interactive flaps, dials, and other moving parts have captivated readers of all ages. 

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