Pop-Up Books through the Ages

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. 

A monk kneels in front of concentric circles.

Robert Sabuda’s interpretation of a spinning calendar dial by Matthew Paris from 1250. Part of “A Celebration of Pop-Up and Movable Books,” published by the Movable Book Society in 2004. Call number: Case folio Z1033.T68 C38 2004

Pop-up books go back centuries. Since at least the 1100s, readers have been lifting flaps, spinning dials, and opening elaborate three-dimensional spreads in the pages of books. The earliest interactive texts were intended for scholars. Over time, pop-up books found new audiences and grew in popularity, engaging a wide range of users from emperors to mathematicians to children.

Featuring books, maps, and ephemera from the Newberry collection, Pop-Up Books through the Ages traces the extensive history of hands-on reading. Tactile, interactive components can be found in everything from a 1489 astronomical calendar and a 1775 battle map to a 1932 edition of Pinocchio. Viewing these different items in one place, visitors will see how the art, science, and business of pop-up books evolved over hundreds of years.

In addition to exploring the past, the exhibition highlights the present and future of pop-up books, including the work of contemporary book and paper artists who are pushing the form in new directions. Two of these artists, Hannah Batsel and Shawn Sheehy, have even designed a pop-up version of the Newberry that you can take home and construct yourself!

The pop-up Newberry kits are meant as a take-away for visitors to the show. If you cannot make it to the library and would like to be notified of any available kits after the exhibition closes on July 15, please send us an email and we will notify you by August 1 if kits are available.

Pop-Up Books through the Ages is generously supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Professor James H. Marrow and Dr. Emily Rose, Alan Templeton, Diane and Richard Weinberg, and The Movable Book Society.

Pop-Up Books through the Ages is curated by Suzanne Karr Schmidt, George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.


Tuesday – Thursday
10am – 7pm

Friday and Saturday
10am – 5pm

Admission for Newberry exhibitions is free. No advance registration required.

Guided Public Tours

Visit for a free docent-led tour of Pop-Up Books through the Ages.

  • Tuesdays at 1pm
  • Thursdays at 11:30am
  • Fridays at 1pm
  • Saturdays at 1pm

Private Tours

To book a private tour of a Newberry exhibition (for a group of 10 or more), please contact Rebecca Haynes at (312) 255-3526 or via email.

Private tours are free, but donations are encouraged.

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