Central Library Goes 3-D With Pop-Up Book Shows

From the interactive scientific books of the 13th century to a pop-up recreation of Harry Potter's magical world, movable books have educated and entertained readers for centuries.

Now, two exhibits at Downtown's Central Library examine the history behind these three-dimensional page turners. "Leaping Off the Page: Building Pop-up Books," which opened last week, and "Pop Up! 500 Years of Movable Books: Selections From the Waldo Hunt Collection," which opens Aug. 24, compose the first jointly themed exhibits to be displayed in the library's main galleries.

The exhibits feature more than 300 interactive books from Hunt's renowned collection of 5,000, as well as 10 from UCLA. Among the offerings are a 1584 book that illustrates the cosmos with revolving dials; an 1860s book of the famous puppets Punch and Judy; a pop-up book by Andy Warhol; and the world's best selling pop-up, Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski.

Hunt is the founder and chairman emeritus of Los Angeles-based Intervisual Books Inc. (IBI), a publisher of children's educational, novelty and interactive books. Although IBI has organized previous pop-up exhibits, Hunt says the Central Library's show is the largest and most comprehensive.

"It's the top show for pop-ups," he says. "There will be pop-up greeting cards, table decorations, commercial pop-ups and magazine inserts."

Hunt's pop-up book fascination stemmed from his enchantment with the colorful 1960s work of Prague's Vojtech Kubasta. His first pop-up efforts were advertising material for companies such as Del Monte and Wrigley's. He then worked with Random House and Hallmark to produce a line of children's books.

"It's not just the book but the person who created it and what inspired them to create it," Hunt says. "Even today, pop-ups must have good illustration, story, content and wherever possible, the books should educate."

Toria Aiken, exhibition coordinator for the Los Angeles Public Library, says the exhibits, which continue into 2003, will give the public a good survey of movable books.

"Many of us are quite curious how these things are done and this exhibit will show that," says Aiken. "The public will also learn that the pop-up book phenomenon has been around almost 500 years — a lot of people are surprised by that."

Although movable books date to the 13th century when they were used to instruct adults in scientific principles, it wasn't until the late 18th century that they were printed for children. Most interactive books contain some variation of movable parts that form dimensional scenes (pop-ups) or create puppet-like movements when the book is opened or a tab is pulled or pushed.

The main portion of the Downtown exhibit is organized into mostly chronological sections such as the "golden age" of pop-ups (early 1800s-1910), which includes the revolving picture books of Ernest Nister and the mechanical action masterpieces of Lothar Meggendorfer (his 1887 International Circus is one of the most valuable antique movable books).

A section is dedicated to movables such as carousels, dioramas, panoramas and cards. In addition, there are pop-ups organized by subject, such as Disney or science; the latter includes the National Geographic series and the best selling Human Body.

The exhibit also examines the work of some of today's pop-up masters. The library's first floor gallery features a step-by-step look at four book creators' designs and engineering concepts. Aiken says these mock-ups, die-cuts and sketches will help visitors understand the pop-up process, and how the mechanics and engineering transform flat paper into a lifelike creation.

Hunt says he hopes the public will also see the impact movables have had on encouraging children to read.

"It's education by fun," he says. "When our daughters were young we had a terrible time getting them to read. They liked pop-ups and eventually became good readers. The books helped them find their way. That's one of the things they do best."

"Pop Up: 500 Years of Movable Books" opens Aug. 24 and runs through Jan. 12, 2003; "Leaping Off the Page: Building Pop-up Books" runs through Jan. 12, 2003. At the Central Library, 630 W. Fifth St., (213) 228-7040, www.lapl.org/events.

(page 14, 8/12/02)

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