Pop-up books have a longer history than you might think. The earliest books were made for scholars. Over time, pop-up books found new audiences and grew in popularity from mathematicians to children. The opening of the Newberry Library’s newest exhibit “Pop-up Books through the Ages” highlights the extraordinary history of the interactive texts.
“I’m a bit of a pop-up books nerd. I’ve been working on them since I was in grad school. People generally think of them as being 19th century, 20th century but really they go back as early as print and even before that,” said Suzanne Karr Schmidt, the Newberry Library's Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Since at least the 1100s, readers have been lifting flaps, spinning dials and opening elaborate three-dimensional spreads in the pages of books. Some books act as works of study, others as home to fairytales.
“People literally sewed these pieces of paper to other pieces of paper so that they could turn and make different calculations. You really need a lot of bits and pieces to make these work,” said Karr Schmidt.
Featuring books, maps and more from the Newberry collection, the exhibit highlights the extensive history of hands-on reading. Pieces include a 1489 astronomical calendar and a 1775 battle map to a 1932 edition of Pinocchio.
“Pop-up books are all about getting your hands on the book but also making it yourself. So we made our own pop-up Newberry kit and anyone who comes to the exhibition can take one home and build it,” Karr Schmidt.
For centuries, books with interactive flaps, dials and more have captivated readers of all ages. Today the Newberry library hopes to captivate a new generation of readers and offers a free build-your-own kit with art made from Chicagoan Hannah Batsel.
The exhibit runs from Mar 21–Jul 15, 2023.
Listen to our new podcast Courier Pigeon
Listen to WBBM Newsradio now on Audacy!
Sign up and follow WBBM Newsradio
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram