In the first of our series on pop-up books, our guest blogger Lena Kleine Bornhorst, browses through the Seven Stories book collection and looks at some of the milestones in the history of moveable books:

On the bookshelves in the Seven Stories Collection Department you can find lots of copies of a very special kind of book: pop-up books. These books – full of surprises and wonderful 3D elements – are worth having a closer look at. Pop-up books have a very long tradition and had their beginning in the area of ‘toy books’ – also called ‘movable books’. All of them have special interactive functions or attributes, which make them different to a traditional book. The first known toy books date from the thirteen century. Rotating discs were included for example in mathematics books, where they were used for changing a maths formula when the disc was turned.

The years 1880 – 1910 were seen as the first enormous height of toy books. One of the big names in the field at this time was the British publisher and printer, Ernest Nister, who used different interactive elements in his books. The Seven Stories Collection holds reproductions of some of his titles. For example, his book Revolving Pictures, which was originally published in 1892. When you revolve the tabs around the illustration in this book, you can see a hidden picture appear.

Detail from Ernest Nister's Revolving Pictures (1892)

A significant person at this time, and an important figure in the development of paper-engineering books, was the German illustrator Lothar Meggendorfer. He used many different techniques in clever ways and published numerous books – for example Internationaler Circus (International Circus) in 1887. Meggendorfer's books were translated into many languages. His German Publisher house J.F. Schreiber Verlag exists today under the name Esslinger Verlag ( and many of his great books have been reprinted. The Seven Stories Collection includes a copy of his title Das Puppenhaus (The doll’s house). Meggendorfer’s wide and lasting influence on the pop-up industry is demonstrated by the fact that the American Movable Book Society ( named their prize for outstanding paper engineering after him.

Cover of Lothar Meggendorfer's Das Puppenhaus (1889)

Internal spread from Lothar Meggendorfer's Das Puppenhaus (1889)

The first book with the definition ‘pop-up’ on the cover was already published in 1912. Very often, though, the beginnings of the term ‘pop-up’ is associated with Jack the Giant Killer, which was published by the New York publishing house Blue Ribbon in 1932. It became a big success and Blue Ribbon published other pop-up fairy tales which developed as a big seller.

The Blue Ribbon pop-up books were based on a British example. In 1929 publisher, S. Louis Giraud in his publisher house Strand Publications in London, produced the first book of his successful series Bookano Stories. The books contained five coloured double pages with 3D-elements, which Giraud called “pictures that spring up in model form”. The books were printed in a large run and became a big success. At the Seven Stories Collection you can find a copy of a later volume of the Bookano Stories from 1947.

Front cover of S. Louis Giraud's Bookano Stories no. 16 (1947)

Paper engineered Tower Bridge from S. Louis Giraud's Bookano Stories no. 16 (1947)

Blue Ribbon worked closely with Walt Disney to create pop-up books of Disney characters beginning in 1933 with four Micky Mouse pop-up books. A lot of Walt Disney-Pop-ups followed and the licenses were sold all over the world. There have been numerous Disney themed pop-up-books over the years.  At Seven Stories you can find for example a copy of Pocahontas – Meeko’s Busy Day from 1996 or The Aristocats from 1971 – made by (but not credited to) the internationally regarded pop-up artist Vojtech Kubašta.

Internal spread from The Aristocats (1971)

Kubašta’s characteristic style is obvious throughout this book: the spine of the book is at the top rather than the left, the paper engineering-elements emerge at the left and right side of the book when you open the pages, and the pull-tabs are cleverly integrated. These characteristics can all be seen in The Aristocats as well as in his many other books. Kubašta produced over 70 titles and his particular style makes him another important person in the history of paper engineering.

In the middle of the 60s began the so-called second golden age of pop-up books.  In 1974 the American Waldo Hunt, set up the pop-up production company Intervisual Communications. Hunt produced also the pop-up book Haunted House by the British author and illustrator Jan Pienkowski (paper engineering for this book was created by Tor Lokvig). In 1979 this became the first pop-up-book to win the Kate Greenaway Award – a very remarkable honour for a pop-up-book. A signed copy of this special book is available at the Seven Stories Collection Department.

The cover of Jan Pienkowski's Haunted House (1979)

Internal spread from Jan Pienkowski's Haunted House (1979)

Waldo Hunt also worked with some other great known paper engineers, like David Pelham, David A. Carter, and Robert Sabuda. Many of their books can be found in the Seven Stories Collection.

Beyond the well-known paper-engineers, many successful illustrators and authors, such as Anthony Browne and Maurice Sendak, have worked with paper engineers to make wonderful pop-up books. Animal Fair (2002) by Anthony Browne is available at the Seven Stories Collection Department and here you can see a short film about a conversation about Maurice Sendaks Mommy?, published 2006.

There have been a lot more exciting and creative pop-up-books over the last years and some very innovative paper engineers like Robert Crowther, Ron van der Meer (who specialises in pop-ups for adults), and the paper engineer Matthew Reinhardt.  But why not come along and explore all the wonderful books here yourself?

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, the pop-up books we hold, or our extensive library of children's books and related literature, then 
email: or phone: 01914952707.