Monday, May 1, 2023

Books that pop out at you

     We didn’t have kids, yet. So with plenty of time to burn, my wife and I sat on the sofa and worked through Nick Bantock’s “Griffin & Sabine,” the 1991 illustrated novel whose love story unfolds, quite literally, in a series of postcards and letters.
     I admit that “Griffin & Sabine” has not come to mind much in the third of a century since. Not until recently, when I found myself strolling with the curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Newberry Library, Suzanne Karr Schmidt, through the exhibit she created, “Pop-Up Books through the Ages.”
     With the exception of freakish epistolary adult best-sellers — “Griffin & Sabine” and its sequels sold millions of copies — pop-up books today are considered primarily a niche entertainment for children, where colorful three-dimensional contrivances rear out of pages as they’re opened.
     But the Newberry’s books, some nearly a millennium old — the oldest dates to 1121 — have dials and flaps showing calendars and cosmos, anatomical studies, and a town before and after a landslide. (Though several reveal a discreetly hidden naked lady).
     “The interactiveness of it makes the show fun,” Karr Schmidt said.
     I was surprised, looking at these amazing volumes, how often the technological wonder in my back pocket came to mind. We often sneer at our phones, for good reason. But when you see the lengths scholars and clerics went to in the past, trying to visualize information, it makes you appreciate what we have. We’re living their unattainable dream.
     “A lot of these books do many of the things that a screen does now,” Karr Schmidt said.
     “Pop-Up Books through the Ages” is particularly kid-friendly, with large pages of cut out dolls and offers a souvenir pop-up Newberry Library, created for the exhibit by Chicago illustrator Hannah Batsel and paper engineer Shawn Sheehy.

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  1. it was wonderful....that eyeball!!

  2. I gave my wife a "Wizard of Oz" pop-up book from 2000. The first thing you see when you open it is the Kansas farm...and the tornado. Just opened it now. Still very cool.

  3. That's a charming concluding vignette. Ah, "Griffin and Sabine." I remember that. Is it on our shelves? Doubtful, but who knows? Did we get it from the library and actually read it? Perhaps. Did I just pick it up at a bookstore and give it a brief once-over? I wouldn't put it past me. Such is the state of my recollection of many books, alas.

    "(I should probably mention that I’m a scholar-in-residence at the Newberry, though whether that biases me toward them, or is just a humble brag, I’ll leave for you to decide)." I'm trying to decide why that's not just an informative regular brag, rather than a "humble brag." ; ) Also interesting that the photo of the nekkid lady is special blog content, evidently not fit for the newspaper!


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