Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2011 Issue

Collecting Pop-Up Books & Movables: An Old Field with New Fans

Ellen gk rubin the pop up lady

Ellen GK Rubin, the “Pop-Up Lady.”

Pop up books and paper ephemera with movable parts can be one of the most interesting and delightful genres of all the book arts. Endlessly fascinating and diverse they are situated at the intersection of many fields. In a host of creative ways pop ups combine books and toys, books and artists, books and engineering, books and science, as well as books and excursions into the third dimension to name a few.

This is a category of book collecting with a long history where unusual antique items in good condition are in high demand and can command a hefty price tag. Likewise, equally interesting and intriguing modern material is readily available and can be purchased for nominal sums. Though the subject matter is often geared to children and their interests, there are many pop ups past and present that are aimed at the tastes and interests of more mature audiences.

The internet has contributed not only to the much wider availability of pop ups but also to the sharing of knowledge about this format. Perhaps the most lively and useful of all the sites devoted to the subject is provided by collector Ellen GK Rubin (aka the Pop Up Lady) of Scarsdale, NY. Rubin is an expert whose own collection (more than 20 years in the making) is showcased at her site. Her knowledge of the field is broad, and her willingness to share what she knows is refreshing. If you click on no other link, be sure to visit her site and explore its many headings, links and videos:  www.popuplady.com.

According to Rubin, while e-books and other computer assisted publishing are replacing printed books, it is unlikely that this development will affect pop-ups now or in the future. That is because all pop up books are still assembled by hand and the machine has yet to be created that can fold and glue these intricate spreads.

Most often, she said, pop-up books are issued in small editions. “First printings rarely exceed 5,000 copies. Of course,” she continued, “there are exceptions. Some of the works by Robert Sabuda printed as many as 300,000 copies. But by and large, most older and contemporary books came out in small first printings and most of these books seldom reached a second printing.”  

Rare Book Monthly

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