This edition of Curious Creatures: A new MOVEABLE TOYBOOK of all Kinds of Animals by Lothar Meggendorfer, appears to have been published around 1890 by London: H. Grevel & Co..
For each of the eight creatures within the book, Meggendorfer includes a story about that particular creature and a movable illustration. This photo demonstrates the layout for the placement of the story of "The Treefrog" and the accompanying illustration (which is static in this photo). Once the reader pulls the tab at the bottom of the page in the book, the frog comes to life as in the photo below.
This gif demonstrates how the story of "The Treefrog" and the static illustration in the photo above come to life when the reader pulls the tab at the bottom of the book's page. In this story, the Treefrog attempts to catch a wasp for dinner but with no success.
Curious Creatures: A new MOVEABLE TOYBOOK of all Kinds of Animals by Lothar Meggendorfer, 1890
Curious Creatures: A new MOVEABLE TOYBOOK of all Kinds of Animals is a movable book by Lothar Meggendorfer, a German illustrator during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (The University of Virginia Library, n.d.). This particular book is the English edition of Meggendorfer's German book titled Allerlei Thiere, which was first published in 1888 by Braun & Schneider (Ketterer Kunst, Kunstauktionen, Buchauktionen München, Hamburg & Berlin, n.d.). While this copy of the book does not have a date of publication, the marginalia on the paste-down front endpaper dates the book back to 1890, which seems to be the correct time frame after comparing this book to other copies of the book online (ALEPH-BET BOOKS, n.d., The Met Museum, n.d.). This book appears to be half cloth as it has a blue cloth spine, the title is printed on a paper label with colorful illustrations of creatures, and it has paper board sides (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, n.d., Ketterer Kunst, Kunstauktionen, Buchauktionen München, Hamburg & Berlin, n.d.).
The book's contents consist of a brief introduction and stories (which are more like rhythmic poems) about eight creatures, which include a starling bird, a cockroach, a lobster, a treefrog, a snail, a weasel, a hedgehog, and a squirrel. The highlight of the book is that each creature's story comes to life through an accompanying colorful illustration that moves when the reader pulls a cardboard tab at the bottom of the page. These illustrations for the eight stories appear to have been made with color-lithography (Ketterer Kunst, Kunstauktionen, Buchauktionen München, Hamburg & Berlin, n.d., The Met Museum, n.d.). Moreover, the illustrations are layered so that there is the basic illustration on the page itself, and then on top of the page there are colored cardboard cutouts of the shapes of the creatures. These cardboard shapes are hinged to levers hidden between the pages using small metal rivets, which are actually tight curls of thin copper wire (Montanaro, Ann, n.d.).
The levers are also connected to the pull-tab at the bottom of the page, so that when the tab is pulled, it activates all of the levers of the illustration, bringing the scene to life (Montanaro, Ann, n.d.). While the book's levers and pull-tabs are somewhat fragile, the book is pretty sturdy. Around the top edge and the outside edge of all the pages, there are traces of where the pages were pasted together, most likely to provide the book with more durability and to keep the levers hidden in place between the pages. But the bottom edges of the pages are cut open so that one can see up into the area between the pages where the levers live. Furthermore, on the pages with illustrations, there are cut openings on the bottom portion of the pages for the user to pull the tabs back and forth through to animate the scenes. With a book so complex and hand-crafted, one might wonder how involved Meggendorfer was in the making of the copies of his books.
Per the University of Virginia Library Online Exhibit's article "Pop Goes the Page: Movable and Mechanical Books from the Brenda Forman Collection", Meggendorfer did exercise much control over the production process of his books as he created "an initial model for a book, complete with colored drawings, paper engineering, and elaborate assembly instructions for the workers who put together individual copies" (The University of Virginia Library, n.d.).
Based upon the book's colorful illustrations of animals, its interactive component, its basic storytelling, and the phrase "MOVABLE TOYBOOK" on the front cover, the intended audience for this book appears to be children, and the book's performative functions appear to be that of entertainment and education. Additionally, as the book is mostly in English with a few German words, the intended reader would be literate in English. Furthermore, the book was likely intended for wealthier patrons due to its costly complexity, high quality and its design details, including the rectangular border around the text, the text's uniform font and layout, and its illuminated letters with a floral design.
While the book is in "good working order" as noted in the marginalia on the paste-down front endpaper, it has experienced some wear and tear over the years, seemingly from lots of use. This can be seen on the soiled pull-tabs, from rips in the pages next to the pull-tabs, and from a few of the movable cardboard cutout pieces that no longer fully extend. Additionally, the metal rivets holding the levers and cardboard cutouts together have created some rust stains on the pages. There are also some dark stains and what appear to be fossilized food scraps stuck to the endpapers, which could be from a child who was eating while playing with this book.
As the book does not have a title page and the publisher information on the front cover is hidden underneath a label, I resorted to Google search to find the publisher information from similar copies of the book. Through my efforts, I found that the publisher was "London: H. Grevel & Co." at "33 King Street, Covent Garden, W.C.", and that the book was "Printed in Germany" (ALEPH-BET BOOKS, n.d.). At some point after the book was published, it appears to have become the property of "Emma S. Windsor of the Kindergarten Toy Depot, SoHo Bazaar, London" per the label added onto the front cover that is hiding the publisher information. Later on, the book appears to have become property of Waldo H. Hunt, who was a pop-up book collector and entrepreneur (The University of Virginia Library, n.d.). Eventually Hunt donated the book to the UCLA Library, where it is housed today in Special Collections.
ABC for Book Collectors: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. (n.d.). John Carter, ABC for Book Collectors. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
Concise History of Pop-Up and Movable Books: Montanaro, Ann. Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2018.
Curious Creatures, A new movable toybook of all kinds of animals: The Met Museum. (n.d.). Curious Creatures, A new movable toybook of all kinds of animals. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
Curious Creatures by Lothan Meggendorfer: ALEPH-BET BOOKS (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2018.
Curious Creatures by Lothar Meggendorfer: Ketterer Kunst, Kunstauktionen, Buchauktionen München, Hamburg & Berlin. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2018.
Pop Goes the Page: Movable and Mechanical Books from the Brenda Forman Collection: University of Virginia Library. (n.d.). University of Virginia Library Online Exhibits: Pop Goes the Page: Movable and Mechanical Books from the Brenda Forman Collection. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
This spotlight exhibit by Joanna Smith as part of Dr. Johanna Drucker's "History of the Book and Literacy Technologies" seminar in Winter 2018 in the Information Studies Department at UCLA.
For documentation on this project, personnel, technical information, see Documentation. For contact email: drucker AT gseis.ucla.edu.