Header image for the Moving Magic exhibition.
Back to All Exhibitions
John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration

Moving Magic

The Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition highlights different examples of moveable and pop-up books in the Library’s Rare Book Collection. Various types of these books displayed in the exhibition illustrate the history of the moveable book.

The image shows the exhibition plague for Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Book Collections at the entrance to the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration.
A view of the Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition currently on display in John M. Olin Library.

Though many consider pop-up books to be for children, books with moving parts have been around for centuries and encompass all genres. The Rare Book Collection includes 16th-century spinning wheels known as volvelles, 19th-century medical books with flaps, Victorian tunnel books, and books by the famous paper engineer and children’s book author Lothar Meggendorfer.

Paper engineers must construct movable books by hand due to the delicate nature of paper. Even today, with all the available technology, moving parts must be assembled by hand to ensure that they work correctly.

Display titled "To Learn and Entertain," part of the Moving Magic exhibition. The display features eight colorful, educational popup books of various sizes.
A photo of the “To Learn and Entertain” display from the Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition.
Display titled "Not Just for Kids," part of the Moving Magic exhibition. The display features anatomy, architecture, graphic novels, and more.
A photo of the “Not Just for Kids” display from the Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition.

The Rare Book Collections contain movable books and cards from the 15th century to the present, most notably in the Skip & Bob Smith Pop-Up Book Collection, Dr. Susan W. Schwartz Pop-Up Book Collection, and the Biedermeier Greeting Card Collection. These collections show the breadth of movable books, the variety of mechanisms that create movement, and that movable books are fun for all ages.

This exhibition was organized by Curator of Rare Books, Cassie Brand, for Washington University Libraries.

Display titled "Early Movable Books for Children" part of the Moving Magic exhibition. The display features nine older print materials with movable - not popup - parts.
A photo of the “Early Movable Books for Children” display from the Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition.
A closeup photo of one of the movable pieces. The item is german and depicts three animals - a monkey, hyena, and tigress with kittens -in cages as part of a zoo.
A photo of the “Werlei Raubtiere und Uffen,” or “Various Preditors and Monkeys,” popup from the Moving Magic: Movable Books in the Rare Books Collections exhibition.