Friday, December 5, 2014

Beautiful Book #41

Magic Windows and Playtime Surprises. Reproductions of late Victorian movable books by Ernest Nister. Philomel. 1980 and 1985.

"Keep these posts short," I tell myself. "Limit yourself to one book per person," I tell myself. "You have 10 books to go before Christmas," I tell myself. "Don't get bogged down in the details."

But then my mind jumps up and down like a puppy: "but I haven't had a single pop-up or movable book on the list! I don't know how to choose a single pop-up or movable book! Nister is a must but so are Lothar Meggendorfer and Raphael Tuck! And that's only the pre-20th Century tradition of movable books! I'll want to talk about Bavarian colour printing and the influence of Germans on movable book history!..."

And that's when I try to calm the mental puppy down and get on with the business of selecting and featuring a book. So, Nister it is. Many of my choices so far have featured a compelling darkness in children's literature. Not so today. It's hard to imagine children's books more sweetly sentimental than the late 19th movable books of Ernest Nister. With verses likely written by Edward Weatherly (the writer is not acknowledged on the books nor are any specific artists) and pictures of cherubic Victorian children and kindly animals, Nister's books drip with the nostalgia of an idealized childhood. And, you know, sometimes, that can be a very good thing indeed.

The two books I've chosen each use a different form of dissolving picture mechanism that I've tried to show in action below. Magic Windows relies on the reader twisting a circular image until it creates an entirely new picture. Playtime Surprises is constructed more like pull down blinds where one picture dissolves into another. If you want to see these books in action, we have 25 of them in the Wallace collection thanks to a generous donation from J.C. Belzile. We also have a small handful of reproduction Meggendorfer books as well. Feel free to stop by. While you're here you might want to linger over Peter Haining's Movable Books: An Illustrated History, so that you too can turn your mind into an exited, book-loving puppy.

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