Friday, March 2, 2012

Dean & Son Movable Books and How To Date Them

by Stephen J. Gertz

Old Woman and Her Silver Penny.
Dean's Movable Books. London: Dean & Son, n.d. [1861].

First edition. Octavo (9 3/4 x 6 3/4 ini; 248 x 171 mm).
Eight hand-colored wood engraved movable plates.
 Full page advertisements to front and rear endpapers.

The movable books of Dean & Son - the first publisher to produce movable books in large numbers - are highly desirable to collectors. Rarely found in untouched, fully functional condition due to the wear and tear of children, they were customarily issued without a date of publication, probably to keep them "evergreen," to wit, fresh and timeless in the marketplace without fear of becoming literally dated.


Most attributed dates by scholars and librarians are educated guesswork, and "circa" commonly accompanies whatever year of publication assigned by them as well as by dealers, collectors, and writers on the subject (i.e. Ann Montanaro and Peter Haining). 

Though Montanaro suggests the publication date as 1858,
At the lower right corner of the the lower board the
printer's key reads: " 8000 2 61," i.e. 8,000 printed, February 1861.

At the lower right corner of the rear pastedown
to this copy appears the printing key:
 "6000 5 61," i.e. 6,000 printed, May 1861.

Curiously, the year of publication and, significantly, the print run are present on just about all of the Dean & Son movables, if you know where to look and understand what it is you're looking at.

The Movable Mother Hubbard.
London: Dean & Son, n.d. [1857].

First edition. Octavo (9 3/4 x 6 1/2 x 248 x 164 mm).
Eight hand-colored woodcut movable plates, two of
which possess multiple moving images.

In the lower right or left corner of the rear board or on the lower right or left of the rear paste-down endpaper (usually an advertisement) is the publisher/printer's key. At the lower right corner of the the lower board to the Old Woman and Her Silver Penny, for example, the key reads: "8000 2 61," i.e. 8,000 printed in February 1861.


Sometimes you will find two keys. At the lower right corner of the rear paste-down to the copy of the Old Woman and Her Silver Penny I recently handled appears the printing key:  "6000 5 61," i.e. 6,000 printed, May 1861. 

An amazing four movable scenes using a single pull-tab.

With this example we learn that 8.000 were printed in February 1861 and another 6,000 were printed in May of the same year. This copy, then, is a second printing. Now, to what I imagine will be the utter frustration of collectors of Dean movables, they can be prioritized as first, second, third printings, making the first printing, theoretically, the more desirable - if you can find one.

In the lower left corner of the rear board is the
printer's key: "1000 2, 57," i.e. 1,000 printed February 1857.

"The first true movable books published in any large quantity were those produced by Dean & Son, a publishing firm founded in London before 1800. By the 1860s the company claimed to be the 'originator of childrens' movable books in which characters can be made to move and act in accordance with the incidents described in each story.' From the mid-19th century Dean turned its attention to the production of movable books and between the 1860s and 1900 they produced about fifty titles" (Montanaro, Ann. A Concise History of Pop-Up and Movable Books).

Dean & Son's Movable Book of the Royal Punch & Judy
As Played Before the Queen at Windsor Castle & the Crystal Palace.

London: Dean & Son, n.d. [1859].

First edition. Tall octavo (11 x 6 5/8 in; 280 x 170 mm).
Eight hand-colored movable woodcut plates with accompanying text.

"Dean & Son was the first publisher to produce movable books on a large scale. Thomas Dean, who founded the firm sometime before 1800, was one of the first publishers to take full advantage of the new printing process, lithography, which was invented in Germany in 1798. His business was devoted exclusively to making and selling novelty books, or 'toy' books, a term publishers began using in the early nineteenth century. His son George became a partner in 1847, and their toy books took over the market from the 1840s to the 1880s. 


"Dean opened studios in London where teams of artists worked to design and craft all kinds of new and complex movables. Around 1856, Dean released a series of fairy tales and adventure stories under the title New Scenic Books. The scenes in the books were crafted in a "peep show" style. Each was illustrated on at least three cut-out sections. The sections were placed one behind another and attached by a ribbon running through them. This way, they could stay together and be folded flat as flaps, face down against a page. When a readers lifted a flap, a three-dimensional scene would actually pop-up!  A later, but good example of this technique is McLoughlin Brothers' The Lions' Den (ca. 1880), which is held together by a piece of board across the top instead a a ribbon.

In the lower right corner of the rear board is the
printer's key: "4000 3 59," i.e. 4,000 printed March 1859.

"The books in new scenic series are probably the first that today's readers would consider pop-up books, although the term "pop-up" was yet to be used to describe such books. 'Movable' or 'toy book' was usually the choice for description. In 1860, Dean actually claimed to be the 'originator' of movable books.

Dean's New Magic Peep Show Picture Book  Showing
Wonderful & Lifelike Effects of Real Distance & Space.

.London: Dean & Son, n.d. [1861].

First edition. Tall octavo (10 5/8 x 7 1/2 in; 270 x 190 mm).
Four full-color woodcut peep-show tableaus with accompanying text.
Endpapers as advertisements.

"During the 1860s, Dean can be credited with inventing another first: the use of a mechanism that moved or was animated by pulling a tab. Dean advertised the new mechanisms as 'living pictures.' The Royal Punch & Judy is one of these early publications with tabs, which are located on the bottom of each page.

In this extraordinary "peep-show," the scene is pulled up
into multi-layered, cut-out panels to reveal a 3D tableau
with perspective and depth of field.

"In it, Punch and Judy are animated in their miniature theatre and act out all the violence and abuse that a Victorian audience would have expected from the couple" (University of North Texas, A Brief History of Early Movable Books). 


At the lower right corner of the advertisement on the rear board
is the printer's key: "4000 5 61," i.e. 4,000 May 1861.

In the lower left corner of the advertisement to the front free
endpaper is the printer's key: "8000 8 61," i.e. 8,000 August 1861.

Will a Dean first printing in horrible condition be valued more than a third printing in great condition? Now that dates and printing histories can be firmly established only collectors will decide. My sense, however, is that condition will continue to be the overriding factor to the trade and public.  Too few Dean & Son movables have survived in any sort of collectible condition. What good's a first printing copy if it's a disaster?
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Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.
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Of related interest:

 A Movable Book Feast.

Movable Books Pop-Up at Smithsonian.

Say Hello To The First Talking Book.

Waldo Hunt And Pop-Up Books: a Brief Overview.

A Pop-Up Book Of "Exquisite, Sentimental Beauty."
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