Wednesday, November 14, 2012

An Unrecorded And Incredibly Rare Dean & Son Movable Book Is Discovered

by Stephen J. Gertz

Dissolving Views is volume of extreme scarcity, unrecorded anywhere, and with no auction records whatsoever. It is comprised of seventeen movable leaves with tabs which when pulled reveal another image. The first six are identical to those found in Dean's New Book of Dissolving Views (1862) but are here printed on off-white paper; in New Views... the paper is pale violet.

Of New Book of Dissolving Views, Percy Muir in English Children's Books noted, "Three volumes with this title were issued…The first volume appeared in June 1860 in an edition of 2,000 copies. The first picture in it is of a windmill, which 'dissolves' into a three-master at sea. The second volume…appears to have contained scenes from the Harlequinade. The third volume, with no indication that it was a sequel, appeared in November 1862, in an edition of 6,000 copies.. The first picture is that of a woman nursing a child, which changes to a piccaninny" (p. 234).

It appears that the seventeen movable leaves (I'm told that there were actually a total of eighteen) in Dissolving Views were divided into three volumes of six views each for the New Book of Dissolving Views series.


We can only conclude that the volume under notice precedes Dean's New Book of Dissolving Views series by a few years. Why this edition contains so many more views than subsequent issues remains a mystery but perhaps it was a case of too much of a good thing and, expensive to produce, the subsequent editions limited the views to six per volume.

It may also be that this was a transitional volume for Dean and Son from movables marketed to adults - it is bound in cloth with elaborate blindstamping and a gilt vignette as centerpiece, not in pictorial boards as one would expect for juvenalia and typical for Dean and Son - to movable books aimed at children who were, ultimately, the logical target audience.

And it is surely early: the cloth, blindstamping and vignette design are typical of the 1840s/early-mid1850s.

Whatever the truth, this is most certainly amongst the rarest of all Dean & Son movable books.

"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, A Concise History of Pop-Up and Movable Books).

"Dean and 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.

"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.

"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 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). 

Miraculously, only one tab has been repaired to this copy; the others are all original and in fully functioning order suggesting that, indeed, this was a movable meant for adults otherwise it would have been a wreck secondary to book abuse of the child kind.

The Views:

1. Land. Sea.
2. War. Peace.
3. Day. Night.
4. Summer. Winter.
5. Fire. Water.
6. Earth. Air.
7. Fair. Dark.
8. War. Peace. (alternative images).
9. The Ocean Way. The Iron Way.
10. Outside. Inside.
11. Danger. Safety.
12. Saturday Night. Sunday Morning.
13. A Goose Hunt. Who's The Goose?
14. Fruit Search. Fruitless Result.
15. Sausage Meat. All Alive, O!
16. Pork Pie. Its Contents.
17. Curious Cabbage. Fighting Tailor. 

[MOVABLE BOOK]. Dissolving Views. To look at these Views effectively, keep the Book flat on a Table, - pull the shaft from the bottom, for one View, and from the top for the other. London: Dean & Son, n.d. [c. 1856-59].

First edition (?). Tall octavo (10 3/8 x 7 in; 263 x 177 mm). Seventeen movable leaves as hand-colored woodcuts. Publisher's original deep purple cloth, elaborately blindstamped, with central gilt vignette of title spelled out as tree branches.

Cf. Osborne, p. 417.

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