Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Art of Pop-Up, by Jean-Charles Trebbi. Review.


The Art of Pop-Up

The Magical World of Three-Dimensional Books

By Jean-Charles Trebbi

Promopress 2012, reprint 2014

Hardcover:£24.99
Amazon link

ISBN 978-84-92810-65-9


Star rating: *****


The author of The Art of Pop-Up, Jean-Charles Trebbi, says that there are only about 100 paper engineers in the world. Well, those guys are my papercraft heroes, and M. Trebbi’s book is papercraft geek bliss.


This awesome title is a lovingly-curated pictorial history and appreciation of the pop-up book, its masterminds and creators. That description sells this wondrous title short, because although the main focus is on the movable book,  just about every imaginable type of paper engineering mechanism and curiosity is featured,  going way beyond the book:  sliceforms, action origami, origamic architecture, flip books, tunnel books, carousel books, mix and match, and much more. The mind boggles! The author says that the book is not exhaustive, but it certainly packs an amazing amount of info about interactive papercrafting within its covers.


The book is, appropriately, bookended with two superb paper-engineered features. Up front is a pull-out double-sided paper engineering Timeline Fold-Out. Back-of-book there’s a Techniques Guide featuring pop-up book mechanisms and bindings. So as not to disappoint, both are fancy-folded. These excellent resources amount to crib sheets for aspiring paper engineers.


The book begins with an introduction to movable books, followed by a concise (but still lavishly-illustrated) history. There are plenty of fascinating historical details. To whet your appetite (without providing too many spoilers):  instructional movable books, featuring volvelles, rotating wheels which revealed info, were used by Renaissance scholars. Pop-up books for entertainment and for children were introduced in the 18th century. And, of course, the Industrial Revolution (and less expensive paper) in the 19th century brought with it a golden age of paper-engineered book innovation.  

Next up is the Techniques section, featuring a spotlight on paper engineering pioneers – those who masterminded the concepts, then moving on to specific  pop-up variations and their makers. When a mechanism is shown, there are often accompanying  diagrams for your edification and enlightenment, a very handy feature. Example: the birds-eye view of the carousel book.

There is a spotlight on Paper Engineers: designer profiles. Here are the big names: Robert Sabuda, Jennie Maizels (creator of the amazing Pop-Up London), and many more. Meet the makers, view their works, see what makes them tick (or snip, as the case may be...).  Great stuff.


The  Beyond Pop-Up section is about “thinking outside the book”, you might say. This part explores the frontiers of pop-up, such as bigging up the concept for theatrical sets and home furnishings. There’s a look-in on digital developments (this is not in the book, but currently topical - Rob Ryan has a new interactive digital iBook).There are also related ideas, such as incorporating smell and/or textures (me: Pat the Bunny).  The sub-section on book Restoration is commendable. This is a topic rarely discussed in paper pop-up how-to books, yet, paper being what is – relatively fragile and ephemeral – is of prime importance. Valuable tips are included on how to craft archival-quality projects, and also on how to repair and clean mechanisms.

Last of all: Models: photocopiable projects you can try. Fun, challenging stuff, as you would expect. There’s origamic architecture, a one-piece tunnel book, a volvelle disc, a cat-themed sliceform, and a Lotus pop-up. All are contributed by experts in their niche areas. You will learn by doing.


This is a large-format book with quality production values.

The author, Jean-Charles Trebbi, an architect and designer himself, says that the intent of his book “was to pay tribute and give a voice to” a  little-known  profession, paper engineers,”whose craft combines the technical expertise of cutting and folding with producing ingenious creations.”  He has achieved his aim. This book is an inspirational mother lode. It examines the past and imagines the (sometimes digital) future of paper engineering.

This is a book to dip into time and again – a go-to resource and inspiration for everyone who loves 3-D interactive papercrafting.


Note:  I was provided with a review copy of this title.