Literature with Other Arts
Edited By Haun Saussy and Gerald Gillespie
Orality Onto Paper and Into Action
Margaret R. HIGONNET
University of Connecticut, Storrs
The emergence of a market in “moveable books” for children in the nineteenth century, at a moment that roughly coincided with the Victorian “golden age” of children’s literature, has been studied primarily within two kinds of historical frame: biographies of creators or of publishers, and technical studies of the long evolution of paper engineering from mechanical features in medieval manuscripts to the proliferation of paper art in books today. Devotees of these inventions have included Walter Benjamin, Maurice Sendak, and Robert Sabuda, as well as academics, librarians, and booksellers. The story of this development can be found on a number of web sites, where videos enable viewers to observe the movement intrinsic to the genre.1 Collectors and creators of moveable books have been fascinated by the variety of technical paper mechanisms, whose surviving examples in early manuscripts include volvelles or turning wheels with pointers and strings for making calculations. In successive centuries, printers invented unfolding flap books, “tunnel” peepshows that offer 3-D perspective, “venetian blinds” or “slat” books whose image changes when a tab pulls hidden slats out into view, and other pull-tabs that articulate gears to show moving figures; the nineteenth-century introduced panoramas, pull-up dioramas, and pop-ups whose scene emerges when a page is opened (see Montanaro xi). Moveable devices originally served to present religious, astronomical, mathematical, anatomical, or even magical information. Critics usually assume that until the late eighteenth century, such paper engineering addressed adults,...
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