Ansichten und Aussichten- Festschrift für Hans-Heino Ewers
Movable Books: Transnational Publication and Cultural Translations: Margaret R. Higonnet
The 19th-century internationalization of the publication trade in children’s literature invites comparative analysis. Emerging evidence about publication history points to the transnational movement of texts and images, as well as their publishers, and to a rich phenomenon of cultural translation in this period. Sandra Beckett suggests that picture books intrinsically transcend divisions of age and culture by virtue of the universal communicability of their images (Beckett 2012, 1). Going further, Katie Trumpener has argued that „picture books have frequently crossed, even challenged, linguistic and cultural barriers” (Trumpener 2009, 57). Building on work like theirs, which focuses on the international accessibility of illustrated books for the child audience, my essay tackles a narrow slice of this field: it explores the ways that the genre of the ‚movable book’ or ‚metamorphosis’, which has multiple points of origin in different countries, passes across linguistic and cultural frontiers in the nineteenth century. Like their visual features, the manual gestures that ‚animate’ mechanical books have a universal appeal that crosses the boundaries of language and age.
Here I address some of the material conditions of production and international diffusion of this subgenre in the golden age of children’s literature, an „age of revolution” in industrial technology as well as in politics, as Eric Hobsbawm has argued. The speed with which movable books traveled by the end of the century reflects not only the availability of trains and steam ships, but also the development of lithographic color printing technologies, and the impact of political...