Celebrating the much-loved Paddington Bear
Paddington 2 is a much-loved 2017 film. The plot revolves around a one-of-a-kind, pop-up book. The volume is for sale in the Notting Hill antique store. The store belongs to Mr. Gruber. He is a Hungarian refugee. The good-souled, marmalade-loving bear is transported into a dreamlike world of a London cityscape. This happens after opening the covers to the movable parts within. All of it is folding and popping up like the intricate paper constructions of a pop-up book.
The film is based on the children’s books of the late author Michael Bond. More than sixty years ago, he published the first volume. It was called "A Bear Called Paddington." That was on October 13, 1958. There were 15 Paddington titles in all. There are also picture and gift books. There is a cook book and a guide to London.
The Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Library is in New York City. It has ten Paddington titles. All of them are in the form of pop-up or sliding books.
Three-dimensional or movable books are animated works. They are created by “paper engineering.” A pop-up has parts made from stiff card stock. They move when a page is turned. A sliding book, also known as a pull tab, has a Venetian-blind type of construction. It is animated by a small flap that causes the image to transform into something different.
The dust-covered pop-up in the movie Paddington 2 is made up of beloved city landmarks: “And this is London.” The moment conveys the absorption that a child can have in books and their illustrations and construction. In 2014, Bond reminisced about childhood.
“I think the most precious thing you can give a child is your time. And I think the next most precious thing you can give a child is an interest in books. If you’re brought up with books being part of the furniture, with a story being read to you when you go to bed at night, it’s a very good start in life. I never went to bed without a story when I was small.”
The Cooper Hewitt Design Library collects movable and pop-up books. This is for the study of their illustrations and paper engineering as art. The Paddington Bear stories were all written by a single author. That was Michael Bond. But there have been a number of different illustrators over the years.
Paddington is found by the Browns in the first story with a note. The note read, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Bond has said he was inspired by child evacuees who were leaving London on trains. This was during World War II.
“They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions,” he said. “So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.” Bond based Mr. Gruber on his literary agent, Harvey Unna. He fled Nazi Germany.
The Cooper-Hewitt’s Library’s earliest edition of Paddington’s Pop-Up Book is from 1977. It re-tells the story of the little bear. He arrives in London from Peru with his battered suitcase. The book depicts Paddington Brown’s past life. It depicts his travels and adventures. And it shows his life in London. This usually involved a considerable amount of mischief and mishaps. This collection of the Paddington bear movable and pop-up books was the gift. It was donated by Dr. Daniel J. Mason. Their preservation was supported by a 2007 grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.
The popularity of movable and pop-up books continues to grow. They are designed in all sizes and shapes. Many have innovative pop-up construction forms. The latest is the 2017 Paddington Pop-Up London that is sure to enchant another generation with movable books. That book’s construction bears many similarities with Jennie Maizels’ Pop-Up London of 2011. That title is not in the Libraries collections. But the Cooper-Hewitt does have three earlier examples of the artist’s work. These include The Amazing Pop-Up Music Book and The Amazing Pop-Up Grammar Book. It also includes The Amazing Pop-Up Multiplication Book.
In the film, the River Thames dominates in the Paddington pop-up book. This includes the ocean liner coming in under Tower Bridge. It includes the dockyards, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. This gives way to the view of the boat traffic on the river. The Smithsonian’s Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology is in Washington, D.C. It has a remarkable collection of other movable novelty books. They portray the Thames Tunnel and the river in a similar way. These paper-engineered books were influential and widely distributed.
The Thames Tunnel was built between 1825 and 1843, joining the south and north banks. It was originally meant for horse-drawn carriages. But this channel under the Thames became a pedestrian passage way. It had arcades for shopping and entertainment. It was constructed with years of arduous work and disasters by Marc Brunel and his son. His name was Isambard. They employed the engineers’ innovative “tunneling shield” technology.
There was worldwide excitement of this technological marvel. It was the first tunnel built under a navigable river and was a great subject for the increasingly popular “peepshow” publications. They are made up of a set of illustrations. These are etched, engraved or lithographed. They are attached to accordion sides of a perspective box. This construction, when extended, creates three-dimensional views observed through a hole in the cover. This form of printing art began in the 15th century. It was a means for scientists and artists to study optics and perspective. By the 19th century, peepshows, with inspiration from stage scenery, found a more general audience.