Celebrating the much-loved Paddington Bear
Celebrating the much-loved Paddington Bear
Paddington 2, the much-loved 2017 film, 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, 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, on October 13, 1958, he published the first volume. It was called "A Bear Called Paddington." There were 15 Paddington titles in all. Additionally, there were picture books, gift books and a cook book. There was also a guide to London.
The Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Library in New York City, 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 created by “paper engineering.” A pop-up has parts made from stiff card stock that move when a page is turned. A sliding book, also known as a pull tab, or a dissolving image mechanism, 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 for the study of their illustrations and paper engineering as art. The Paddington Bear stories were all written by a single author, Michael Bond. But there have been a number of different illustrators over the years.
In the first story, Paddington is found by the Browns with a note reading, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Bond has said he was inspired by child evacuees who were leaving London on trains 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 and 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, travels, adventures and 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 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, with many innovative pop-up construction forms. The latest is the 2017 Paddington Pop-Up London, which is sure to enchant another generation with movable books. That book’s construction bears many similarities with Jennie Maizels’ Pop-Up London of 2011. While that title is not in the Libraries collections, the Cooper-Hewitt does have three earlier examples of the artist’s work. These include The Amazing Pop-Up Music Book, The Amazing Pop-Up Grammar Book and 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, 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 in Washington, D.C., has a remarkable collection of other movable novelty books portraying the Thames Tunnel and the river in a similar way. So influential and widely distributed were these paper-engineered books of this then-called “Eighth Wonder of the World” that the term “tunnel book” came to be used for the previously more common “peepshow.”
The Thames Tunnel was built between 1825 and 1843, joining the south and north banks. Originally meant for horse-drawn carriages, 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, Isambard. They employed the engineers’ innovative “tunneling shield” technology.
The worldwide excitement of this technological marvel, the first tunnel built under a navigable river, was a great subject for the increasingly popular “peepshow” publications. They are made up of a set of etched, engraved or lithographed illustrated vignettes. These 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 as 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.
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