June 30, 2011

Vintage Moveable Review: The Fisherman and the Demon

I have been working my way through a translation of Arabian Nights; getting lost in the tangle of ancient stories woven over a thousand and one nights. As a Western reader, I have found it difficult to appreciate this revered collection and its unfamiliar patterns of storytelling. I think that is why I have a certain love for this featured pop-up book, which singles out one of the more beloved stories from the intertwining tales.

In the early 1960’s, the British publishers Bancroft and Co. teamed up with the massive state-owned publishing house Artia, based out of Prague to create a series of colorful pop-up books based on the Arabian Nights. Two illustrators, Frantisek Sklar and Jaroslav Beza came together to create vibrant renditions of these classic tales, but little is known about the collaboration or these artists.

Today, we are looking at The Fisherman and the Demon printed in Czechoslovakia in 1960. This hardcover landscape format book has two large pop-ups with simple pull tabs that serve as the front and rear endpapers with a six page color booklet bound inside. The paper engineering is very simple box layers with expressive artwork in line with Kubasta, who was creating books with Artia at the time. There is no record of who did the pop-up design for this series, so we must assume that there was someone creating it in-house for Artia. I won’t go into much detail about the storyline, but I feel that buoyed by the wonderful art, this story stands up on its own. Now I have to keep my eye out for Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba to complete my collection.


Weekly Beast: Dust Dragon

If lizards give you the creeps be grateful that you weren't with the first known human inhabitants of Australia who settled there 50,000 years ago.  When they arrived on the vast but isolated continent they found that it was home to Megalania or the dust dragon, an enormous monitor lizard that could grow up to 26 feet in length, weigh in at 4,300 pounds, and had long knife-like teeth!

Similar to the komodo dragon of Indonesia but much larger, the dust dragon was the largest land dwelling lizard ever and probably fed mostly on giant wombats, flightless birds, and kangaroos of the time.  As if it's size and teeth weren't formidable enough it may have also come equipped with a powerful paralyzing venom it could inject when biting its prey.  Because it was still around until 40,000 years ago it probably snacked on the occasional human being too!

Word of the Day: Caterwaul

Caterwaul \KAT-uhr-wawl\ intransitive verb;

1. To make a harsh cry.
2. To have a noisy argument

1. A shrill, discordant sound.

Origin:  Caterwaul is from Middle English caterwawen, "to cry as a cat," either from Medieval Dutch kater, "tomcat" + Dutch wauwelen, "to tattle," or for catawail, from cat-wail, "to wail like a cat".

June 29, 2011

History Lesson: The Globe Theater Burns

On June 29th, 1613 a fire burned down the Globe Theater, where most of the plays of William Shakespeare premiered.  The fire started when a prop cannon ignited the wooden beams and thatch roof.  Although the theater was destroyed only one person was injured, a man whose breeches caught fire but were quickly dosed with a bottle of ale.

The Globe was built in 1599 using timber from an earlier theater at another location, named simply The Theatre.  It would eventually be rebuilt on the same site in 1614 but with the rise of the Puritans who frowned on plays and the theater in general, the new Globe would be closed in 1642 and demolished by 1644.  It was never rebuilt.  In 1997 a reconstruction was opened near the original site.

Word of the Day: Orotund

Orotund \OR-uh-tuhnd\ adjective

1.  Characterized by fullness, clarity, strength, and smoothness of sound.
2.  Pompous; bombastic.

Orotund derives from Latin ore rotundo, "with a round mouth, hence "clear, loud," from os, oris, "the mouth" + rotundus, "round".  It is also related to oral.


Artist Watch: Nadia Taylor

Nadia Taylor is an illustrator and printmaker in the United Kingdom.  Her work is bold, geometric, and whimsical at the same time.  I personally am really drawn to her 'Arctic Rug' piece.  The colors communicate the chill of the Arctic, the Northern Lights, and even the fire you keep warm in front of!  Check out more of her work here!

June 28, 2011

Whats Popped Up: Shelburne Museum

The Shelburne Museum in Vermont has created an all-star exhibition of paper arts. It almost seems that the curators poked into my brain and complied all my favorite artists and crammed them into this exciting show titled, Paperwork in 3D .

In various spaces throughout the museum, two dozen contemporary artists at the top of their respective fields exhibit fine examples of dimensional papercraft. I am especially interested in the complex origami of Robert Lang; the intricate cut paper worlds of Beatrice Coron; the kinetic paper engineering of Matthew Schlian; the book manipulation of Brian Dettmer; and the fine photography of pulp novels by Tom Allen.

Closer to home, museum attendees can see the progression of pop-up book creations from paper engineers Matthew Reinhart and Sam Ita. From concept sketches to white prototypes; color art samples to final production materials, Reinhart’s Chinese Lung from Dragons & Monsters comes roaring to life.

This amazing exhibit is on display until the end of October, so if you were looking for a summer vacation, look no further.


Word of the Day: Nonpareil

Nonpareil \non-puh-REL\ adjective

1. Having no equal; peerless.
1. Something of unequaled excellence; a peerless thing or person.
2. A flat disk of chocolate covered with beads of colored sugar.

Origin: Nonpareil comes from Old French, from non, "not" + pareil, "equal," from (assumed) Vulgar Latin pariculus, diminutive of Latin par, "equal."

June 27, 2011

Word of the Day: Effloresce

Effloresce \EF-luh-res\ verb

1. To burst into bloom; blossom.

Origin: Effloresce combines the Latin roots ex- "out of", and florescere, "to blossom".

June 24, 2011

Word of the Day: Copse

Copse \KOPS\ noun

1. A thicket or grove of small trees.

Copse derives from Old French copeiz, " a thicket for cutting," from coper, couper, "to cut".  It is related to coupon, at root "the part that is cut off".

June 23, 2011

Weekly Beast: Bornean Flat-Headed Frog

The Bornean Flat-headed Frog (Barbourula kalimantanensis) is a species of toad in the Bombinatoridae family. It is the second frog known to have no lungs.

The frog, no more than 70 mm (2.8 in) long, lives in cold, clear, and fast rivers in remote areas of the rainforests of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Its natural habitats are rivers in tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss from severe degradation of the river habitats by increased turbity and toxic metals used in mining and other unfortunate consequences of development on the island.

Artist Watch: Walt Simonson

With the recent release of the Thor movie it's only right to give a big shout out to one of the artists who crafted some of the most memorable thunder god moments ever, the great Walt Simonson!  Known for his energetic, graphic lines and compositions Simonson's style has always stood out among his peers.  Not only is he a unique artist but (along with his equally great wife Louise Simonson) he's also an excellent storyteller and created numerous characters that have become staples of the super hero and sci fi genres.  Both he and Louise continue to work in comics today and I met them both at the Big Apple Comic-Con!

~Nerd Will

June 20, 2011

What's Popped Up: We have a Winner!

Congratulations Tintan!  You're the lucky winner of the Limited Edition 'Monsters & Dragons'!  We'll contact you via email for more details!

Word of the Day: Doppelganger

Doppelganger \DOP-uhl-gang-uhr\ noun

1. A ghostly double or counterpart of a living person.
2. Alter ego; double.

Origin: Doppelganger is from the German doppel, "double" + Gänger, "goer'.

June 16, 2011

Word of the Day: Prolix

Prolix \pro-LIKS\ adjective

1. Extending to a great length; unnecessarily long; wordy.
2. Tending to speak or write at excessive length.

Prolix is derived from Latin prolixus, "poured forth, overflowing, extended, long," from pro-, "forward" + liquere, "to be fluid".

June 15, 2011

History Lesson: Sukiyaki

On June 15th, 1963 a song named after a Japanese noodle dish became a #1 hit on the American pop charts.  Lots of songs with food titles have made it big over the years like "American Pie", "Blueberry Hill", and "Lady Marmalade" to name a few .  What is more significant about Sukiyaki was that it is the first and only song sung entirely in Japanese to do this.  It was sung by Kyu Sakamoto and originally titled "Ue o Muite Arukō".  This translates to "I Look Up When I Walk" and the song has nothing to do with the beef and noodle soup the English title was taken from. 

When it became a hit in the U.S.
Newsweek magazine observed that its renaming was like releasing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

Artist Watch: Tomi Ungerer

Opening this weekend at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is an exhibition of Tomi Ungerer's art work.  Ungerer has illustrated many books for people of all ages.  I love his use of colors to really make a mood for the reader and his line work is so tactile, you can feel the characters movements from it!  If you can, definitely make a trip out to the Eric Carle Museum and check out Ungerer's work.

June 18 – October 9, 2011
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art


Word of the Day: Vivify

Vivify \VIV-uh-fy\ transitive verb

1.  To endue with life; to make alive; to animate.
2.  To make more lively or intense.

Vivify comes from French vivifier, from Late Latin vivificare, from Latin vivus, "alive".

Giveaway Contest is Closed

Thank you all for your lovely comments for the Limited Edition 'Monsters & Dragons' giveaway.  The contest is now closed and we will be choosing a lucky reader at random this week.  Stay tuned to find out if you've won the book!


June 13, 2011

Word of the Day: Solecism

Solecism \SOL-uh-siz-uhm\ noun

1. A nonstandard usage or grammatical construction; also, a minor blunder in speech.
2. A breach of good manners or etiquette.
3. Any inconsistency, mistake, or impropriety.

Origin: Solecism comes from Latin soloecismus, from Greek soloikizein, "to speak incorrectly," from soloikos, "speaking incorrectly," literally, "an inhabitant of Soloi," a city in ancient Cilicia where a dialect regarded as substandard was spoken.

Giveaway: Only 2 Days Left!

There's only 2 days left until we close the Limited Edition giveaway!  Click here to leave your name in the comments to enter!

The giveaway is also open to international addresses as well!  Good luck to you all!

And if the link above doesn't work here it is:


June 10, 2011

Vintage Moveable Review: Pop-up Stripe Books

Today we are looking at some very rare Italian pop-up activity books. Ever since I was given “Cappuccetto Russo” and “I Tre Porcellini” I have been curious about this series of handmade DIY pop-up books. So I went to the source, the Bologna-based paper engineer, Massimo Missiroli. He was kind enough to provide some background on these books which he started in 1997.

The titles include:

Red Riding Hood (1997) illustrated by Zampiga Milena

Three Little Pigs (1998) illustrated by Silvia Bartoletti


Nursery Rhymes

Snow White

Hansel & Gretel

Each title has different dimensions and comprise of a number of black and white printed sheets that are sealed in a plastic bag. A rough translation of the promotional material is as follows:

“POP-UP stripe is a new series of cards in which we intend to show operational techniques for the construction of mini-books that will have classic fairy tales as their subject. Build each pop-up book which consists of five pages on a single folded strip of paper.”

Massimo came up with the idea while leading pop-up workshops with children. He decided to start his own small publishing company. Then he created and assembled the packets and sold the Pop-up Stripes via mail orders. Around 2002, the Italian publisher Quercetti bought the concept and released new versions of Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio. At that time, Massimo published a wonderful pop-up version of Pinocchio for Emme Edizioni. (We will see more of this title next week.)

I have yet to see any of the Quercetti versions in the flesh so if any of you readers know if they are readily available or have more information please leave a comment. Now, I go back to my collector’s dilemma – open my Pop-up Stripe and take pleasure in making my own model or keep it in it’s original condition to share with future book lovers.


June 6, 2011

Whats Popped Up: Foster Talk Online

The Smithsonian Libraries have recently posted the video of Bruce Foster talking about “The Magic and Math of Harry Potter, The Pop-Up Book” in the Carmichael Auditorium on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 at the National Museum of American History. If you were not able to make it last month, now is your chance to learn about his pop-up process and get a sneak peek of his upcoming projects.


June 1, 2011

Artist Watch: Joe Bagley

 I found Joe Bagley's work through Etsy.  And as a fellow artist who works in paper, I am amazed at the detail of his pieces!  Especially since he cuts it all out by hand.  Bagley began cutting paper since the age of 10 and hasn't stopped since.

Check out his blog for videos and step by step photos of his process.  And you can check out his Etsy store for more amazing pieces!