It was a cold and windy day when I found myself driving off to see an exhibit at the University of Washington Allen Library basement. The exhibit will be showing until March 16, and this is a basement exhibit not to be missed. The exhibit is titled "Merry Company Pop-ups, Movables and Toy Books." It is every bit as charming as you can imagine.
Who doesn't love a pop-up book? The show would appeal to anyone. It is timeless and ageless.
When I made my way to the basement, I was thrilled to see wall-to-wall cases of the opened books, cut out characters from hundreds of years ago.
There were books documenting historical events such as a folded-out, hand-painted maplike book of all the guests in attendance at the Queen Victoria's coronation in 1838.
A woman approached me and invited me in to see more.
What? There is more?
Sandra Kroupa is the book arts and rare book curator for the University of Washington. She was locking up for the day, but she saw my genuine appreciation and unlocked the doors to reveal case after case of the pop-up book collection.
One woman, Pamela Harer, spent two years buying the collection and donated all of it to UW library. It is a complete historical review of very fine, artful books spanning several hundred years.
I saw a book that looked exactly like a book I had in childhood. I asked Kroupa if it was possible that I had a book just like that, but the one in the case is dated 100 years earlier than my birth? She explained that many of the original books inspired books and toys.
I never knew that. Kroupa told me that that's why they are so important. The old books made a trail. The collection allows us to see the trail, whole, all at once.
She walked me to her favorite case, new pop-up books. The modern books were masterfully constructed, but my heart lurched back to the old books.
Whether you are a new book fan or passionate about the older books, this show is an opportunity to rekindle your childlike wonderment. The artistry of the old books will make your jaw drop. The inventive, clever books are a celebration of imagination.
In addition to this show, Kroupa has modern-day book artists teaching workshops.
I'll be attending one of those.
Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. You can email her at email@example.com.
The Allen Library is in the central UW campus area near Gate No. 1 on 15th Avenue in Seattle. The "Merry Company Pop-ups" exhibit is up until March 16. Call the curator at 206-685-3248 for exhibit hours as they are not the same as the library hours. See www.lib.washington.edu/about/news/ for more information.
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