The movable book highlighted this week is one of the originals published in English in 1899, although the publication was also printed in Germany, London and New York, and gives us an insight into the cultural norms of the late 19th century.
Titled, “A Series of Amusing Transformation Scenes: The Tricks of Naughty Boys,” the book was written by Lothar Meggendorfer, a German illustrator and early cartoonist who was one of the most important figures in the history of movable books. The mechanical structure works as a venetian blind, which is similar to today’s window treatments that reveal different aspects of the world as the slats are moved in different directions.
In this case, a series of mischievous scenarios of small boys, such as boys breaking a window during a winter snowball toss, disappear as the “blinds” slide down.
“So you have one image where a boy is doing something, but you can’t quite tell if it is good or bad. But when you pull down the tab to see the transformed image—you see he has thrown a ball and broken a window, and the shopkeeper is running after him,” said Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian for the Mahn Center.
As each story unfolds, the illustrations show us a slightly humorous and nonthreatening “bad boy” behavior. In terms of today’s world, that naughty boy behavior would be considered very benign.
“We have a few other Meggendorfers, but the difference is that they are reproductions; whereas this is an original from the time period,” said Intrator.
Photograph by Delia Palmisano/Ohio University Libraries