A Tour Through Their History: Lothar Meggendorfer

Another German to make a name for himself in the world of movable books was Lothar Meggendorfer. Meggendorfer entered into the publishing business in 1866 as a writer and illustrator for the humor magazine Flying Pages, which was similar to England’s Punch. In the 1880s he started his long running paper, entitled The Meggendorfer Pages.

His first movable was Living Pictures (1878), which he originally created for his son Adolf as a Christmas present. He went on to illustrate and engineer as many as two hundred movable books. His books were published in both German and English editions, and were adjusted for the separate markets.

Meggendorfer’s movables are some of the most complex mechanisms ever created in the genre. A pull of the tab activates a complex array of multiple levers, which in turn animates several features in each illustration. The images, amazing in their complexity and innovation, are equally appealing for their humor and accompanying verses.

Due to the intricacy of his mechanisms, Meggendorfer’s books could easily be damaged by eager children. He introduces Comic Actors with this cautionary poem:

Now Children, dear, pray come with me

And see some comic sights,

You all will laugh with mirth and glee,

Or should do so by rights.

When you to them your hand apply

These figures dance and caper

“’Tis really hard” I hear you cry

“To think them only paper.”

The men and creatures here you find

Are lively and amusing,

Your fingers must be slow and kind

And treat them well while using.

But more of them we must not tell,

The pictures would be jealous,

So turn the leaves and use them well

And don’t be over zealous.

Meggendorfer’s masterpiece was Internationaler Zirkus (ca. 1888). Playing on the popular theme of circuses and menageries, Meggendorfer created a book that features six acts from the circus. It unfolds in an accordion fashion so that it can be seen at once in its entirety. A flap on each panel pulls down to reveal different three-dimensional scenes.

Additional Links