Welcome to the Artifact of the Month - a series featuring an artifact from the Paper Museum's extensive collection. Each month highlights a different artifact to provide the opportunity to learn more about our collection and the variety of items collected.

Larry B. Thomas Pop-Up Book, Dollhouse

August 1, 2021

This month’s Artifact of the Month is a pop-up book by Atlanta-based artist Larry B. Thomas. Thomas’ artistry and attention to detail are apparent with the few pages of Dollhouse. A colorful, surreal collage of houses, cars, and dolls forms the pop-up section of the pages, while the background is composed of a variety of landscapes. The cover features a doorway of geometric tiles in a magazine-cutout style. Some of his other notable works include Escape Through Motion, No Tears for Ramelli, and Don’t Eat Me. Thomas was born in 1939 and passed away in 2014. Though not much is known about him, he was influential in pioneering the artist’s book medium and preserving the art of pop-up books through his “book works.” 

The specific origins of pop-up books are unknown, but the paper mechanics involved have existed for almost a millennium. In fact, there are surviving examples from as far back as the 13th century. One such example was a revolving disc created by a mystic, Ramon Llull, to illustrate his theories. In the 14th century, “turn-up" style books rose to popularity as a means of demonstrating human anatomy in textbooks (like in Andreas Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica Librorum Epitome). As children’s books became a fixture in literature, publishers sought ways to engage young readers. One answer was Robert Sayer’s 1765 invention, known as “lift-the-flap" books. Numerous styles evolved from this development; three prominent styles were called “metamorphoses,” “toilet books,” and “harlequinades.”  

Mass production became a possibility as innovation continued in the paper industry. Pioneered by publishing company Dean & Son, movable books were available to the public by 1860. At that point, the modern pop-up book was starting to take shape. In the 20th century, S. Louis Giraud created a technique that allowed an illustration to be raised above the page and visible at all angles, just like the raised images of this month’s artifact. With this final invention, we have the pop-up books we all know and love today. 

Category: 3-D Objects

Region of Origin: American

Artist's Books

The first pop-up scene of the book featuring a field and blue sky as the background with a variety of paper doll and magazine cutouts in the foreground.
The first open page of the book featuring a dining scene and the word, Dollhouse, under in an arch with a rat and a tiger peeking through a window in the background.
The cover of the book featuring the title, Dollhouse, as well as a tiled arch covering a policeman and cows in gas masks
The second pop-up scene with a collage of animals such as a monkey and fish as well as people and a dollhouse in front of a villa scene