February 2015 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

A Pop-up from the Past


Naturgemählde: A 3-D German's Children's Book from 1827, Leopold Chimani 
Courtesy Simon Beattie, Ltd., Booth 302.

Two centuries before Robert Sabuda began thrilling readers with bold feats of paper engineering, there was Leopold Chimani, whose 1827 Naturgemählde is a brilliant example of 19th-century multi-dimensional illustration, and part of London bookseller Simon Beattie's California Book Fair catalog. Conceived as an interactive way to teach children geography, the Austrian author-illustrator created dozens of colored cutout illustrations of exotic animals, wild beasts, plants and animals that are inserted into a scored grid. The book explores Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia, with cutouts to match each region. The cutouts can be manipulated to create all sorts of exciting scenes of faraway places. The Naturgemählde no doubt delighted children of all ages while making education fun and accessible.

This extremely rare item was going to be offered for $12,000, but sold just prior to the start of the fair. Regardless, be sure to stop by Beattie's booth, #302, to discover his other books, such as a puzzle printed on cotton commemorating the Congress of Berlin in 1878. (Avid blog readers may recall Beattie was the first bookseller profiled for Nate Pedersen's "Bright Young Things" section in April 2012.)