Corrie Allegro is a graphic designer, pop-up book collector and occasional book antiquarian from Australia. He’s a very active enthusiast and dedicated pop-up book collector. Corrie and his wife Nancye work together as directors in their graphic design studio. Over the past 38 years he became a pop-up enthusiast with an impressive collection of over 4200 books! As a graphic designer, Corrie couldn’t resist the powerful combination of artwork, words and printing embellishments combined into visually tactile works of art that are accessible for young and old. Corrie discovered a rich history of over 500 years and became a specialist in pop-ups and movables. A hobby was born and Corrie was hooked!
The Allegro Movable Book Collection is Australia’s largest and most comprehensive collection of movables and pop-up books covering over 300 years of published history. This collection is a broad mix with all kinds of modern and antique pop-up books. Owning such a collection brings responsibility with it. Corrie realizes it’s time to share his impressive collection with other collectors and the next generation of book lovers. So he started the website The Allegro Movable Book Collection that is a fun read and all about pop-up books and his collection. A great website for pop-up book collectors with lots of information and facts. We’ve asked Corrie to share his story with us and we are honored and proud he said yes. Enjoy our interview!
BPUP – We are very impressed by your collection! Isn’t this bigger than just a hobby?
CA – Where do you start a conversation when asked about your particular passionate hobby and you realize you have been a collector for 38 years of a genre of books called ‘Movable and pop-up’ books? Where do you begin? How do you try and explain to your family and friends that all those books sitting on floor to ceiling shelves and stuffed cupboards is quite normal?
BPUP – So, how many pop-up books do you own at the moment?
CA – A very common question but always with a shake of the head. I thank the stars that my wife, Nancye and our kids appreciate, sorry, tolerate this man’s passion. Four thousand two hundred plus… But it’s over 38 bloody years and just grew and grew. And it was originally a design inspiration for our Graphic Design office we run, often suggesting a 3D paper solution to our client’s needs. Then the aesthetics of this art form took over, additional books wandered in and a collector was born.
BPUP – Is it even possible to describe your passion for pop-ups when it’s grown into such a broad and huge collection?
CA – No. A collector’s justification never sounds justifiable. But for a book lover it was the combination of artwork, words, paper, movement, hand-made elements and the creativity of artists and paper engineers coming up with fresh new concepts. Of course there are many, many simple basic pop-up books amongst the myriad of classic, unbelievably beautiful books in the collection and it is quite amazing to observe the complexity and creative production skills multiply over time. The designer mantra, ‘function before form’, or viewed in reverse ‘form follows function’ has been turned inside out by the pop-up paper engineer who can either throw out the ‘less is more’ rule and then totally go over the top in mountains of paper sculpture or design a double page spread with the minimalist of a pop-up story element.
BPUP – How did it all begin? There must be a first pop-up book that started this collection?
CA – In the beginning we took a year off to travel parts of the world as many Australians did in the Seventies and in London I came across a simple Hallmark pop-up book on dinosaurs. It flashed through my mind that I could use these clever paper mechanisms in our future design work which I am glad to say we did as often as a client would allow us. From that very ordinary start it slowly grew to become a resource and historical archive of ‘movable books’ ranging from 1797 to today’s artists books. The historian in me wanted books from the movers and shakers across the years ranging from Meggendorfer, Nister, Tuck and all the other old masters who laid the groundwork for today’s creative pop-up talents throughout the world.
“Now, with crowdfunding, a good pop-up book concept can get off the ground and bypass the publishing establishment”
BPUP – Can you tell us what you think of today’s paper engineers and modern pop-up books?
CA – The skills, the ingenuity and ideas come from anywhere in the world. Just look at the vibrant French pop-up scene, the young Japanese designers, the depth of Dutch paper engineering talent. I have to acknowledge the influence on me of the great pop-up historian, the late Theo Gielen who I was privileged to meet in Amsterdam way back in 2008. His history research and writings on European book fairs and artists brought to the pop-up world a huge audience. We marvel at the quality of Thai, Laotian and Chinese book production values that grew out of the early pioneer South American printers and assembly companies. Now, with crowdfunding, a good pop-up book concept can get off the ground and bypass the publishing establishment. Now, that’s disruption.
BPUP – How do you share your pop-up book collection and knowledge about the history of movables?
CA – As a collector and designer I give talks, pop-up workshops, library and museum exhibitions, TV collector programs and hardest of all, radio talks, trying to explain books that move. I used to think Australia was far removed from the centres of book creation and accessibility but that has all changed over the last twenty years, thanks to all the openings that the ‘net’ has brought to the keyboard.
I have a very old static site The Allegro Movable Book Collection that is worth checking out for background historical articles, many photographs of antiquarian movable books and information on the pioneers in movable book design and production. Now, I humbly defer to you guys’ level of expertise and your wonderful online site.
BPUP – As a collector, are there favorite engineers or books you would like to share with us?
CA – I feel for Collector José and his limitations in Portuguese bookshops but I congratulate him on the links he has supplied in his article for all your new viewers. I won’t duplicate all these wonderful names and contacts he mentions as it mirrors exactly my thoughts and desires in chasing those superb books.
BPUP – How about Australian paper engineers?
CA – I would like to mention two local Melbourne artist/designers who utilize pop-up elements in shadow boxes, limited edition paper movable artworks, prints and multi-faceted art projects. Go look for the art of Kyoko Imazu and Anne Kucera at their websites. We might be almost at the bottom of the world, except for our cousins in New Zealand but we do like our pop-up connections throughout the world.
BPUP – What do you think of the future of pop-up books?
CA – Now at BestPopUpBooks.com, the combination of book videos, collectors’ knowledge, links to the wonderful Movable Book Society (every collector should be a member) and the wider pop-up community, there is every reason to be positive for the future of pop-up books.
BPUP – Do you maybe have favorite subjects for pop-up books you would like to see released?
CA – I think José’s aim for political pop-up books is a fantastic idea and sorely needed. There are plenty of ‘one-off’ artist books on similar themes and perhaps crowdfunding might be the path to follow. As an advocate for free speech but feeling squeezed in a political growing phase for populist governments, we need more satire and relevant debate to respond to attacks from both the extreme right and left fringe elements. Perhaps utilizing pop-up books, 3D cards etc we can perform a political act! Back in 2004 Pat the Politician came out as a political satire on George W. Bush and as a parody of Pat the Cat and in 2008 Insight Editions published Mad about Politics, a clever satirical look at the 2000 U.S. election. These very satirical pop-up books were a good antidote at the time. Is it too late in 2016 and onwards for creative juices to flow using pop-ups as political satire? The challenge is out there! I will even TRUMPet any crowdfunded project that I think is worth supporting.
BPUP – Normally we ask collectors for their favorite books. Is it possible for you to answer such a question?
CA – This is a question I always get and is one of the hardest to answer. If only it was that simple. I look around my library as I type this and know there are literally hundreds of favorite volumes and the chase to expand certain parts of the collection drives the hunter & collector in me. What we and new collectors need to do is support artists and paper engineers with their books. This might help to keep production prices down and the publishing industry robust. Everything is cyclical and there are no guarantees that this book genre can survive forever: downturns have happened…
BPUP – Is there anything else you want to share with us and our followers?
CA – BestPopUpBooks.com is a great new forum to spread the word and it can only grow bigger and better with support from the pop-up community.
Thank you Corrie for sharing your wonderful story and amazing collection!
Don’t forget to visit and share Corrie’s website The Allegro Movable Book Collection! A great place for pop-up book collectors and enthusiasts to gather information, enjoy photographs, order collectables and read interesting articles about modern and classic pop-ups.
Header photograph credit: John Gee