Victorian-Era Shape Books

Maxwell Library > Digital Projects > Shape Books

Charm, Color, Delight

Toy books, such as die-cut shape books and movable books, were published to tempt young readers with their out-of-the-ordinary shapes and interactive designs. Illustrated with colorful and fanciful pictures, these juvenile works often included children’s verses, stories, moral tales, alphabets, and nursery rhymes. The development of toy books (toys in book form) extends back to the “harlinquinades” or “turn-up books” of the late 18th century. Soon to follow were juvenile drama sheets, books of paper dolls, movable and flap books, die-cut shape books, and three dimensional “stand-up” or “pop-up” books. By the Victorian era, lavish chromolithographs decorated the covers and pages to the delight of children (and adults) alike.

Popular publishers in the late 19th century included Ernest Nister (London), McLoughlin Brothers (New York), Raphael Tuck & Sons (London), Dean & Son (London), T.F. Schrieber (Stuttgart), and Braun & Schneider (Munich).

Shape books continue to enchant children today, though these Victorian era “toy juveniles” hold a special charm with their delicate construction, colorful illustrations, and amusing verses.


E. Elephant, Esq., Showman Good Friends Only A Doll Dolly Dolly's Party
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