chapter  3
Movable Religious Lessons and Subversion by Design
ByJacqueline Reid-Walsh
Pages 24

Hidden in a few rare-books libraries in England and North America (and in yet unidentified repositories as well) are a number of small, little-known booklets formed completely of flaps. The loosely linked traditional religious and moral narrative is told by a combination of simple verses, crudely drawn conventional images (usually uncolored woodcuts), and flaps that can be lifted up or down. The intended sequence of events is relayed by a set of transformations beginning with Adam and ending with a skeleton. Yet when the flaps are moved in the opposite direction, transformations occur that are incongruous and amusing. At first sight, these modest objects seem to be historical curiosities, only interesting as examples of ephemera promoting popular religion. Yet these apparently insignificant items were published for more than 200 years from the mid-17th century until the latter 19th century in England, in America in English and German, and, as is only now becoming apparent, in Germany. During the same period, children and adults in England and America made their own versions—in America, in both languages. What features warrant such reception, transmission, and longevity?