Game of Thrones: The Pop-Up Book

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Each episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones starts with a map of Westeros — as the camera sweeps over each kingdom, it sprouts castles, towers, and cities with beautiful precision. Matthew Reinhart has managed to reproduce the magic of CGI in an ancient medium: paper. When you open his Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros, the pages fan out and every castle magically pops up in its right place. 

In recent years, pop-up books have reached a level of complexity and sophistication previously undreamed of; the field is now called paper engineering. People often ask Reinhart what program he uses to design his books; astoundingly, the work is almost all by hand. (Watch him work here.) “My job is arts and crafts,” he says, “I cut and fold paper and pull it all together.” Reinhart works on a project with 3D collages of white paper hinged with tape. After months of designing and troubleshooting, the pop-ups are pulled apart, scanned, and the files sent to China, where an assembly line — possibly hundreds of people — glue the pieces together to create each page of the book.

That exquisite and labor-intensive craftsmanship means pop-up books are expensive. Reinhart says his commissions and royalties are sharply down since the financial crash, and that publishers are commissioning simpler, pared-down books at a lower price point. 

One veteran of the bookselling business fears this process won’t go well. Peter Glassman owns the children’s bookstore Books of Wonder, in Manhattan. He’s recounts one highly successful artist who was stymied by edits. “The publisher kept sizing them down, simplifying the pop-ups, making the books smaller, less exciting, less visually enchanting. And they stopped selling as well!”


Slideshow: Matthew Reinhart’s Pop-Up Worlds

Music Playlist

  1. Main Title

    Artist: Ramin Djawadi
    Album: Game of Thrones
    Label: Varèse Sarabande
  2. It's Only A Paper Moon

    Artist: Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards
    Album: Singin' In The Rain - The Best Of
    Label: Stardust

Matthew Reinhart’s newest book, Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros, unfolds into a full map of the fictional continent. Watch how it works in this book trailer.

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )

A truck emerges out of a page from Transformers: The Ultimate Pop-Up Universe (2013). Watch Reinhart design and assemble it.

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )

With a tug of the tab, the truck shape-shifts into Optimus Prime.

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )

Superman flies out of DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book (2010) with his fist almost touching the reader's face.

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )

C3PO, R2D2, and other characters spring from a page in Star Wars: A Pop-Up a Guide to the Galaxy (2007).

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )

In Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs (2005), a Tyrannosaurus rex pops out of the page with his jaws snapping.

( Courtesy of Matthew Reinhart )