Unfolding the Story of Leporello: Accordion Books in the Book Art Collection


The Book Art Collection at Virginia Commonwealth University has a number of pieces that are based on a simple yet versatile form: the accordion. Pleated folds lay the the foundation for movable books such as carousel books, flag books, Jacob's ladder books, and tunnel books. Accordion books are also flexible in size; long books can be compacted into manageable sizes and expanded as needed. Accordion books have had both practical and artistic significance in the past and continue to do so in the form of artists' books. Many artists are conscious of this history and often refer to the history in their work.  In this exhibit, learn about the history of accordion books and take a peak at the different types of accordion derivatives available in the Book Art Collection.



Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library


A Brief History of Accordion Books

Who is Leporello and what does he have to do with book art? This section provides a brief history of accordion books from ancient texts to contemporary artists' books.

Carousel and Star Books

Carousel books are created with accordion folded sheets that may be layered and bound together so that a circular or star shape is created when the front and back covers are folded against each other. Carousel books are a type of sculptural book.

Flag Books

Flag books contain pieces of paper tipped on alternative sides of an accordion structure. The structure of the flag book was developed by Heidi Kyle in 1979 with her seminal work, April Diary, paving the way.

French Door Accordion Books

"French Door" books are so called when the front cover of a book is divided in half into two parts

Jacob's Ladder Books and Magic Wallets

Jacob's Ladder books consist of horizontal panels held together with a string or ribbon, which appear to cascade down the strings when held at one end. A similar structure, the "magic wallet," is typically made with only two panels.  

Tunnel Books

Tunnel books are created with accordion or concertina pages and cut outs that allow the viewer to see through a central opening from one page to another. Tunnel books are derived from peepholes, which was a Renaissance device created by artists and architects to study perspective.