From the Black Plague to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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COVID-19 (2019–) appears to have accelerated the transition of movable books from ubiquitous multimodal learning tools into artifacts and artworks, exhibited in museums and galleries. In their place, children are embracing interactive digital books. Whether they offer the same pedological value as their material counterparts remains a point of contention amongst early childhood educators. Both movable books and computers, evolved from volvelles. The devices, constructed using cut paper, emerged in Europe during the thirteenth century. Like papermaking, the technology had precedents in the orient. Their establishment in Europe coincided with The Black Plague (c.1346–1351). This article examines the inclusion or omission of papercuts in books, in relation to the broader application of papercutting within their respective communities. Primary and secondary sources were examined from Europe between the thirteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and from China between the nineth and twentieth centuries. Reference is also made to recent exhibitions featuring artist books and papercuts in in the museum and galleries sectors of Australia, the US, Asia, and Europe.