Preface to the 3rd edition
I issued these notes first of all in 1972 with revisions in 1973 and 1975. This edition (January 2005) includes additional information, which has come to my attention since the last revision and some illustrations.
The publication is not intended to be a history of paper folding or Origami but brings together what is available with references and notes. My hope is that it may stimulate further research into the history of our art and put our historical knowledge on a sound foundation I hope anyone who has further information or corrections will let me know so that I can keep the work as up-to-date as possible.
Notes on the History of Origami
PAPER & PAPER
Since the availability of paper is an obvious prerequisite to the development of paper folding, it is worth stating what is known about the discovery and spread of paper (25).
Paper making is believed to have started about ADlOO in China, and the discovery usually is credited to Ts'ai Lun a Chinese court official. Prior to this many different substances were used for recording, such as papyrus, parchments and vellum, cloth, bark, etc. The Chinese in particular used woven cloth as a writing material. The first paper was probably made from disintegrated cloth, but bark and other vegetable materials were soon employed. I have excluded Papyrus from this discussion - it is not suitable for folding.
For some 500 years paper-making remained a secret of China. At the start of the 7th 'Century, it was spread to Japan by Buddhist monks and manuscript books were made from the paper mulberry tree.
In AD751, the Arabs occupying Samarkand were attacked by the Chinese - in repelling the invasion certain prisoners were taken who were skilled in paper-making. The paper-making art then spread westwards following the caravan routes. It reached Egypt in the 10th Century. In the 12th Century the Moors established paper-making in Spain in Jativa.
Through the Arab occupation of Sicily the secret reached Italy. The paper both in Italy and Spain was of oriental quality. Paper mills appeared in Fabriano, Italy in 1276 and Troyes in France in 1348. By the second half of the 14th Century the use of paper for literary purposes had become well established in Europe. Paper was used in England at the start of the 14th Century, but it was not until later in the 15th Century that John Tate, the first English paper manufacturer, set up a mill in Hertford.
The first paper mill in North America was built in 1690 at Roxboro (Pa.).
Philip Shen (3), who is himself of Chinese stock, feels that paper-folding was probably of Chinese origin.
In China, the use of coins made from paper covered with foil, paper houses, etc., to be burned in funeral rites is noted as one of the earliest examples of paper-folding by Kallop (4) and Harbin (5). The latter author also describes the use in China of paper sculpture, and one of the earliest forms of entertainment - the manipulation of pleated paper which we know as Trouble-Wit (5).
As with so many other things, Chinese inventions, including paper, and possibly paper folding, were introduced to other countries . Sakoda (1), suggests that paper-folding may have reached Japan in this way and Kallop (4), points out that as a result of an 8th Century Chinese attack on the Arabs at Samarkand, the latter learnt the secrets of paper making and introduced it to the West, the inference being that paper-folding may have accompanied this.
Eric Kenneway in a letter, 18th July, 1972, points out that Yoshizawa and Takahama both assert that the Chinese Junk or Treasure Ship is a popular Japanese model. The fact that the ship is of a Chinese type is not self evidence that the fold is a Chinese invention. The ships which did bring treasure to Japan were Chinese, and such ships, as a motif in various folk crafts, are a popular symbol of good fortune to the Japanese.
In the letter Shen refers to the great Chinese poet Tu Fu of the ancient T'ang Dynasty.
He says that in Science and Civilisation in China, vol. 3 (on mathematics) p112, it is claimed that Tu Fu mentions paper folding. However in a letter to Shen, Dr. Needham ,the author, expressed grave doubts and said that he had been misled by a translation by
G.Vacca in his paper "Della Piegatura della Carta applicatta alla Geometria" in Periodico di Matematiche 1930 (ser. 4), 10, 43.
There was a mistranslation of a line in Tu Fu which reads " my old wife is drawing out a chessboard on paper" this was mistaken as folding.
Shen then followed the matter up with Dr. T H.Taien of Chicago University an expert on the history of paper in China and he could find no reference to paper folding in Tu Fu. There is one line which reads "cutting paper to call my spirit". Dr. Tsien refered to the paper flowers found by Stein in Tunhuang as possibly an example of paper folding. I read the original report and it is quite clear that the flowers are paper cuts not folds.
Hatori (57) says that the conjecture that origami necessarily soon followed the invention of paper in China is probably wrong. There is no evidence for this view.
In Japan, Kallop states, Origami is at once an art that shares equal rank with painting and sculpture and is complexly linked with stylised traditions such as ceremonial etiquette and paper decorations attached to gifts (Noshi).
Honda (2), points out that in early times paper would be too expensive to use for a pastime, so Origami was rigidly fixed and limited to ceremonial occasions. The oldest example he quotes are male and female paper butterflies used to decorate Sake cups at wedding ceremonies.
Japanese history is often discussed by reference to so called 'periods' , usually named after the place of government or seat-of-power of the time. There are slight variations in the dating of these periods and I shall use those given in the 1969 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
PERIOD 794 - 1185
PERIOD 11 85 - 1333
PERIOD 1333 - 1573
In an important book on the history of Origami in Japan (53) ,Takagi gives an illustration of a Kimono from a book published in 1700. This shows a design using the classic crane, so it is evident that the crane was well established as a decorative or symbolic emblem in the 17th century.
A reference to a box of pre-folded Origami samples, Gohyaku Oribako, dated 1728, is made by Yoshizawa (11).
Koshiro Hatori reported on Internet that in Ram-ma Zushiki (Designs for Ram-ma) published in 1734 there are two cubes which are modular models.
A book called Chusingura Orikata, dated 1797 (18 1/2" x 13") which gives Origami figures of the main characters of a Kabuki play is mentioned by Honda (2) and by Takahama (13) who also points out that the book contains advertisements for other Origami models.
The book, "How to fold 1,000 cranes", Senbazuru Origata was also published in 1797 according to Yoshizawa (11). Takahama (13) confirms this and adds it was published by the Yoshino-ya Printing Store, About 1850 the famous Kan-no-mado was published - this is mentioned by Sakoda (1) and others. Honda (2) says the scholar Katsuyuki compiled the fragments into small volumes and recopied it. Vol. 233 is on Origami and offers 10 ceremonial folds and 30 'pastime' models. Honda says we cannot be clear about the meaning of Kan-no-mado which literally means "A window for the cold season."
Takahama (13) is reported as saying that the Kan-no-mado was by the Chief Abbot of Choen.During this period Takahama (14) notes that paper folding became popular.
An article (9) states that by the end of the EDO period more than 70 shapes were known, including the Crane, Frog Ball and Helmet. Yoshizawa (11) notes that during this period the folding of Hina dolls became known. Harbin (7) quotes Peter Van Note as the source of this information that in the early part of the EDO period the Crane or Bird Base occurs, but the Frog base not until 1800. Sakoda (1) notes a reference in 1856 to a merchant in Asakusa of Tokyo who by folding paper could produce any desired figure.
PERIOD 1868 - 1912
PERIOD 1912 - 1926 AND TODAY
Until the last few years non-ceremonial Origami in Japan in the 20th Century appears to have been considered as merely a children's pastime except for a few great folders.
The reorganisation of Origami as a creative art in Japan has largely been due to the efforts of:- Isao Honda - who published his 'Origami' in 1931, Akira Yoshizawa, who has been the dominating genius for many years, and first published in 1952, and Michio Uchiyama, who learnt Origami from his mother (born in about 1840), who regarded it as her favourite pastime. Michio, in 1908, was awarded a patent for a new kind of Origami which he called Koko-style, and in 1931 he had a public exhibition in Tokyo. Michio's son, Koshio, has also become an outstanding folder.
Since the end of the second world war, new folders and a wealth of new books have been published by such talented authors as Takahama, Nakano, Kawai, Kasahara and many others. Many societies have been formed .
An important article by Miyashita (40) has been translated by Eric Kenneway. The author considers that what we call Origami today developed from primary school education of the Meiji period and after into creative Origami. Since 1961 an item on Origami has been included in Webster's Dictionary. Origami as we now know it, used to be called Orikatachi (fold-shapes) or Taramikani (fold-paper) in former times.
In Japan Origami originally used to refer to a form of writing. In the Edo era paper folding was called Orisue or Orikata and later Orimon up to the end of the early Showa era. See Hatori (57)
Closely associated with Origami is the art of Noshi-Zutsumi (gift folding and/or wrapping).
In 1680 the oldest reference to Origami is in a poem by Ihara Saikaku it refers to Ocho Mecho (butterflies) as Orisue. See Hatori(57)
Tsutsumi-no Ki by Sadatake Ise 1764 gave details of thirteen tsutsumi passed down to him. After this many methods of folding tsutsumi became fashionable. In 1801 Hokyu Ogani's book, Toryu Orikatachi Taizen (Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Origami) was published and contained 130 items.
The book "How to fold 1000 Cranes" published in 1797 (see reference 11 and 13) has been the subject of two further identifications. A Photostat copy of this book has been donated by Bill Warner and the West Coast (U.S.A.) Origami Group to the BOS. Library.
Kasahara in his Origami 3 (ref. 41) gives folding details for most of the '1000 Crane' plates and reproduces the original drawings.
In Kasahara's Origami 5 (41) more details and illustrations from Kan-no-Mado are given, see other references on Page 5 of this pamphlet.have been founded, particularly the International Origami Society by Akira Yoshizawa.
Origami was included in the manners of the Samurai class , Ocho Mecho and Noshi are examples of this ceremonial folding. There are many patterns, originating in the Muromachi era. (57)
In the 18th century Origami such as the boat and sambo have appeared as Kimono patterns. (57)
In a letter, 18th July, 1972, Eric Kenneway says there is a much more significant link between Origami and Shinto than with Zen. Folded paper "gohei" plays a central role in Shinto and signify the presence, or the possibility of the presence, of the Shinto divinity. The paper "gohei" is the material thing which the divinity inhabits when it visits the temple. Noshi, wrapper and 'butterflies' are all Shinto-based with purifying functions. The best reference is 'Shinto' by Jean Herbert, pp. 116 - 117.
Hatori (57) points out that the strips used in Shinto were never made of paper in ancient Japan are are not necessarily folded. He sees no relationship between Shinto and the origins of Origami.
In the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (29) dated about 1000 A.D. reference is made to the twisting or knotting of letters, page 40.
"13 Depressing Things......but in his hand he carries not a reply, but one's own letter, still twisted or knotted "
In the Additional notes, page 280, the following notes appear.
".... the two main types of formal letters were 'knotted' and 'twisted.' Both were folded length wise into a narrow strip; but, whereas the knotted kind was knotted in the middle or at one end, sometimes with a sprig of blossoms stuck into the knot, the twisted kind was twisted at both ends and tended to be narrower."
This does appear to be a somewhat formalised type of folding which may be a distant cousin of Noshi.
Thelma Randlett in a letter, August, 1972, refers to Teru-Teru Bozu or Sunshine doll made by Japanese boys and girls to pray for rain. The doll is made from a paper ball and a folded sheet to make the body. The custom originated in Kyoto by ladies of aristocratic circles and is mentioned in a diary (30) of the 10th Century
Hatori (57) concludes from his research that Japanese classical origami used cutting and judgemental folding with painting or decoration, multi coloured sheets were also employed. Hatori gives a number fo examples, including the Pajarita, to illustrate that Japan and Europe had their own origami when Japan closed its borders. The Meiji Restoration permitted the fusing of Eastern and Western Origami. The adoption of the Froebel movement in japan being of particular importance; in this way modern Origami evolved.Hatori concludes that modern Origami is not an original Japanese culture. Traditional origami is anonymous whereas in modern Origami the folding sequences are regarded as designed by their creators and thus their intellectual property. Uchiyama Koko can be regarded as the founder of modern origami since he patented his models. Modern Origami emphasises the puzzle aspect of reproducing shapes under rules such as no cutting, decorating, or gluing. Yoshiawa has demonstrated that Origami can be a fine art. His work not only represents the object but also shows emotional expression. In artistic Origami the creativity is attributed to the designers and folders, there is no mechanical reproducibility.
Western Paper foldingSpain
Palacios in his detailed writings (15) and letters (6), has argued that in Spain paper folding developed separately from the Japanese from the time of the introduction of paper by the Arabs.
The most ancient model known is the PAJARITA (from the Latin PASSER for sparrow). Palacios believes it was originated prior to the 16th Century and quotes a reference to it
(16) by a Spaniard writing on pastimes in Venice. In Spain, in primitive paper folding, the principle is followed of pure folding - no cutting or gluing, and this is visible in the genuine art of the "Pajaritas". From this simple figure other models were developed such as the Cap, Ship, Bonnet, Octagonal hutch and the Ships of the King and Queen.
This latter model is known as the Chinese Junk, but Palacios argues for its Spanish ancestry.
Palacios (6), points to the possible introduction of paper-folding during the days of the Moorish occupation 1,000 years ago.
Japanese ideas, particularly the flapping bird, reached Europe and probably Spain at the end of the 19th Century.
Two modern giants of Spanish paper folding were Unamuno, who wrote on the subject in 1902 and Solorzano, who learnt local creations from his mother, and developed a system of bases. He first published his work in 1928. Also see (48).
Vicente Palacios who has made a deep study of the origins of Spanish paper folding has been kind enough to give me reference (38).
This little book of 600 pages makes reference to the paper bird, table, cart box, mirror and ships etc. without any comment on Japanese Origami. Palacios believes that paper folding had a European origin, localised in Spain.
This is not, however, the earliest reference that Palacios has traced so far. In a magazine article (39) he quotes references to paper folding in 1757 which would predate several of the Japanese Classic references to Origami.
and other countries
Kallop mentions the wonderful napkin folding practised in the 16th Century - many of these folds are now regarded as a part of Origami. (Honda (8) also discusses napkin folds in Japan in his book on Noshi). In Europe, these napkin and other cloth folds may well have been a source of paper folding ideas. We hear from various sources of interest many prominent people had in paper folding. Kallop (4) mentions da Vinci's exercise in geometric paper folding in Codex Atlanticus, Lewis Caroll and Shelley are described as ardent followers. Yoshizawa (1) adds Victor Hugo to the list.
The Times Review (17) makes intriguing mention of a William Hine who saw a blind man in the park folding paper and making various figures some years after 1786.
Froebel reportedly published some notes on education and paper folding in about 1850 (55).
Details of the flapping bird were published in England in 1886 (49) and in Paris in 1889 (18). The arrival of the flapping bird into Europe is a fascinating topic. David Lister in his definitive paper (54) thinks that the most likely way that the flapping bird reached the West was through Japanese jugglers.
A number of books appeared, mainly repeating traditional Japanese models in the next 50 years, for example, the 'classic' by Campbell (19).
But it is to G. Legman we must look for stimulating great interest in paper folding. In 1952 he published his definitive 'Bibliography of Paper Folding.'
Bob Harbin also has a passionate interest in paper-folding. He started a T.V. series in 1955 in England titled "Mr. Left and Mr. Right." This aroused tremendous interest and led to his important book 'Paper Magic' in 1956. Perhaps one of the most important and influential books on paper folding ever to appear.
In 1965 Sidney French started his portfolio Group in the UK and in 1967 the British Origami Society was founded - it now has one of the most important libraries on Origami in the world and its membership is world-wide. The most authoritative account of the formation the BOS is given by David Lister (46).
Origami Love Token
Intrigued, the Dorset History Centre made a copy of the document in the Centre's digital copying suite, and after a long lunch hour spent experimenting folding and re-folding (there is never an origami expert around when you need one!) we finally worked out how to fold the copy to reveal the verse and pictures in the intended order. When the corners of the folded token are pulled in a certain way the packet spirals open in a dramatic manner
The final picture, of two hearts joined as one, is revealed at the very centre of the token and is described as 'the gift of John Abbott'. We believe that John Abbott is the creator of the token but unfortunately we don't know who his 'sweet Turtle Dove' was, although the initials SW appear within one of the pictures, nor do we know whether she accepted his proposal
The original document is, unfortunately, in a very fragile condition and is currently undergoing conservation treatment, until completed it will be unavailable for public consultation. A substitute copy is however available for study at the History Centre
The best account of Troublewit is that by Kenneway (44 ). he refers to the first mention of Troublewit in a book published by Conyers in London in about 1710. This book mentions a sheet of paper called Trouble-wit, with divers other Legerdemain curiosities. In a book by Trevor Hall, ( 50) ) he gives the date of publication of the book referred to by Kenneway as about 1700 (51). However, he comments that this book is almost identical with the text of a previous version published in London in 1676 (52). Thus I think we are entitled to use this earlier date as the first mention of Troublewit.
In an 1897 article (36), the method of construction and manipulation of 'Trouble-Wit' is described. Mr. David Devant of the Egyptian Hall held a paper-folding seance to the magazine's artist. On page 274 it states that paper folding is not new and continues:
"A century or so ago the pastime was known as 'Trouble-Wit', and much earlier even than this we hear of a French priest - Pe're Mathieu introducing the pastime into France."
CARROLL AND PAPER FOLDING
Thus we read (32) Page 20
"The boy was a clever conjuror, and arrayed in a brown wig and a long white robe used to cause no little wonder to his audience by his sleight-of-hand. He was very clever at manipulating the innumerable strings by which the movements of his puppets were regulated."
The earliest reference to paper folding I could find in the letters and diaries of Carroll was in 1889 (32) when Carroll was 57.
Page 285 June 7th 1889, Hatfield.
"With the Duchess of Albany's children - Princess Alice and her brother, Duke of Albany and folded a fishing boat for them .. "
Notice the reference is only to a fishing boat.
A year later we read (33)
1890 - Oct. 2 (Th.) -
"Called on Mrs. Fox with whose children I began an acquaintance at the concert the other night: Annie (aged 8) and Stanley. Today I borrowed the children for an hour and took them to my lodgings and folded fishing-boats for them, etc."
Once again only fishing boats are detailed.
Six days later (33), we have the fascinating entry -
1890 - Oct. 8 (W) -
"Went to Hastings, by Mr. Patmore's invitation, for him to drive me over to the farmhouse at Westfield, which he has taken for the summer.,....... and the little boy Francis Epipharius (Piffy), a very bright little creature, who taught me how to fold paper pistols"
So Carroll learns a new fold and we find mention in subsequent entries (32 & 33) of both folds
Page 297 - 1891 - Oct.
"Princess Alice and the little Duke of Albany, however, paid him a visit, and were initiated in the art of making paper pistols"
1891 - Nov. 16 (M) -
"A remarkable day. The Duchess of Albany is at the Deanery with her children and sent the children to my rooms soon after 10. and I taught them to fold paper pistols"
1897 - Jan. 26 (Tu)
"In the afternoon, I went to Godalming and had tea with the Vicar, and folded a fishing boat and paper pistol for his little Mary."
1897 - Aug. 28 (Sat)
"Fetched Edith Wardell to tea, and little Nora Charrington, aged 7, for whom I folded a fishing boat, etc.,"
I can find no other direct reference to Lewis Carroll's interest in Paper-Folding. I am sure he was fascinated to learn a new model- what a tragedy it doesn't seem to have occurred to him to develop his own models - he would have enjoyed doing so and Origami would have been the richer.
Since the preparation of the notes on Lewis Carroll a book has appeared by John Fisher (34) in which is included a section on Lewis Carroll and paper folding. This quotes from reference (32) as follows:
"We were playing on the fort at Margate, and a gentleman on a seat near asked us if we could make a paper boat, with a seat at each end and a basket in the middle for fish "
Reference is also made to Tenniel's illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter who appears to be wearing a box-like paper hat once worn by carpenters but later by operators of newspaper printing presses. Additionally the drawing in Through the Looking Glass of Alice in the railway carriage shows the gentleman opposite wearing a paper suit and with another type of paper hat.
Fisher gives instructions for folding some of the Carroll models he has identified and concludes the 'fishing boat' of Carroll's was what we know as the Chinese junk. So far so good, but Fisher can't resist including on Page 204 a 2-piece fold of a suit which he justifies by saying that it is an old fold which would have been familiar to Carroll. No evidence for this statement exists in the book.
The total list of models where there is evidence that Carroll was familiar (bearing in mind he approved every one of Tenniel' s drawings) is as follows: -
"He had not yet learned that art, from which he afterwards derived so much pleasure - the construction of paper boats"
The account is then given of Shelley's obsession with twisting 'morsels' of paper into likenesses of boats, to sail on any pond or even puddles'
We then learn:
"So long as his paper lasted, he remained riveted to the spot, fascinated by this peculiar amusement; all waste paper was rapidly consumed, then the cover of letters, next letters of little value . ."
We learn on one occasion he even used a £50 bank-post bill.
Once again as with Lewis Carroll it is difficult to understand Kallops (4) reference to Shelley as an ardent paper folder - the folding or twisting seems incidental to the passion for sailing paper boats.
The Chinese Junk was described in Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs" (1869) in one of the last chapters, comparing it to the Dutch getaway ship of the hero.
In Paper Magic (5), David has also noted this reference to Samuel Pepys. In his diary he is quoted as saying: "This day we received a basket from my sister Mary made by her of paper"
Also Hans Anderson in his "Little Tin Soldier" lets his hero voyage in a paper boat.
In 1806 educator Chr.. Goth. Salzman wrote in his Ameisenbuchlein:
"Should you meet a person who possesses the skill to produce a variety of figures by folding paper, don't consider this to be too trifling, try to learn it"
It is concluded that Salzman did not know of the Japanese art of Origami' when he wrote this, otherwise he would have referred to it.
Reference is also made to the literary masterwork, "The History of the Prince Genji" by a court lady, Murasaki Shikibi about the year 1000. An intriguing quotation is given:
"Nyosans answer was given on thin Karmesin Red paper and the extra ordinary ingenious and elegant manner in which it was folded caused Prince Genji's heart to beat faster"
" I've spent a couple of hours in the National Library looking into the fascinating world of Leonardo's manuscripts. I've checked all of the plates reported in the introduction of Art of Origami - most of them are problems of plane and solid geometry; relationship between square and hexagon and so on. Only one or two plates, however, show drawings which in my opinion could be reminiscent of paper-folding. But it's quite difficult to judge whether these (which are apparently unrelated to the text) are really representations of creased sheets, or simple exercises of plane geometry, or what else."
Perhaps the people who are convinced that Leonardo was an enthusiastic paper folder will tell us why they think that !
JUNK IN THE NEDERLANDS
"Hanenpoot strong and proud sail in a paper boat", the drawing itself shows a folded model which later became known as the "Chinese Junk".
I have been in touch with the University of East Anglia and have received confirmation that the text Eric quotes is indeed in the play.
Z.Chiang (ref. 46) refers to being taught as a child the waterbomb form to put flies in.
In June 1994 Thoki Yen told me that in Denmark he had met an Egyptian magician (stage name Prince) who was taught as a child in Egypt, the waterbomb as a container in which to put flies. Thoki had checked that it was indeed the waterbomb that was used. Subsequently 'Prince' said the they used a little tube of paper to look at the fly and referred to it as a camera.
Eric Kenneway points out (ref.44) that the waterbomb is not only used as a play- toy by filling it with water and throwing it or dropping it, but it is also know in Japan as a play balloon and in the USA as a peep show ( a picture is drawn before the final folding ).
Kristine Tomlinson, (ref.56). A Master Sanders K.G.Nellis, born without arms gave two performances consisting of seven different parts at Washington Hall . In the second part he is stated to:-
"..make a Paper Fly Box and fold a Letter in the true love style"
So here we have yet another reference to the waterbomb as a prison or box for flies.