A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
page attempts to record what is known about the origin
and history of folded paper cicadas. Please contact me if
you know any of this information is incorrect or if you
have any other information that should be added. Thank
As far as I am aware the earliest diagrams for a cicada design appear on page 36 of the Kan No Mado, which is usually dated to 1845. It is one of only a handful of designs in this manuscript that is folded from an uncut square. The instructions say, 'Twist both corners with fingernails to make the eyes.'
A drawing of a similar cicada appears in 'Kindergarten Shoho' (Preliminary Kindergarten) by Iijima Hanjuro, which was copyrighted on October 4th Meiji 17 (1884) and published by Fukuda Senzo in August of Meiji 18 (1885).
Two different designs for cicadas appear in 'Origami (Part 1)' by Isao Honda, which was published in Japan in 1931.
In Western Europe / USA
Diagrams for another version of the Cicada (which has similarities to the Kabuto design), appear in Margaret Campbell's 'Paper Toy Making', which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936, which argues that the book was complete at that date. In this case the eyes are simply drawn on once the folding is finished.
The extended version of 'El Mundo de Papel' by Dr Nemesio Montero, which was published by G Miranda in Edicions Infancia in Valladolid in 1951, contains a design called 'La Mosca (The Fly) which is attributed to Miguel de Unamuno. However, this design is essentially similar to the design for a Cicada that appeared in the 'Kan No Mado', which is usually dated to 1845 (see above).