A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the traditional design which I call Paper Flights . Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other important information that should be added. Thank you.
Paper Flights are simply waterbomb bases that are attached to pen nibs to make darts.
The first volume of 'La Science Amusante' by Tom Tit (real name Arthur Good), which was first published in Paris by Librairie Larouse in 1889, contained a drawing showing one of these darts. This book, along with its two companion volumes, was a compendium of articles previously published in the French magazine 'L'Illustration'. I do not know the date that this article was originally published.
There is a possible reference to darts of this kind in 'Coming Up For Air' by George Orwell, first published in 1939. 'And I got inky fingers and bit my nails and made darts out of penholders and played conkers ...' (p69 of the Penguin Modern Classics paperback edition).
In March 2012 the Daily Mail Online reported that a trove of paper planes (sic) had been discovered in the eaves of St Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple during renovations, presumably having been thrown up there around 100 years before by children when the building functioned as a school. As far as I know no attempt has been made to date these darts precisely. Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2111963/Schoolboys-100-year-old-paper-planes-pre-date-manned-flight-eaves-chapel.html