The Public Paperfolding History Project

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Paper Windmills
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of Paper Windmills. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

There is mention of a paper windmill on page 83 of 'The Mottoes and Commentaries of Friedrich Froebel's Mother Play', published by D Appleton and Company, New York in 1895, which is a rendering into English of a work by Froebel first published in German in 1844. The English text contains the sentence 'Hearing the sound, out runs a little boy with his paper windmill. It turns faster and faster as he increases his speed.' It is not clear which type of paper windmill Froebel is referring to here.


The Scopperel - 1486 onwards

This type of windmill has nothing to do with paper folding but it does seem to have often had sails made of parchment or paper and so could possibly be described as a paper windmill. It is a very old toy and there are many illustrations of it dating back to the fifteenth century and possibly earlier.

Scopperel illustrated in an edition of 'De Proprietatibus Rerum' by Bartholomeus Anglicus dating from 1486.


The Fold and Cut Paper Windmill - 1864 onwards

A design for a Cut and Fold Paper Windmill appears in 'Spielbuch fur Knaben' by Hermann Wagner, which was published by Verlag von Otto Spamer in Leipzig in 1864, although the foreword is dated May 1863, which argues that the book was complete at that date.


The Uncut Paper Windmill - 1863 onwards

The list of paper folding designs in the 'Manuel Pratique de Jardins D'Enfants de Friedrich Froebel, which was compiled by J F Jacobs and published in Brussells and Paris in 1859, includes a 'moulin vent'. From its position in the list it can be inferred that this is the same uncut design, called 'de molen', which is illustrated in 'De Kleine Papierwerkers', written by Elise Van Calcar and published by K H Schadd in Amsterdam in 1863.



Another design for a paper windmill made from three paper strips appears in 'Xu Zhe zhi tu shuo' (More Illustrated Paperfolding) by Yongxiang Shi, which was published by the Commercial Press in Shanghai in 1917.