A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
|Pleated Paper Fans|
page attempts to record what is known about the origin
and history of Pleated Paper Fans. Please contact me if
you know any of this information is incorrect or if you
have any other information that should be added. Thank
There are two different kinds of pleated paper fans, circular fans and collapsible fans. Fans of both types can be made of other materials as well as paper.
Pleated Circular Fans
This picture of a carving on a Roman gravestone in Tullie Museum in Carlisle, UK, that can be dated to around 450BCE, shows a pleated circular fan that was probably made of parchment.
According to https://www.fancircleinternational.org/history/fans-in-antiquity/: 'People kept on using these circular, pleated fans in Europe after the fall of Rome and throughout the Middle Ages. They carried them in Catholic church ceremonies, and also used them at home to keep cool.'
Pleated circular liturgical fan (1100s AD, Italy, now in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
In terms of recreational paperfolding the earliest appearance of instructions for making a fan of this kind appear in 'The Girl's Own Book' by Lydia Marie Child, which was published by Clark Austin and Co in New York in 1833.
Similar instructions appear in 'The Girl's Own Toymaker' by Ebenezer Landells and Alice Landells, which was published in 1860 by Griffin and Farran in London and Shephard, Clark and Brown in Boston.
Pleated Collapsible Fans