A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
|The Catherine of Cleves Box|
|This page attempts to
record what is known about the origin and history of the
Catherine of Cleves box. 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.
As far as I know this box does not have an established name. I call it the Catherine of Cleves box because it first appears, as an incidental illustration at the bottom of a page devoted to St Agatha, in the magnificent Flemish illustrated manuscript known as the Hours of Catherine of Cleves which dates to around 1440. The box is a fold and cut design and completely unlike anything else that we know of from that date.
The pictures below show the page as a whole and the detail of the box, pictured in both folded and unfolded form, from the bottom margin.
It is not clear whether the box pictured in the illustration would have been made from paper or parchment. Both materials would have been available at this date.
As far as I know modern diagrams for this design first appear in 'The Boy's Own Toymaker' by Ebenezer Landells which was published in 1859 by Griffin and Farran in London and Shephard, Clark and Brown in Boston.
Diagrams for this box, under the name 'Les Boites', also appear in 'Un million de jeux et de plaisirs' by T de Moulidars, which was first published in 1880 and subsequently republished under the title 'Grande encyclopédie méthodique, universelle, illustrée, des jeux et des divertissements de l'esprit et du corps' and in Cassell's 'Complete Book of Sports and Pastimes', published in 1882, the paperfolding section of which was based on Moulidars book, with instructions including the diagrams shown below.
Diagrams also appear in Margaret Campbell's Paper Toy Making, first published in 1936, where the design is called the Closed Box.