Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Cherries Puzzle
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the folded paper design known as the Cherries Puzzle. 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.


The first appearance of the Cherries Puzzle in the historical record is in the manucript 'De Viribus Quantitatis' by Luca Pacioli which was written in or around 1502. I have not been able to access the original document or an English translation but the dissertation 'Luca Pacioli and his 1500 book De Viribus Quantitatis' (which can be found at http://repositorio.ul.pt/bitstream/10451/18435/1/ulfc113829_tm_Tiago_Hirth.pdf) states that the ms says:

'Take and place 2 cherries in a letter split in half. Two cherries are strung to a piece of paper cut in a particular way and are left as a puzzle to be removed. This is an impossible object.'

And comments that:

'Pacioli makes reference to a missing illustration while explaining how to remove the cherries. It is most likely that this puzzle is the following: Take a piece of paper, cut it so that an oblong rectangular slip is created. By one of its shorter sides, make a hole next to the slip of paper. The cherries, or a string with two rings attached, are placed on the slip by folding the long rectangular bit through the hole. After unfolding the piece of paper again, the stem of the cherries secures them to the strip of paper.'


A version of the same effect in which the two cherries are replaced by a strip of paper appears in 'Deliciae physico-mathematicae, oder mathematische und philosophische Erquickstunden' by Daniel Schwenter, which was first published in 1636.


The Cherries Puzzle also appears, in both single and double forms, in the 1686 edition of Simon Witgeest's 'Het natuurlyk tover-boek', published in Amsterdam. I have not been able to check whether or not it also appeared in the 1682 edition.


Essentially the same puzzle, but in another form, appears under the title 'The Card Puzzle' in 'The Boy's Own Book' by William Clarke, which was published by Vizetelly, Branston and Company in London in 1828.


A new edition of 'The Boy's Own Book', 'thoroughly revised and considerably enlarged', was published in London by Crosby, Lockwood and Co in 1880. This edition contained both the Card Puzzle and another version of the Cherries Puzzle which was called 'The Cherry Cheat'.


The original version of the puzzle features as 'La Probleme des Cherises' in 'Jeux et Jouet du Jeune Age' by Gaston Tissandier, which was published by G Masson in Paris in 1884, this time with the cherry stems threaded through two holes..


It also appears, in perhaps its simplest form, in 'La Recreation En Famille' by Tom Tit, which was published in Paris in 1903 by Librairie Armand Colin.


Thereafter the effect seems to largely disappear from the paperfolding repertoire.