Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Paper Ball
It is, of course, likely that people have been screwing sheets of paper into paper balls for as long as paper has existed but this page attempts to record those pinstances where paper balls are specifically mentioned in the historical record at an early date or are used in unusual or unexpected ways. 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The first historical reference to paper balls that I am aware of occurs in the manuscript 'De Viribus Quantitatis' by Luca Pacioli, which was written about 1502. I have not been able to access the original manuscript or an English translation. The quotations on this page are taken from 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 which states that the manuscript contains a section headed: 'To make small balls of white paper, as said in another part' in which 'Paper is coated in a mixture of dissolved Alum or sabsci (some form of soap might be meant, this would also work). The balls made of this paper are said to float. Pacioli suggests a performance or scam where some participants are given the coated balls and others not. In the scam, those who don’t manage to make their balls float have to pay.'