Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


A Timeline of Origami History
This timeline is a work in progress. Further significant events will be added to this timeline in due course. Suggestions for such significant events, especially early events, that ought to be recorded here are welcomed.

1440 -The Netherlands: Illustration of the surprisingly sophisticated cut-and-fold Catherine of Cleves box appears at the bottom of a page devoted to St Agatha, in the magnificent Flemish illustrated manuscript known as the Hours of Catherine of Cleves.

1490 - Venice: Publication of an edition of the book 'Tractatus de Spaera Mundi' written by John Holywood, an English mathematician and astronomer, who is also known as Johannes de Sacrobosco, which contains a picture illustrating a solar eclipse. The picture shows two traditional paper boats floating in a stylised sea.

1584 - England: Description of the magic trick now normally known as the Buddha Papers in Book 13, chapter xxvi of 'The discoverie of witchcraft' by Reginald Scot, Esquire.

1537 to 1603 - Japan: The oldest known representation of the Orizuru ( or paper crane) on a kosuka, a decorative panel intended to be attached to the hilt or sheath of a sword can be reliably dated to tghis period.

1614 - England: First performance of John Webster's play The Duchess of Malfi, the ms for which contains the words 'those paper prisons boys use to keep flies in' which is likely to be a reference to the design now known as the Waterbomb.

1676 - England: The earliest known description of Troublewit is published in the book 'Sports and Pastimes: or, Sport for the City, and Pastime for the Country; With a touch of Hocus Pocus, or Leger-demain: Fitted for the delight and recreation of Youth' by John Clark, at the Bible and Harp in West-Smithfield, London.

1680 - Japan: Short poem by Iharu Saikaku 'Rosei-ga yume-no cho-wa orisue' which translates as 'The butterflies in Rosei's dream would be folded paper.'

1704 - Japan: Drawing of a kimono decorated with the takara-bune (similar to the paperfold now known as the Chinese Junk). Source 'Origami from the Classics' by Satoshi Takagi, published in 1993.

1734 - Japan: Japanese book by Hayato Ohoka called 'Ranma Zushiki' contains prints of decorations intended to enhance sliding room dividers. Among these is a print that shows a group of folded paper objects, including the traditional crane, Komuso, the traditional paper boat and the Tematebako, a modular cube developed from six Menko.

1797 - Japan: Publication of the Senbazuru Orikata, a book of origami designs, woodcuts and poetry. The designs are created by cutting slits in large squares to divide them into several, or many, small, but not completely separate, smaller squares and then folding each of these smaller squares into a paper crane. The cranes remain connected by beak, legs, or wingtip when the design is complete.

1800 - England: A painting by John Hill shows two carpenters in a workshop wearing paper hats.

1806 - The Netherlands: The earliest known drawing of the paperfold now known as the Chinese Junk occurs in the Dutch picture book "Hanenpoot" which Willem Bilderchijk wrote and illustrated for his young son Julius Willem.

1826 - Germany: Mention in Friedrich Froebel's book 'The Education of Man' of two children folding a dwelling house from a large sheet of cardboard, while others are busy folding from smaller sheets of paper all kinds of furniture - tables, chairs, sofas, beds, writing-desk, picture-frames, looking-glasses, etc.

1837 - Ukraine: Artist K. Pavlov (1792 - 1852) paints a picture which shows a child playing with several Playing Card or Business Card Cubes.

1838 - Denmark: Publication of Hans Christian Anderson's children's fantasy story 'Den standhaftige soldat' (in English 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier') which includes reference to a paper boat.

1845 - Japan: Writing of the Kan No Mado, a 63 page hand drawn ms containing diagrams for 48 varied paperfolded designs.

1850 - Germany: Around this date Friedrich Froebel included paperfolding as an occupation in his Kindergarten syllabus.

1864 - England: The earliest published instructions for making a true paper plane, in this case the traditional paper dart, are published by Routledge, Warne and Routledge in 'Every Little Boy's Book'.

1876 - Japan: The first Japanese kindergarten was established at the Tokyo Women’s Normal School (now Ochanomizu University) by Clara Zitelmann. As a result of the establishment of Kindergarten in Japan traditional European folds became known to Japanese children.

1877 - USA: Publication of 'The Kindergarten Guide' by Maria Kraus-Boelte and John Kraus which set out Friedrich Froebel's kindergarten system including his use of paperfolding as forms of life, forms of beauty and forms of knowledge.

1882 - England: Publication of Cassell's Complete Book of Sports and Pastimes which contained the first description of the game of Consequences along with instructions for making the Magic Fan (aka Troublewit), the Paper Bellows, the Paper Boat, the Paper Box (aka Catherine of Cleves box), the Chinese Junk, the Pyramidal Paper Hat, the Paper Parachute and the Paper Purse (aka the Menko).

1885 - France: Publication of the earliest known diagrams for the traditional Flapping Bird, and also the earliest known reference to this design of any kind, on page 336 of issue 661 of the French magazine La Nature.

1893 - India: Publication of Tandalam Sundara Rao's book 'Geometrical Exercises in Paperfolding' which took the Froebelian concept of mathematical / geometrical paperfolds to a new level.

1896 - Russia: Leo Tolstoy taught the ten year old F D Polenov (who grew up to become a famous painter) to fold a Flapping Bird while travelling on a train. The actual model folded by Tolstoy on this journey still survives in the Polenov museum in Russia.

1925 - France: According to Andre Breton the surrealist game 'Le Cadavre Exquis' or 'The Exquisite Corpse' was first used as a means to attempt to express subconscious thoughts in pictures at 54 rue du Chateau, Paris.

1928 - USA: First publication of 'Fun with Paperfolding' by Murray and Rigney.

1936 - England: First publication of 'Paper Toy Making' by Margaret Campbell.