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The Paperfolding of Gershon Legman


Gershon Legman was born on November 2nd, 1917 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and died in France on February 23rd, 1999.




Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 2nd 1917.



Legman's bill folds 'Lotus and Bowtie' appeared in 'The Phoenix' issue 251 in 1953 (Information from


Legman self-published his booklet 'A Bibliography of Paper- Folding'.



Legman's 'Yoni and Lingam' design appeared in 'The Phoenix' issue 253 in 1953. (Information from



Legman arranged an exhibition of Akira Yoshizawa's paperfolds at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in October and November 1955. He attended the exhibition and taught paperfolding classes there.


Some photographs of a few of the exhibits can be found in an article in the Dutch magazine Goed Nieuws of 17th December, 1955.

Inter alia this article states that Legman 'wrote over a hundred letters to Yoshizawa but got no reply until he wrote his one hundred and seventeenth letter.' This statement was completely untrue. In fact Legman only wrote once to Yoshizawa, and that letter was returned undelivered. His contact with Yoshizawa began after he wrote another letter to Saburo Ueda to which Yoshizawa replied. (See article Unwrapping the Riddle of Yoshizawa-Legman by Laura Rozenberg, published in The Fold issue 68 of January / February 2022.)

This article also contains a version of the story about Legman attempting to rescue a cat from a tree (though in this case a lamppost) but ending up breaking his ankle, and that the enforced rest this brought about led to a revival of his boyhood interest in paperfolding. 'Gershon Legman ... once wanted to rescue a cat from a lampost. The cat jumped down but Mr Legman fell and broke his ankle. In the weeks when he had to lie in bed and was bored he started reading and folding paper, and he has been at it ever since.'



'The Best in Magic' by Bruce Elliott, published by Harper and Row in 1956 contained three paperfolds by Legman:

'Lotus and Bowtie' - bill folded to bow-tie and Lotus.

'The Lotus' - paper folded into a lotus, spectator can be challenged to take it apart without tearing it.

'Bolt and Frame' - paper folding illusion, bolt through the frame, as a climax the paper is folded into Cleopatra's Barge.

(Information from


The introduction to Robert Harbin's book 'Paper Magic', published in 1956, contains several references to Legman and quotes widely from the first letter he wrote to Harbin on 8th April 1955. (The original letter is held in the archives of the Museo del Origami in Uruguay.)


'Paper Magic' also contains a design called here the Bar and Bolt / Cleopatra's Barge which is attributed to Gershon Legman,

and another design, the Bow Tie, where the text says, 'This excellent variation of the Lover's Knot was shown by Mr Cy Endfield to Mr Gershon Legman.' This statement, however, does not make sense in the context of the book (why mention Legman?) and I suspect that it should read, 'was shown to Mr Cy Endfield by Mr Gershon Legman'.



On 27th June 1958 Meyer Berger's 'About New York' column in the New York Times featured Lillian Oppenheimer and her love of paperfolding. The column was titled 'Origami, the Ancient Art of Paper-Folding, has Gramercy Square Disciple' and contains a brief mention of Legman:


Volume 1, Issue 1 of 'The Origamian', which was published in October 1958, contains excerpts from letters from Gershon Legman to Lillian Oppenheimer critical of the name 'Origamian', promising to send Yoshizawa's folds for display at the Cooper Union and:



Volume 1, Issue 2 of 'The Origamian', which was published in November 1959, gives a list of the people Lillian Oppenheimer has made 'Honorary Members' of the Origami Center, including Gershon Legman.


Volume 1, Issue 3 of 'The Origamian', which was published in December 1959 contains another quote from a Legman letter calling the Origamian a 'smearily printed magazine'.



Vol 3: Issue 1 of 'The Origamian' for Winter 1962/3 contains a profile of Neal Elias written by Peter Van Note, which credits Gershon Legman with fanning his interest in origami into flame.



Vol 3: Issue 3 of the Origamian for Autumn 1963 contains an article by Akira Yoshizawa on 'Creative Origami', which was originally published in Kokusai Bunka magazine in January 1961, which includes reference to Gershon Legman:



Vol 8: Issues 1 and 2 of 'The Origamian' for Spring and Summer 1968 contained a profile of Ligia Montoya, 'Ligia Montoya: Woman and Artist', written by Gershon Legman, with whom she had corresponded for many years, which gives some information about their relationship: