Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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Paperfolding in Prints by Nishikawa Sukenobu
 
Nishikawa Sukenobu was a Japanese woodblock printmaker who lived from 1671 to 1751 (though some sources say 1750). According to Viewing Japanese Prints: Nishikawa Sukenobu, 'Sukenobu's published books number more than 100 and possibly close to 200, with thousands of illustrations on the themes of young women, scenes from everyday life, special contemporary events, and historical tales and legends. He also produced hinagata bon (kimono design books) and a drawing treatise, Gahô saishikihô (Methods of drawing and coloring) from 1738/42.' Several, possibly many, of these works include visual reference to some aspect of paperfolding. As far as I know there is no complete reference available. I have gathered together the prints that appear on this page from many different sources, but this has probably only just scratched the surface of what there is to find. If you are aware of any sources not listed on this page, any other individual prints that feature paperfolding, notice that I have misinterpreted any of the images or otherwise made errors, or can supply dates for the undated items, please feel free to contact me. Thank you.

Note that some of the dates of the books listed below are after 1751. I do not know if these were books published posthumously or were reprints of books issued during Sukenobu's lifetime.

I have not usually recorded prints which only show paper fans. There are higher resolution views of some details of some prints on the relevant index and design pages.

The identification of many of the paperfolds in these prints is uncertain. I will be grateful to anyone who can provide more information about them.

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Sources Consulted

The books I have found and checked for paperfolding related material are:

Undated 'Genroku jinbutsu' in 1 volume

1706 'Yakusha tomo ginmi'

1713 'Shôtoku hinagata' (Kimono Patterns from the Shôtoku Era) aka Shotoku 3.

1716 '(Chinshoku) Hinagata Miyako fuzoku' (Rare and Popular Kimono Patterns of the Capital)

1716 to 1735 - Yaro fuzoku - Kimono Pattern Book.

1717 'Sanju'nyo sugata kurabe'

1717 'Kokusen'ya mincho taiheiki' in 6 Volumes of which only 2 to 5 are in the British Museum. Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4 and Volume 5

1717 'Jûni bijin zu'

1722 'Akindo kashoku kin'

1723 'Hyakunin Joro Shinasadame' in 2 volumes. Volume 1 portrays women of all vocations and classes. Volume 2 portrays courtesans of high and low degree.

1723 'Onna Fuhzoku Tama kagami'

1729 'Ehon towa kagami' in 3 volumes

1731 'Ehon Tokiwagusa' (Picture Book of the Evergreens) in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1733 'Ehon minanogawa'

1736 'Ehon Ariso-umi' 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1736 'Ehon tamakazura'

1739 'Ehon Asakayama'

1739 'Ehon ike no kokoro' in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1740 'Ehon Chitoseyama' (Thousand-Year Mountain) in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and. Volume 3

1740 'Ehon Tzurezuregusa' (Essays in Idleness) in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1741 'Ehon chiyomigusa'

1741 (Illustrated Proverbs)

1741 'Ehon Makuzugahara' in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1742 'Jokyo bunsho kagami' in 3 volumes - Volume 1 Volume 2 and Volume 3

1744 'Ehon nezame gusa' in 3 volumes.

1745 'Ehon Himetsubaki' (Camellia) in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1746 'Ehon Miyako Zoshi' (Picture Book of Life in the Capital) in 3 Volumes - Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3

1747 (Illustrated Poems)

1747 'Ehon kame no oyama' in 3 volumes

1747 'Ehon fude tsubana' in 1 volume

1748 'Ehon masukagami' (A Bright, Clear Mirror) - includes paperfolding related material.

1748 'Ehon kai gasen'

1749 'Ehon Ogurayama' (Ogura Hill )

1749 'Ehon yubu kagami'

1751 'Nyohitsu shinan shu' (Calligraphy handbook)

1756 'Ehon Matsutetsikwa' (Flowers Yet to be Picked)

1758 'Ehon mitsuwagusa' (The Illustrated Lives of Women) in 3 Volumes

1761 'Ehon komatsubara' in 2 Volumes

1768 'Ehon Setsugekka'

1768 'Ehon ike no kawazu' -

The paperfolding material found in these books can be divided into 9 categories: Garments featuring paperfolding designs / Recreational paperfolding designs / Sake Bottle Decorations / Ocho and Mecho Butterflies / Tsutsumi / Pentagonal Knots / Basic Document Folds / Packages / Pleated Folding Fans.

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Undated / Unverified

From 'Genroku jinbutsu', print showing a garment decorated with Paper Cranes.

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This print shows a small packet folded from decorative paper lying on the floor.

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The following prints, which show children folding paper, were culled from the internet. I have not yet been able to positively identify them as by Nishikawa Sukenobu or locate them in any of his books.

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1706

From 'Yakusha tomo ginmi'

This print shows two men carrying staffs with gohei.

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1713

'Shôtoku hinagata' (Kimono Patterns from the Shôtoku Era) aka Shotoku 3 contains patterns for garments showing sake bottles decorated with paper butterflies and a circular fan, presumably of paper.

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The print below, which shows Paper Boats, appears in 'Oru Kokoro', which is the catalogue of an exhibition on paperfolding history held in Tatsuno City History and Culture Museum in 1999. This print does not however appear in the version of Skotoku Hinagata held in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (see link above).

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1716

'(Chinshoku) Hinagata Miyako fuzoku' (Rare and Popular Kimono Patterns of the Capital) contains a pattern for a kosode showing Paper Cranes and Paper Boats.

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c1720

Shunga print, sometimes titled 'Silently', in which the woman to the left is wearing a garment decorated with Paper Cranes.

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1723

From 'Hyakunin Joro Shinasadame'

From Volume 1

This print shows small folded packages resting on stands.

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In this print the corners of the boxes on the upper shelf to the left are decorated with paperfolds that look like stylised butterflies.

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In this print the women on the right are folding wrappers and attaching them to folded packages or documents. The print also shows a gohei and two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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In this print the woman on the left has two paper packages of different designs lying on the floor in front of her.

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This print shows women making pleated paper folding fans.

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From Volume 2

In this print the woman on the left is holding a document folded into a pentagonal knot in her right hand.

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From 'Onna Fuhzoku Tama kagami'

The subject of this print is the Hina Doll Festival. The ladies (or perhaps children) on the left are folding paper. One is inflating a Paper Crane. There are also a completed Komoso and Paper Boat lying on the floor.. This print is very similar to a print in 'Ehon masu kagami' published in 1748 (see below) but with the elements arranged in a different way. The print also shows two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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This print shows a wedding in progress. One of the women at the lower left is holding a sake kettle with a folded paper butterfly attached. There is a formal wrapper, perhaps a noshi, in the lower right corner.

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1729

From 'Ehon towa kagami'

From Volume 1

This print shows sake containers decorated with paper butterflies.

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1731

From 'Ehon Tokiwagusa' (Picture Book of the Evergreens)

From Volume 1

The woman kneeling in the centre is wearing a Paper Crane patterned kimono.

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From Volume 2

This print shows a folded paper package lying on the floor. It appears to be part of a sewing kit.

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The kimono of the woman on the left is patterned with sake bottles to which folded paper butterflies have been attached.

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From Volume 3

Both these prints show documents folded into pentagonal knots. In the first print the woman on the right is holding one in her hand. In the second print a similar folded document is lying on the floor.

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This print shows a small folded paper package lying on the floor.

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This print shows what appears to be a noshi attached to a box in the upper part of the right hand panel.

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In this print the child on the right is wearing a kimono patterned with Paper Cranes.

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As is the child in the centre in this print.

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1735

This print is sourced from the catalogue of an exhibition on paperfolding history held in Tatsuno City History and Culture Museum in 1999. The girl at the back is holding a Paper Crane. A Paper Boat and a Sanbo are lying on the floor.

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1736

From 'Ehon Ariso-umi'

From Volume 3

In this print the woman on the left is handing a document folded into a pentagonal knot to the man kneeling on the floor.

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This print shows flowers in a formal folded wrapper (tsutsumi)

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From 'Ehon tamakazura'

The woman on the left is holding a letter closed with a single fold.

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In the right hand panel there is a small folded paper package lying on the floor.

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1739

From 'Ehon ike no kokoro'

From Volume 2.

In this print the man in the left hand panel is holding what appears to be a noshi (dried abalone wrapped in folded paper). Behind him are two sake containers decorated with what may be folded paper decorations.

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1740

From 'Ehon Chitoseyama' (Thousand-Year Mountain)

From Volume 3

This print shows two sake containers decorated with what may be folded paper decorations.

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1741

From 'Ehon chiyomigusa'

This printincludes two sake containers decorated with paper butterflies.

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This print shows what may be a simple form of gohei hanging from a string.

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The woman in this print is holding flowers wrapped in a tsutsumi.

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1742

From 'Jokyo bunsho kagami'

From Volume 1

There is a small folded paper package on the floor in front of the woman on the left.

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A similar folded package is shown in this print as well.

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This print shows two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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1744

From 'Ehon nezame gusa'

From Volume 1

This print shows what appears to be a simple form of gohei and two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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1746

From 'Ehon Miyako Zoshi' (Picturebook of Life in the Capital)

Volume 1

In this print, in the left panel, there are flowers in a formal wrapper on a small table, and two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies and a letter closed using two folds lies on the shelf to the left.

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Volume 2

This print shows what seems to be a simple form of gohei hanging from the tree and folded paper butterflies standing in the tray of the stall to the left, which may possibly be the tops of sake bottles.

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Volume 3

This print also shows folded paper butterflies standing in the tray of the stall to the left. These may possibly be the tops of sake bottles.

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1747

From 'Ehon kame no oyama'

Volume 1

The left hand panel of this print shows a gohei and two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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Volume 2

The lower right hand panel includes a sake kettle decorated with a folded paper butterfly.

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Volume 3

In this print the woman on the left has just thrown a document folded into a pentagonal knot at the man outside.

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This print shows a document closed using two backward folds.

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From 'Ehon fude tsubana'

In this print there is a gohei stuck in the ground by the river.

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This print shows documents shows documents which have been closed with a single backwards fold..

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1748

'Ehon masu kagami' (A Bright, Clear Mirror)

The subject of this print is the Hina Doll Festival. The ladies (or perhaps children) on the left are folding paper. One holds up a Paper Crane. There are also a completed Komoso and Paper Boat lying on the floor.

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This print shows a wedding ceremony. It includes two sake kettles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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The woman on the right is wearing a Paper Crane patterned kimono.

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The lower left panel of this print shows a package to which what appears to be a noshi is attached.

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1758

'Ehon mitsuwa gusa' (The Illustrated Lives of Women)

Volume 1

This print shows a symmetrical pentagonal knot laid in a box, possibly serving as a wrapper for some dried abalone.

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'Ehon mitsuwagusa' (The Illustrated Lives of Women)

Volume 1

There are two sheets of paper on the floor, one crumpled, and the right hand woman seems to be holding something, perhaps a doll, made from another sheet. Is this paperfolding?

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The woman in this print is holding a gohei.

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1768

From 'Ehon Setsugekka'

In the right hand lower corner of this print a man is carrying a table on a pole. On the table are two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies.

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This print shows two gohei stuck in the ground. Between them is a cord from which what look like other smaller gohei are hung.

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From 'Ehon ike no kawazu'

In this print the lady on the right is offering the man in front of her a stick to which a document is tied using a symmetrical pentagonal knot.

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There are two sake bottles decorated with folded paper butterflies in the top right corner of this print.

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