Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

 

 
Write and Fold Games / Draw and Fold Games / Le Cadavre Exquis
 
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of Write and Fold Games / Draw and Fold Games / Le Cadavre Exquis (also known, in English, as the Exquisite Corpse). 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.

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L'Histoire

1827

This game is described in in 'Manuel Complet des Jeux de Société' by Elisabeth Celnart, which was published by La Librairie Encyclopedique de Roret in Paris in 1827.

Two different versions of the game are given, one which is more or less in an open format and in which each successive player only sees the last word of what was previously written, and one in which each player adds information according to a previously agreed set of categories.

The opening sentence says, roughly, 'The game of 'l'histoire' is the same as the game of 'l'amphigouri', 'roman impromptu' and 'secretaire' of which we speak later'. It does not appear to me as though the other games make use of paperfolding in the same way as 'l'histoire' does. The instructions are not always clear on this point, however.

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L'Histoire en vers

1827

This game is also described in in 'Manuel Complet des Jeux de Société' by Elisabeth Celnart, which was published by La Librairie Encyclopedique de Roret in Paris in 1827. It is the same as the game of L'histoire except that what is written on the paper needs to be in verse.

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1831

'Manual completo de juegos de sociedad o tertulia y la prendas', translated by Frances for D. Mariano de Rementería y Fica, which was published by Palacios in Madrid in 1831, contains a translation of the section about 'L'Histoire en vers' which appeared in Celnart (see above).

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Head, Body and Legs

1864

The game of Head, Body and Legs appears in 'Every Little Boy's Book', which was published by Routledge, Warne and Routledge in London and New York in 1864. In this game the paper is divided into three parts. One person draws a head on the top third, folds the paper so as to conceal what they have drawn, then passes it on to a second person who draws the body without knowing what the head looks like. A third person draws the legs in a similar way before the strange creature they have created is revealed.

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This game also appeared:

1869

As 'Comical Combinations in 'Cassell's Household Guide: Volume 1' which was published in 1869.

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1881

As 'The Artist's Menagerie' in 'Cassell's Book of Indoor Amusements, Card Games and Fireside Fun', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1881.

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1933

In 'Diversions and Pastimes' by R M Abraham, which was first published by Constable and Constable in London in 1933.

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Consequences

1873

The earliest description of this well known game, in which part of a strongly structured story is written on a sheet of paper which is then folded to conceal the writing before being passed to another person who then writes another part of the story on the paper which is then folded to conceal it etc and so on until the story is complete, that I know of appears in 'The Popular Recreator', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1873.

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1881

This game also appeared in 'Cassell's Book of Indoor Amusements, Card Games and Fireside Fun', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1881.

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Capping Verses

1873

A description of this game, which produces strange poetry rather than a story, appears in 'The Popular Recreator', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1873.

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1881

This game also appeared in 'Cassell's Book of Indoor Amusements, Card Games and Fireside Fun', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1881.

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Reviews

1881

This game appears as 'The Reviewers' in 'Cassell's Book of Indoor Amusements, Card Games and Fireside Fun', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1881.

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1887

This game was also described in a reader's letter, in the Letterbox column, of the April 1887 issue of the children's magazine St Nicholas.

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Original Sketches

1881

This game appeared in 'Cassell's Book of Indoor Amusements, Card Games and Fireside Fun', which was published by Cassell and Co in London in 1881.

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Le Cadavre Exquis

c1925

In his book 'Dada & Surrealist Art', Thames and Hudson, 1978, William S. Rubin writes, 'Among Surrealist techniques exploiting the mystique of accident was a kind of collective collage of words or images called the cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse). Based on an old parlor game, it was played by several people, each of whom would write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal part of it, and pass it on to the next player for his contribution.The technique got its name from results obtained in initial playing, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau", and 'It was natural that such oracular truths should be similarly sought through images, and the game was immediately adapted to drawing, producing a series of hybrids the first reproductions of which are to be found in No. 9-10 of La Révolution surrealiste (October, 1927) without identification of their creators. The game was adapted to the possibilities of drawing, and even collage, by assigning a section of a body to each player, though the Surrealist principle of metaphoric displacement led to images that only vaguely resembled the human form.'

A collaborative Cadavre Exquis drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró and Max Morise, 1928. The creases where the paper was folded to conceal the previous parts of the drawing are clearly visible.

Andre Breton, writing in the catalogue of an exhibition at La Dragonne, Galerie Nina Dausset, Paris, 7-30 October 1948, entitled "Le Cadavre Exquis: Son Exaltation" asserted that 'The Exquisite Corpse was born, if we remember correctly (and if that is the proper expression), around 1925 in the old house at 54 rue du Chateau, since destroyed.' and that '... we had no difficulty in agreeing that the Exquisite Corpse method did not visibly differ from that of 'consequences'. Surely nothing was easier than to transpose this method to drawing, by using the same system of folding and concealing.' and 'These drawings represent total negation of the ridiculous activity of imitation of physical characteristics, to which a large and most questionable part of contemporary art is still anachronistically subservient.'

Wikipedia states 'but Pierre Reverdy wrote that it started much earlier, at least before 1918', but I have been unable to verify this reference.

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