A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
page attempts to record what is known about the origin
and history of Paper Windmills. 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.
There are (at least) three different kinds of paper windmills:
This type of windmill has nothing to do with paper folding but it does sometimes seem to have had sails made of parchment or paper and so could possibly be described as a paper windmill. It is a very old toy and there are many illustrations of it dating back to the fifteenth century and possibly beyond.
Scopperel illustrated in an edition of 'De Proprietatibus Rerum' by Bartholomeus Anglicus dating from 1486.
The Fold and Cut Paper Windmill
A design for a Cut and Fold Paper Windmill appears in 'Spielbuch fur Knaben' by Hermann Wagner, which was published by Verlag von Otto Spamer in Leipzig in 1864, although the foreword is dated May 1863, which argues that the book was complete at that date.
More information about the Cut and Fold Windmill can be found here.
The Uncut Paper Windmill
The list of paper folding designs in the 'Manuel Pratique de Jardins D'Enfants de Friedrich Froebel, which was compiled by J F Jacobs and published in Brussells and Paris in 1859, includes a 'moulin à vent'. From its position in the list it can be inferred that this is the same uncut design, called 'de molen', which is illustrated in 'De Kleine Papierwerkers', written by Elise Van Calcar and published by K H Schadd in Amsterdam in 1863.
More information about this uncut Windmill can be found here.
There is mention of a paper windmill on page 83 of 'The Mottoes and Commentaries of Friedrich Froebel's Mother Play', published by D Appleton and Company, New York in 1895, which is a rendering into English of a work by Froebel first published in German in 1844. The English text contains the sentence 'Hearing the sound, out runs a little boy with his paper windmill. It turns faster and faster as he increases his speed.' It is not clear which type of paper windmill Froebel is referring to here.