Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


Pleated Paper Fans
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of Pleated Paper Fans. 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.

Three different kinds of pleated paper fans are recorded on this page, circular fans, collapsible fans and leaf fans. Fans of all types can be made of other materials as well as paper.

Circular Fans

Roman period

This picture of a carving on a Roman gravestone in Tullie Museum in Carlisle shows a pleated circular fan that was probably made of parchment.



According to https://www.fancircleinternational.org/history/fans-in-antiquity/: 'People kept on using these circular, pleated fans in Europe after the fall of Rome and throughout the Middle Ages. They carried them in Catholic church ceremonies, and also used them at home to keep cool.'

Church fan (1100s AD, Italy, now in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Pleated circular liturgical fan (1100s AD, Italy, now in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)



The earliest printed instructions that I know of for making a pleated paper design of this kind, which appears to be intended as a hand held fire screen rather than a fan, are found in volume 3 of the American periodical Godeys Lady Book for 1831. It is noteworthy that the instructions say 'crimp them with the machine' rather than fold the pleats by hand.



Similar instructions, but without reference to a crimping machine, appear in 'The Girl's Own Book' by Lydia Marie Child, which was published by Clark Austin and Co in New York in 1833.



Similar instructions also appear in 'The Girl's Own Toymaker' by Ebenezer Landells and Alice Landells, which was published in 1860 by Griffin and Farran in London and Shephard, Clark and Brown in Boston.



An illustration of a circular pleated fan appears in the Buenos Aires edition of the magazine 'Caras y Caretas', Issue 238, of 25th March 1905, where it is just called 'abanico'.


Collapsible Fans

According to https://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/traditionsrevised/origin-of-the-folding-fan.html:

'The folding fan (Ogi) as opposed to the much older fixed or flat fan (Uchiwa) is popularly thought to have originated in Japan around 670 A.D. made of wooden or bamboo strips threaded together and secured by a rivet or pivot.

The oldest surviving wood strip fan (Hi-ogi) was discovered in Nara City, Japan dating to 747 A.D., while the oldest known Chinese or Korean folding fans of a similar type date to the 10th Century A.D.

Remains of the oldest surviving paper folded fan were found in Akitsu, Japan and can be dated to the late 11th century/early 12th century A.D.

While it is not known when paper folding fans were first made the oldest reference to a paper folding fan (Kawahori – bat wing) appears in “Relationship with Japan of the Song History” written in 988 A.D., when it lists gifts including Kawahori and Hi-ogi from Japan to the Song Dynasty.'

There is also an interesting essay on the origin of the pleated folding fan by Kanji Ishimura at https://www.fan.vg/media/pdf/Tracing_the_Origins_of_the_Folding_Fan.pd



The third edition of 'Der Kindergarten' by Hermann Goldammer, which was published by Carl Babel in Berlin in 1874, mentions, but does not picture, a design titled 'Der Facher' (the fan).



A design for a pleated fan appears in the 30th April 1983 issue of 'Journal des Instituteurs'. This is extracted from the book 'Le Travail Manuel a L'ecole Primaire, by M. Coste et J. Lapassade, which had been published in 1887.



The same design appears as 'Eventail ordinaire' in 'Jeux et Occupations Pour les Petits: Guide des Mères et des Institutrices' by Henriette Suzanne Brés was published by Librairie Classique Fernand Nathan in Paris in 1894.



The earliest diagrams for a pure origami collapsible pleated paper fan that I am aware of occur in 'Le Livre des Amusettes' by Toto, which was published in Paris by Charles Mendel in 1899.


Leaf Fans


As far as I know this design first occurs as 'Eventail feuille de palmier' in 'Jeux et Occupations Pour les Petits: Guide des Mères et des Institutrices' by Henriette Suzanne Brés was published by Librairie Classique Fernand Nathan in Paris in 1894.