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 the origami design commonly known as the
Sanbo. There is a separate page for the Sanbo on Legs.
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.
Sanbo is sometimes found written in the paperfolding literature as Sambo or Sanbow but I believe that Sanbo should be preferred.
This print by the Japanese designer Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750) shows ladies folding paper. Among the designs they have folded is the Sanbo. This print probably dates to around 1720 but can be no later than 1750 when Nishikawa Sukenobu died.
The Sanbo also appears in this detail from another print by Nishikawa Sukenobu, 'Ehon Hana no Kagami', which was published in 1748.
A drawing of the Sanbo appeared in 'Kindergarten Shoho' (Preliminary Kindergarten) by Iijima Hanjuro, which was copyrighted on October 4th Meiji 17 (1884) and published by Fukuda Senzo in August of Meiji 18 (1885).
There is a note in the 'Kan No Mado', usually dated to 1845, which lists a 'sambo' among those designs which are already well known and which are therefore not included in the ms (in order to spare the writer's pen). I do not know whether this note refers to the Sanbo or the Sanbo on Legs.
In Western Europe / USA
I do not know when this design was first published outside Japan.