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General inquiry from Dave Venables regarding Harbin/Montoya copyrights #2

Dear Hank,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 19/20 July giving more information about your request for information relating to the reproduction on the old plate with instructions for a dragonfly. This reply will be longer than expected, but I hope that it will give the whole background to a fascinating story.

It is clear that the dragonfly in question is that which is included in the mid-19th century copy of the Japanese manuscript encyclopaedia which is generally known in the West (by error) as the Kan no mado. According to Japanese writers, the work should be known as Kayaragusa, although that is the title of only that section of the complete work in which the paperfolding appears. (Because it is familiar to Westerners, I will continue to use the name Kan no mado here.) The work is generally estimated to date from the mid-19th Century and 1845 is often suggested by Japanese writers. It is thought to copy sections of several other works containing paperfolding of different kinds dating from earlier years, including lost works from the school of the Sembazuru Orikata (the Thousand Cranes), which date from the late 18th Century or perhaps the early 19th, and also a work containing formal wrapping folds and another showing folding for paper dolls.

The complete encyclopaedia is in 233 slender volumes covering many and diverse subjects and it is not known who compiled it. Two of the volumes contain paperfolding. At the end of the complete work (volume 233), it is stated that it was written by Katsyuki Adachi, but he may possibly have been just a copyist.

Professor Frederick Starr, an anthropologist of Chicago University, was interested in Japanese culture and visited Japan on several occasions in the earlier 20th Century. Among many other subjects he became interested in Japanese paperfolding. Around 1920, he visited Japan again and his attention was brought to the Kan no mado by the newspaper in Osaka which owned it. I have myself been privileged to see the two volumes of the Kan no mado which contain paperfolding on two visits I have made to Japan..

Professor.Starr arranged for a manuscript copy of the paperfolding section of the Kan no mado to be made for him, which he took back home. He subsequently wrote an article in English for the American magazine "Japan", dated 1922, with the title, "The Art of Paperfolding in Japan". In it he describes his experiences of paperfolding in Japan, including his visit to see the Kan no mado (he uses this term, himself). Among the illustrations accompanying the article is a single page of the instructions for the dragonfly which show the final steps leading up to the completed model. There is no clue about the earlier steps in this one page.

When he was researching paperfolding following the end of the Second World War in 1945, Gershon Legman came across a copy of Frederck Starr’s article in a library and was fascinated by the diagrams of the dragonfly. He made enquiries and found that the original was then apparently lost. Subsequently he wrote that it was imperative that the Kan no mado must be found again and he reproduced a copy of the instructions on the cover of his booklet "A Bibliography of Paperfolding" which was printed in 1952. Fortunately the original Kan no mado was found later, when the newspaper company in Osaka which owned it moved into new offices and was able to have access to its archives.

Robert Harbin was put in touch with Gershon Legman around 1954 and he, too, was fascinated by the dragonfly and included a copy of what was later found to be only the fourth page of the complete instructions on p. 25 of his book, "Paper Magic" dated 1956. The book was a best-seller and brought the Kan no mado to the notice of Western folders scarcely any of whom had ever previously been aware of its existence.

Unfortunately the absence of the earlier parts of the instructions made it virtually impossible to discover how to fold the dragonfly and it remained a puzzle. But the model was clearly far in advance of any other paperfolding known at that time and it continued to exercise a fascination for all paperfoldiers who saw it. Following the publication of "Paper magic" they now numbered many thousands.

Both Gershon Legman and Robert Harbin were in touch with Ligia Montoya of Argentina and inevitably a copy of the fourth page of the instructions came to her, probably from Legman, who was the first to correspond with Ligia. It was subsequently reported that she was the first Western person to solve the mystery of the dragonfly. Somehow she discovered that it was folded from a base which was a piece of paper in the shape of a six-pointed star, deeply cut almost into the centre, between the arms.

The paperfolding revival in the West was, by now, well under way and it developed with a basic assumption that paperfolding must be from a plain square and must not use any cutting, gluing or decoration (as Robert Harbin stated in "Paper Magic"). The Kan no mado dragonfly clearly went against these rules. However, paperfolding in Japan had no such constraints and it would be wrong to criticise the Japanese for their historically more relaxed attitude to folding. More recently Western paperfolders have come to realise that there are different kinds of paperfolding and that in some of them cutting is permissible.

Professor Starr died in 1933 and following his death, his copy of what he knew as the Kan no mado was lost. There were many searches for it, but it was not found until March, 1960, when it was traced among some of Professor Starr’s papers deposited in the Library of Congress. Most of Starr’s papers were bequeathed to Chicago University, but some were bequeathed to the Library of Congress and apparently Starr’s copy of the Kan no mado had been accidentally buried among them.

At the back, or outside of Starr’s copy of the Kan no mado there appears scribbled characters which have been interpreted as the Japanese words "Kan no mado". This may be a misinterpretation, but it is the reason why Starr, and through him, Westerners generally, have come to know the work as the "Kan no mado". The scribbled characters do not appear on the original work and this is why the name "Kayaragusa" is to be preferred.

Julia and Martin Brossman published a copy of the "Kan no mado" as "A Japanese Paperfolding Classic" in 1961, so that the full instructions for the dragonfly became available for all to see. Their book remains the most accessible edition for Westerners, although it must be borne in mind that it only reproduced the the Starr copy and not the original Kan no mado. Copies of the original Kan no mado have been made available, but they are not readily obtainable. Nevertheless a comparison between a reproduction of the original Kan no mado and the Starr copy shows how very accurate the copy is. Only a very close examination discloses the minute differences.

A slightly reduced facsimile copy in paperback of the Brossman’s book (authorised by them) was issued around 2009 by Lulu Publishing. It is probably still available from Lulu.. I found it to be inexpensive and excellent value for money.

An examination of Brossman’s book quickly reveals the full extent of the instructions for folding the Kan no mado dragonfly. The six-pointed star is used not only for the dragonfly but also for five other models, a bee, a dancing monkey, a wild boar and Fukusuke (a prosperous man) and Saya Otome( a rice-planting maid). The folding of the base used for the six models is given on three preceding pages which are mysteriously headed with the title "Onibi" (Elf Fire). The final steps for each of the six derivative models is shown on a single page and it is the final page for the dragonfly that was printed by Professor Starr in his article in the magazine "Japan" and which, after many years, was found and reproduced by Gershon Legman and later by Robert Harbin.

On oages 64 and 65 if his book, "Secrets of Origami" (1963), Robert Harbin includes full instructions for folding the dragonfly from the heavily cut six-pointed star. He introduces the model by writing: "The original picture of this model, lent to me by Gershon Legman, appeared in ‘Paper Magic’. Ligia Montoya successfully discovered the method of folding from the diagrams. (Harbin omits to point out that Ligia managed to fold it from only a quarter of the diagrams!) While the diagrams he shows in "Secrets of Origami" may have been derived from Ligia Montoya, they were, as they were actually printed, probably drawn by Robert Harbin himself. The method of folding is similar to that in the "Kan no mado", itself, but the later stages are considerably abbreviated, perhaps to get them on a single page.

After giving the textual instructions for the model, Robert Harbin further writes: "As a matter of interest, Senorita Ligia Montoya has produced a dragonfly without making any cuts". It would be most interesting to see this. Harbin includes a long section of models by Ligia Montoya in "Secrets of Origami", but he does not include instructions for her own dragonfly. In fact I have never ever seen or heard elsewhere of a dragonfly by Ligia Montoya. I have looked at Ligias’s models listed in the British Origami Society Library Catalogue dated c.1980, but there is nothing there. Presumably Robert Harbin would have had a copy, but so far as I know it was not among those parts of his collection which were retrieved from his home by the British Origami Society following his death. It would be very interesting to have more information about this.

The diagrams for the Kan no mado dragonfly, in the Introduction to J. C. Nolan’s book is a reproduction of the diagrams as printed in "Paper Magic". On the other hand, the diagrams shown on page 28 of Nolan’s book reproduce Robert Harbin’s diagrams from "Secrets of Origami". Very curiously, the diagrams on page 28 are a mirror image of Harbin’s diagrams!

In the accompanying text, J. C. Nolan writes how dissatisfied he was with the Kan no mado dragonfly because of all its cuts. Yet this model was material in inspiring him to become a creative folder. Very interestingly, he also writes that the Kan no mado dragonfly dated from the 17th Century. I have never seen any evidence for this and wonder where this information came from. J. C. Nolan’s dragonfly is shown on pages 188 to 195 of "Creating Origami" and while it was undoubtedly inspired by the Kan no mado dragonfly, it does not really bear any resemblance to it, except, superficially in the finished model.. The reason for the present discussion is J.C. Nolan’s concern that in reproducing the various diagrams of the Kan no mado dragonfly, he hould be conforming to copyright laws, not only in the United States, but also in Britain and, presumably, in other countries where his revised book is likely to be sold.

Referring to matters of copyright, there can be no doubt at all that with the passage of time the diagrams, both in the Kan no mado itself and in the Starr copy are, for all countries, in the public domain. This is obvious for the original Kan no mado, but must surely apply to Starr’s copy which was made as long ago as about 1920. British copyright law provides that if the author is unknown, copyright will last for 70 years from end of the calendar year in which the work was created It may be different in other countries.. Professor Starr’s copyist is clearly unknown and it would be impossible to trace him or his representatives. In any case, the diagrams for the Kan no mado dragonfly have been reproduced many times in recent years and there has never been any protest.

Nevertheless, copyright restrictions would apply to the reproduction of any subsequently redrawn diagrams. This would include the copyright in the diagrams for folding given by Robert Harbin in "Secrets of Origami". The copyright in "Secrets of Origami" is now vested in the British Origami Society Copyright Trustees and permission to reproduce the diagrams in "Secrets of Origami" wshould be sought from them.

The whole story of Kayaragusa or "Kano mado" is a most fascinating one and I hope that this background information will be found to be helpful, not only for purposes of copyright but also generally.

Best wishes,

David Lister

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