the Society For Documentation And Investigation Of Paperfolding
the Franckeschen Stiftungen Haus, Halle, GermanY
4th and 5th December, 2004
Joan Sallas, from Catalonia in north-east Spain, now lives in Freiburg in Germany AND is best known for the wonderful origami hats that he designs and which he has published in his book "Hat Auf!". (His first name is pronounced more or less like the Spanish "Juan".) However, not so many people know that he is one of the leading of the world's students of the history of paperfolding. During the past three or four years he has made some significant discoveries, including finding further examples of the horses and mounted soldiers (Ross und Reiter) dating from the early years of the 19th century, which were previously known only from examples in the German National Museum in Nuremberg. This persuaded him to research the background to the horses and riders and he has been able to throw great light on when they were folded and who folded them. He has also made a detailed research into German books of paperfolding from the earliest to the present time, which has thrown strong light on the history of German folding. One of Joan's significant discoveries has been that paperfolding was used in education in German schools during the 18th century, long before Frobel incorporated paperfolding into his kindergartens.
A lesser, but surprising discovery he has made is that Japanese Chiyogami paper was somehow imported into France in the 18th Century and dresses were made from the paper for ladies (for summer wear only!) How did Chiyogami paper reach France during the time of the Japanese isolation?
Joan Sallas decided that it was not true that the history of paperfolding could not be written because no information about it has survived. He has found that if one looks in the right places, records really have survived. As a result he is now rewriting the history of paperfolding in Europe.
Joan has made a magnificent personal collection of German books on paperfolding, many of which were not generally known. He has found that editions of paperfolding books often differ in content from edition to edition; because of this he has tried to collect as many editions as possible of each book.
Joan held an exhibition of his collection of books at the Origami Deutschland convention held at Melle, not far from Hanover in May of this year; he held another smaller exhibition at the Italian Convention at Florence at the end of October. These were all from his own personal collection but because of the exhibition other folders brought more books to his attention. As a result of his initiative, he has been informed about many other books. So he decided to arrange a larger exhibition of both his own books and also those he could borrow from other collections.
At the same time Joan conceived the idea of a society devoted to the history of paperfolding and suggested that this could be formed in conjunction with the proposed display of books. With the help of a group of German folders he found a venue for such an exhibition and meeting at The Franckesche Stiftungen Haus in Halle, near Leipzig in the eastern part of Germany. This is a very distinguished educational, cultural and charitable intuition which was founded around 1700. It has very impressive buildings in the centre of Halle. In Halle, too, there was a local group of folders who were willing to make arrangements for the meeting and provide accommodation for people coming from away. The local group in Halle includes Nele Frode, Regina Kasparek and Ilona Schonwerk. Elsje van der Ploeg of Holland was also associated with the project.
Joan told me about the proposed meeting when we attended the CDO Convention at Florence in October and he was keen that I should attend. At first I didn't feel I could possibly make another trip abroad this year. However, Joan can be very persuasive and after two visits to my travel agent, I found I could fly to Halle by Lufthansa, the German airline, leaving from Manchester.
So, on 3rd December, I caught a train to Stockport, to the south of Manchester, where I had arranged to stay a night in an hotel to be near Manchester airport in good time for the flight the next morning. Dave Brill met me at Stockport station and took me to my hotel to check in and then we went on to an excellent restaurant where we enjoyed a meal of pheasant together. Dave told me he would have liked to have come to Halle, but he was already committed to a visit to southern Ireland with friends. As Chairman of the British Origami Society, he gave me a letter of support for the new society to hand to Joan.
To my relief, at a time of the year when bad weather can severely disrupt air travel, my flights went smoothly and at Leipzig airport, after changing planes I found myself settling down in a widow seat bound for Leipzig-Halle airport, only an hour away. Suddenly a head popped over the back of my seat and asked if I was David Lister. It was Juan Gimeno Viguera from Spain, who thought he recognised me. By coincidence we had been seated in front of each other. Although we were unable to talk during the flight we got together at the airport, where we had been told that we would be met by Marti Bayer, another Spaniard who lives in Leipzig and works in Halle. After a little delay we found him and he took us to his car. He drove us to Halle, about half an hour away and took us to a small pub in the middle of Halle (getting lost in the confusion of streets on the way!). Before we could enter the pub we were met at the door by a group of familiar origami faces, including Joan Sallas and Ilona Schonewerk with whom I would be staying. Inside we met other friends, including Elsja van der Ploeg and her husband, Harry, who had driven by car from Holland and Vicente Palacios who had flown in earlier from Barcelona. My first need was food and this was amply provided in the German style. Before I knew what was happening, two people made gifts to me of origami paper. Juan Gimeno also presented me with a copy of his book "Biblografia Papiroroflexia", a substantial spring-bound A4 publication of which I had not previously heard. It attempts to list as many paperfolding books in all languages as possible and it is a most impressive achievement of 216 closely typed pages. A useful aspect of the book is that it includes many citations from other publications of the books included. Even so, I could see that there were many omissions. But it is only a first edition and can be added to. I could only reflect on how far we have travelled since Gershon Legman's slender Bibliography of Paper-Folding of 1952, with only eight pages
So we chatted together informally and even did a bit of folding. Joan Sallas taught us a fish he had made from the uncut internal cardboard cylinder of a toilet roll (he had brought sufficient cardboard cylinders for everyone!) It was a most unusual kind of folding!
People began to leave and Ilona arranged to take me to her home in the suburbs by taxi, about a quarter of an hour's drive away. As we got out of the taxi, she casually mentioned that it was on the fifth floor, and that there was no lift! Mountain climbing is not one of my current recreations, but I did manage the climb and we were met at the door by her friendly cat "Ferdie" (short for Ferdinand). After the day's travel I was feeling very tired and enjoyed a very sound night's sleep.
The next morning, Ilona and I caught a bus at a stop very near her front door. This took us along a wooded road about two miles to an interchange station, where we changed to a tram. Like most German cities, Halle has an excellent tram network, which, (excerpt in the centre of the city) runs mostly on tracks separate from the roads and is very fast. Our tram took us to within a hundred yards of our destination, the Franckeschen Stiftungen Haus. The building was very grand and to get to reception we had to climb an outside set of steps. There were many books of cultural subjects on sale in the vestibule. Once inside we had to go up another floor to the rooms in which the origami meeting was to take place.
Joan Sallas was there to greet us and we entered a room, three sides of which were lined with tables filled with books. In the centre of the room there were chairs set out in rows for the meeting. To our right there was a large vertical glass cabinet and I immediately noticed on the top shelf three examples of the paper Horses and Riders from Dresden. I found that they had been brought from Dresden by a museum official and he would collect them on the following Monday. On two sides of the room the tables with the older books were enclosed in glass cases. The not-so-old books were not covered so the books could be picked up and examined. There were also framed arrangements of paper fold in frames on the walls, which had been prepared by the local group and Joan Sallas had also prepared a framed series of notices which set out the progress of the development of paperfolding in Germany during the past two hundred years. The exhibition of books continued into the next room where there were two more tables filled with the most recent German origami books, right up to the present day They included convention books for Origami Deutschland and the Swiss conventions and also every copy of "Der Falter" and "Diagram", the respective magazines of Origami Deutschland and Origami Munich. Then there was a third room with a very long conference table, where we could fold or meet together. As we arrived we were all presented with a folder which contained a copy of the substantial programme for 2004 of the Franckeschen Stiftungen and also copies of several papers which had been sent in and which provided articles on different aspects of origami history. They incuded "European Classic Origami" by Hatori Koshiro, "Paperfolding in France" by Michael Ronsseray, President of MFPP, a paper from Michel Grand of France in which he announced his very recent discovery of the original French publication of the Flapping Bird in the French magazine, "La Nature", a photocopy of the Jumping Frog, from "La Nature", an article by Joan Sallas and Rainer G. Richter on the German Ross und Reiter (the paper horses and riders from Nuremberg and Dresden. I contributed two papers: one on "The Migration of the Flapping Bird to the West" and the other an article on common errors and misconceptions about the history of paperfolding.
Promptly we were called to order in the first room. We were greeted by Dr. Claus Veltmann who is the Curator of the Franckeschen Stiftungen. I noticed that he was wearing an origami conference name badge. Speaking in German he gave us more than just a formal introduction and was genuinely interested in what we were doing. He was followed by Joan Sallas, also speaking in German, so I had to guess what he was saying! He outlined what was proposed for the meeting.
After Joan finished, he was followed by the showing of two short German films which depicted paperfolding. They have been found in some archives and were made around 1936, during the Nazi period. Fortunately the material of the original films has not unduly deteriorated. In order to conserve the originals, they have been transferred to DVD, from which they can safely be viewed. The two films show a woman's hands folding a series of traditional folds, beginning with the simple triangular hat from a rectangle. With the help of a couple of additional folds and a pair of scissors this is converted into a tent.
None of the folds in the films are unfamiliar to most folders, (apart, perhaps for the final model which was the Horse and Rider). There were such folds as traditional darts, ducks, pajaritas, boats and a windmill. Interspersed between the models are charming short films of children playing with them.
One fold that intrigued me was the shallow box, which we now call "the Masu Box" from the Japanese. This is included in several 19th century and later books in a version using cuts. It makes a strong box, but the cuts are not at all necessary and by 1936, the uncut version was known in the West. Nevertheless, it is the cut version that is shown. Of great interest were the Horse and Rider at the end of the second film. Although these two models, (which are "mulitiform" or "pajarita" folds) are included in several German books, they do not appear to be generally known. Since three of the Horses and Riders from Dresden were on display, the film was especially interesting. The film was shown several times over the two days of the conference for visitors who came in from the street. The film gave us an unexpected picture of paperfolding seventy years ago.
Much of my time was spent studying the exhibition. The three Horses and Riders were especially interesting and may have been original examples folded by Carl Adolf Senff (1785-1863), who created the models for his young pupil Wilhelm von Kugelgen around 1810. The models were beautifully folded and painted and I wondered at first whether they had been pre-printed. Alongside the models was the modern reprint of von Kugelgen's "Jugenderinnerungen eines altes Mannes", which he wrote in his late life. It was opened at the page where he gives an account of the horses and riders and the battles which he and his friends played with them as children. Also on display in the case were models of three Platonic solids, a cube, a dodecahedron and icosahedron. The bottom shelf contained a display of books that another member had brought for display.
But it was the books assembled by Joan Sallas that attracted most of my attention. The first book containing paperfolding was "Illustriertes Buch fur Knaben" ("Illustrated Playbook for Boys ") by Hermann Wagner the original publication of which was dated about 1860. This has a reference to models folded from paper on one page followed by illustrations on the next: just a few traditional folds the book was later reprinted several times. Then Joan had managed to borrow a single volume of a multi-volume German dictionary dating from 1740. It had a long entry about paper and it contains the reference the Japanese Chiyogami paper which was used in Paris to make ladies' dresses. There were also books by the followers of Friedrich Frobel, including Hermann Goldammer (1872) and Wichard Lange(1874). But the early book that most caught my attention was a book devoted to napkin folding dating from about 1890 by L. Fritsche: "Illustriertes Servietten Album". This book predates the edition of Mrs. Beeton, which includes napkin folding by some ten years. (Mrs. Beeton's original edition did not include napkin folding. The naplin folding appeared in a complete rewriting of her book by a Swiss chef in the early years of the 20th century.) Fritsche's book is full of individual napkin folds and shows how widespread napkin folding was in the later 19th Century. One of the folds which people were teaching each other to fold was a long, pointed shoe, best made from a paper serviette. Vicente Palacios was excited to find a very similar fold in Friesche's book.
The German books of paperfolding followed round the room in chronological sequence. The earlier ones were dominated by the many editions of "Allerlei Papierbeiten" by Hildegaard von Gierke and Alice Davidsohn and "Lustiges Papierbuchlein" by Johannes Huber, the two books of paperfolding that were rivals in Germany for many years. Then came books by Irmgard Kneissler, Stefan Gnam and Paulo Mulatinho and translations of books from other languages and many other folders, some for children and others, more complex. Although it was not on display in the exhibition, Vicente Palacios brought with him a fairly recent reprint of Li Tre Trattati by Matthias Gieger, the original edition of which was dated 1629. This book is in Italian and it has always been supposed that Matthias Gieger was an Italian The title page, however, makes it clear that he was a German from Bavaria.
The morning ended with a tour of the building led by Dr. Veltmann. It has many meeting rooms of different sizes and a small but fine concert hall. On another floor is an extensive long museum of objects and curiosities collected from Germany and abroad which was assembled by the founder and early directors in the 18th century. Dominating the room was a huge mechanical astrolabe; a crocodile and an Eskimo kayak hung from the ceiling. In a case at one end I noticed a small folded letter, which was sealed by a red seal and some fans. Above the fans were some leaves from fan palms, the loose strands of which had been cut away, to leave only the unseparated strands near the stalk. They were obviously intended to be used as fans and I wondered whether the natural pleats of the palm-leaves had been the inspiration for manufactured fans.
We were then taken up to the roof for a view of Halle. We saw a panorama of old church towers and spires, industrial buildings and modern tower blocks. Below us, on one side was a relic of the old buildings of Halle, while on the other an elevated urban motorway sliced through the city. The air was cold but we took the opportunity of taking a group photograph in the bright sunshine.
Following lunch, there were folding sessions to which the public were invited. Then we held a meeting to discuss the formation of the proposed new society. Joan Sallas took the chair and was assisted by Dr. Veltmann. In Germany formally constituted societies have to be registered and it was generally felt that it would be preferable for the society initially to be informal and without a formal subscription. Elsje van der Ploeg offered to host a web site. The name "Padora" was chosen as a kind of acronym of the full title, "The Society for Documentation and Investigation of Paperfolding". I myself thought that this was far too long, but Joan rightly wanted to emphasise that documentation comes before the writing of history. No doubt the organisation of the society will evolve in the light of experience.
By the time the meeting over, it was time for food so we all walked out together towards into the city, soon coming to the centre where we found the traditional Christmas market in full swing with stalls selling a variety of festive foods and goods, children's roundabouts, fairground amusements and a tall illuminated Christmas tree. The market spread over several nearby small squares, in one of which was a large fairground wheel. We threaded our way through the stalls and the narrow adjoining streets to a small and inexpensive restaurant where we were able to eat and drink as we needed and if food and drink were not our concern, then we folded. I took the opportunity to sample a warming Glüwhein. We lingered a long time before Ilona and I decided that it was time to take a taxi out to her home.
The next day was Sunday and Ilona and I again travelled into the city, but a little later. This time many people were folding and I took the opportunity to discuss various aspects of origami history with Joan Sallas. I had brought several of my own German books with me that he had asked to see, including the second edition of Kurt Londenberg's "Papier und Form" (1972) and the first edition of "Papier" by Franz Zeier (1974). I discovered that the fourth edition of Zeir, which was on display had been considerably changed from my own edition. Both are wonderful books, although the folding is more akin to geometrical paper sculpture than classic origami. Once more I took the opportunity of gleaning as much information as possible from the display of books.
Lunch was of cakes (kuchen) and coffee in the basement, which was a large room extensively equipped out for the entertainment and education of children. The seating was somewhat small for us, but we managed to fit in round the low tables. Lunch was followed by a long folding session for children, conducted in the basement. Both the children and their teachers were enthusiastic. Vicente Palacios, as always, was in the midst of the folding.
Time passed and we went back upstairs to pack up. I was amazed how Joan Sallas managed to pack all the books he had brought into a large suitcase and a few cardboard boxes. The local Halle group took down the framed displays that had decorated the main room. When we were ready to go we found the main door of the buildingg locked and thought that we might have to climb out a window! Then we remembered the basement, where we found that although we were leaving another group was already carrying in their equipment for a function on another day.
So we returned to the Christmas market and found another small restaurant where we had our final meal together. We chatted and took photographs until it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and Ilona and I found our way to a taxi rank to find a taxi to take us back to her home. The following morning, 6th December, would be St. Nicholas's Day and Ilona's daughter had left her shoes out for St Nicholas to put into them a gift. I was surprised the next day to find that St Nicholas had left a gift for me too: a packet of origami paper with a small paper St Nicholas attached!
The next day Ilona and I took a bus and a tram into the city and then another tram to the railway station. While we were having coffee, St Nicholas himself paraded by, accompanied by an angel in a long white gown and with huge gilded wings. I hadn't realised that St. Nicholas was celebrated in this way in Germany. St. Nicholas was brought by the Dutch to North America, where he became Santa Claus and changed the date of his visit to Christmas Eve.
So I caught the train to the airport and eventually returned home by air, first to Frankfort and then to Manchester. During the second flight we saw a magnificent sunset and the plane arrived early. I found I was in time to catch an earlier train home than I had expected. So I arrived home feeling very tired, but very pleased that Joan had persuaded me to accept his invitation to come to the inaugural meeting of Padore. I had also learnt a lot about the history of paperfolding and could see that my work had been set out for further research and writing.
9th December, 2004. Back to the index