The Lister List

Friedrich Froebel

Elsje van der Ploeg asks if there are any diagrams of Friedrich Froebel's folds.

Welcome to Origami-L, Elsje. I hope you will enjoy yourself on this List.. But don't be put off by the sheer bulk of the contirbutions. There are many very interesting discussions that go on, but admittedly amidst quite a lot of dross. But, then, one person's dross is another person's gold!

The brief answer to your question is that there is no modern collection of Froebel's folds (or rather, of Froebelian folding, because much folding that goes under his name was developed by his successors after his death in 1852.)

Froebelian folding is divided into three ctagories, which have had different names at different times and in differing contexts. But the following are common names for the different catagories of Froebelian folding.

!. FOLDS OF TRUTH. The Folds of Truth are the elementary geometrical folding as further deveveloped by T. Sundara Row in his "Geometrical Exercises in Paper Folding". They were were intended to help children to discover fro themselves the elementary principles of Euclidean geometry.

2. FOLDS OF LIFE. Ther were none other than the traditional folds known throughout Europe and which continue to be known as traditional folds today. The purpose of them, for the Froebelians, was to introduce children to paperfolding before they went on to the more serious Folds of Truth and Folds of Beauty. They come closest to what we know as papefolding today. However, the Froebelian movement does not, in general, seem to have taken the Folds of Life very seriously. There was merely a repetition of previously known folds, with little, if any, exploration of new designs. Certainly there was little idea of creative folding such as we have it today and which is the mainspring of the modern origami movement.

3. FOLDS OF BEAUTY. The Folds of Beauty make up the greater part of Froebelian folding. They were intended to inculcate in the children a sense of creatitivity and of artistic beauty. The Folds of Beauty were based on what we now call "blintzing". Everyone experiments with symmetric folding patterns starting from the "Blintz" and an infinite number of variations is possible. Children were encouraged to devise new variants and to collect thm in albums or in square boxes. Many collections dating from the 19th and early 20th Centuries exist in museums and collections all over the world, including Japan. The Japanese also practised these patterns, but it is not clear whether it was a native tradition or whether it was intoduced with the Froebelian Kindrgarten into Japan.

Not all of the Folds of Beaty were based on squares: hexagons and octagons were also used and there were more advanced developments. However, the Folds of Beauty very quicklydeteriorated and their use became sterile. Uninstructed teachers, themselves, did not understand their creative purpose and often knew little of folding theselves. So instead of stimulationg creativity, the Folds of Beauty became mere repetative exercises in copying what had gone before, the very antithesis of their original purpose. Because of this, paperfolding in schools acquired a bad reputation and was eventually eliminated from school curricula in favour of other art forms which offered "free expression".

The tragedy of Froebelian paperfolding is that the creativity which ws encouraged in the Folds of Beauty was not applied to the Folds of Life and the conclusion must be that the Froebelians had only a very imperftect appreciation of paperfolding and its possibilities.

There were many books written about Froebelian paperfolding in every European language and in Japanese, too. A bibliography would prove to be very long. I have obtained photocopies of at least parts of some of them, but I have not yet compiled a list. A few of them are included in Gershon Legman's "Bibliography of Paperfolding" (1952).

As far as the "Folds of Life" are concerned, many books contain the traditional models known in Europe although not all traditional models, by any means, were known to the Froebelians. Some are contained in Johanna Huber's "Lustiges Papierfaltbuchlein", which has appeared in many editions, originally in German. A recent edition is: Johanna Huber and Christel Claudiius: "Easy and Fun Paper Folding", published in English by Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York in 1990. It may still be in print.

The following is a short list of books containing paperfolding in the Froebelian tradition:

B. von Marenholk-Bulow. Handbuch der Frobelischen Erziehuglehre. (1887).

Marie Muller-Wunderlich: Die Frobelischen Beschaftigungen. (2Heft: Der Falten).

August Kohler: Die Praxis des Kindergartens (1873).

Maria Kraus Boelte and John Kraus: The Kindergarten Guide (Undated: before 1916).

H. Goldammer: The Kindergarten (3rd edition: 1874).

W.D.Wiggin and N. A. Smith: Froebel's Occupations. (Date unknown.)

Edward Wiebe: Paradise of Childhood (1896).

Elise van Calcar: De kleine papierwerkers". (1863)

(Elsje van der Ploeg is, I know, familiar with this very early and important book, which is written in Dutch. She mentions it in her own book:"Papiervouwen" 1990, which I urge her to have translated into English.)

And last, but not least:

Eleanore heerwart: Course of Paper-Folding (1895).

This last is the most informative book on Froebelian paperfolding, written by a German lady who worked for many years in England. It begins with a long discussion of Froebelian paper folding in all its various aspects, followed by many diagrams of particular folds of life and folds of beauty. The illustrations are clear enough, but presented as diagrams on squared paper and they are not particularly attractive.

All of these books hve been out-of-print for many years and are probably unobtainable second-hand. They have to be searched for in libraries and educational institutes.

As for traditional Western paperfolding, David Petty, the Secretary of the British Origami Society is compiling a list, which can be found on his own Web site. There is an astonishing number of traditional folds, although by no means all of them are what could be descreibed as "Froebelian". There are sketches of the finished folds, but no diagrams, although the books in which the models have been reproduced are cited and could, if necessary, be consulted.

One final note: Many traditional folds are known in both the West and in Japan. A few traditional folds are known in the West, but not in Japan. many more traditional folds are known in Japan, but not in the West. The traditional folds of Japan and the West make an interesting comparison. We may wonder how many of the folds that Froebel himself knew actually originated in Japan or elsewhere in the East.

I hope that this answers most of Elsje's questions.


David Lister. Grimsby, England.

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