The Lister List

Isao Honda’s “All About Origami”

Mark Bethlehem's posting yesterday is a timely reminder of what I tend to think of as Isao Honda's "Lost Book". It was published with a copyright date, !960 by Toto Bunka Company Limited of Japan and distributed by Japan Publications Trading Company of Tokyo and Rutland Vermont. The original full edition of Honda's "The World of Origami" was published in 1965, so "All About Origami" papered only five years earlier and not ten years as Mark suggests. Sam Randlett's first book, "The Art of Origami" appeared in 1961, also so whatever dates Mark obtained his copies, "All about Origami" preceded Sam's first book by only one year. It was both published and distributed by Japan Publications Trading Company.

Honda began publishing his colourful origami books in English in 1957. The first one was "Origami Penguin Book", which came out in that year. It did not appear with Honda's name as author, but it was said to be under the auspices of the Toto Origami Club, of which Honda was the president. In all probability the Toto Origami Club didn't exist, but was merely a convenient publishing ploy. But why? Toto was the name of the publishing company and why Honda was so self-effacing about his authorship is difficult to understand.

Honda remained reticent about his authorship for several more of his books. They probably include the three "My Origami " books which are very much in Honda's style They are board books and undated, but they were published in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Apart from these, I have noted some eighteen books by Honda in English: and more if new editions are included. However, "How to Make Origami", which even Honda's greatest critics cannot help but admire appeared under his own name in 1961. it appeared under the imprints of different western publishers in different countries.

Honda's English books are quite a muddle. The models appear repeatedly in different books. At the same time, each book contains illustrations of models which do not appear in that particular book. As a new investigator, still with the relics of the notion that there was a complete set of origami models, I felt frustrated about this and wondered why Honda couldn't publish all of his models together in a single book.

"All About Origami" turned out to be that book. It is a substantial book of 196 pages and it appeared under Honda's own name. His earlier books contained actual folded models stuck to the pages and "All About Origami" continued this tradition, but with only two folded models, a crane an and elephant. The book begins with traditional models and goes on to two-piece models in the style of Yoshizawa. There is an eagle (a model which I had first seen only as an illustration in one of the early books) and then a section of folding from hexagonal paper, with a mention of the Kan no mado. Honda had not seen the work, which was at last published from Professor Starr's copy in the Library of Congress by Julia and Martin Brossman in the same year as "All About Origami", 1961. Honda knew about it only from the brief mention and the diagram in Gershon Legman's "Bibliography of Origami" So Honda had invented his own dragonfly. which was nothing like the one in Kan no mado. However, he also included an eight-legged crab, similar to the one in Kan no mado, which had, however, become a traditional model and more generally known. It uses cuts (unlike the great crab published separately by Kosho Uchiyama and by Yoshizawa.) There followed short section on ribbon (or paper strip) folding and a section of somewhat basic origami mathematics.

"How to Make Origami" appears to have been in print for only a short time and it vanished with the publication in 1965 of "The World of Origami". I doubt if many people now have copies, so Mark is very fortunate. It's suppression seems to have been quite deliberate and done by Japan Publications Publishing Company to avoid competition with "The World of Origami"

"The World of Origami" is a wholly new, rewritten book, quite different from "How to Make Origami". It still contains Honda's collection of models from all his earlier books, but also much more. Yet, with 264 pages, it is not so very much longer than "All About Origami". For all the criticism of Honda, I find it is an interesting book and I am constantly coming across unexpected things in it that throw new light on the history of paperfolding. The puzzle is why, when the paper-backed edition came our in 1976, only the first 182 pages were included. The omitted material is among the most interesting and, after including two of is own dragonflies, Honda includes instructions for the Kan no mado dragonfly itself. As a final twist, there are four pages under the heading "Independent Creativity" and, of course, Honda's assessment of the work of Akira Yoshizawa.

Many thanks to Mark for mentioning "How to Make Origami" and for setting me off on a train of thought .

David Lister, Grimsby, England.

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