The Lister List


Dorothy Engleman (Hi Dorothy!) asked: "Did the term "Blintz Fold" originate with Lillian Oppenheimer? Didn't she coin "Minor Miracle"? "

No, the term Blintz was applied to the fold where all four corners are folded to the centre by Gershon Legman. He got the term from his mother, or thought he had done so, but she later told him that he had mixed up his terms. He should have use the word "Dolken". ("Knish" is another word for "Dolken", apparently from a different ethnic tradition.)

As I understand it, a true "Blintz" in cooking is a pancake with the filling placed in the middle It is then rolled up like a sausage roll and the two ends (which do not have any filling) are folded under the roll. Loaves of bread and parcels are often wrapped in the same way, here in England.

So Gershon got it wrong, but by the time his mother put him right it was too late and the name "Blintz" had already become indelibly linked to the four corners to the centre paperfolding "Base".

Gershon Legman wrote a series of short articles called "Secrets of the Blintz" in Dokuohtei Nakano's short-lived publication, "The Origami Companion" (about 1973). Already, because of Gershon's association with the word "Blintz" some people thought that he had invented the Blintz Fold itself. This was, of course, nonsense and he tried to put them right. He did, however, go on to suggest to George Rhoades, whom he met in Paris, in the mid 1950s that the common basic folds might be folded on square paper that had previously been blintzed. George went on a visit to Spain and came back with the "Blintzed Bird Base", which he later used to fold the classic still known as Rhoades' Elephant.

The four corners to the centre fold has been known in traditional folding for centuries. The Froebelian School of folding used it as the basis for most of their "Folds of Beauty". It appears as early as pages 2 and 3 in Margaret Campbell's book "Paper Toy Making" (undated, but either 1936 or 1937), but she did not include it among the four "Foundation Folds" which she adopts for her book. Robert Harbin included it in "Paper Magic" (1956) as his "Basic Fold One", one of six basic folds some of which, but not all are the same as our "Classic Bases". Sam Randlett and Robert Harbin later hammered out basic techniques and terminology (Sam was undoubtedly the leading force for this) revising the techniques and terminology contained in "Paper Magic" and linking them with Yoshizawa's techniques and symbols which had by now become known in the West. Sam adopted Gershon Legman's term, "Blintz Base". The system was published in Sam Randlett's "The Art of Origami" (1961), which was so influential that it the names and symbols it put forward became accepted as standard. (It is often called the Yoshizawa-Randlett system, but this is unjust to Robert Harbin who had done much of the spadework in "Paper Magic" six years earlier and who collaborated with Sam by post.)

So, with the publication of the Yoshizawa-Harbin-Randlett system in "The Art of Origami", the work "Blintz" became indelibly established in general paperfolding usage in the West, perpetuating Gershon Legman's apparently mistaken use of the word "Blintz"

That is, unless, as I suggested in my posting yesterday, these terms varied in different parts of Europe. Undoubtedly, Gershon got it wrong so far as his own family tradition was concerned, but it is just possible that he got it right according to other traditions.

In the East, origami symbols and terminology were worked out separately form the West by Akira Yoshizawa and Kosho Uchiyama working independently in their books, "Origami Dokuhon I" (1957) and "Origami Zukan" (1958), respectively. I understand that the "Blintz" is known in Japan as the "Cushion Fold", but when this name was applied, I do not know.

And the part played by Lillian Oppenheimer? She certainly introduced the use of the word "Origami" to the West. It was her deliberate doing. But she merely adopted the word "blintz" from Gershon Legman. Just when she did this needs further research in the early copies of "The Origamian" and other sources. But "The Art of Origami" was published in the United States only three years after the Origami Center was founded and that clinched the matter.

"Minor Miracle" is a term that was never adopted, at any rate on regular basis, in the British Origami Society, and I understand that it is true that it made its appearance at the meetings of the Origami Center at Lillian's apartment in New York. Just when, I don't know. Perhaps someone who regularly attended Lillian's "Origami Mondays" could tell us more. I understand that it is merely another term for a "Colour Change", itself a technique which post-dated "The Art of Origami".

I shall be most grateful for any information at all that any one can give about different usages of the words "blintz", "dolmen" and "knish". Mulling this over is like wandering down a delightful and unexpected country lane turning off the main highway we call "Origami".

David Lister

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