The Lister List

Pack Mule with Panniers

Solveig Halberg asks for the diagrams for the Pack Mule with Panniers. I'm afraid I can't help him with the diagrams (my scanner is out of action), but I thought that he and other subscribers might be interested to learn more about this unusual model.

It is difficult for us to believe that In 1956, when Robert Harbin's "Paper Magic" was published the Pack Mule was considered to be quite an advanced model. However, in the increasing cult of the day for folding without cuts, it incurred the criticism that it required a cut. This was, in fact, the very cut which freed and created the panniers. It is still an example of surprising paper magic, so much so that Robert Harbin made it one of the exceptions from the rule against cutting which was one of his three basic rules of paperfolding. He wrote:

"As with all rules, certain exceptions have already been acknowledged. There are standard models in existence which, with a small scissor-snip, become so perfect in appearance that the end is held to justify the means. The models of the Elephant and the Pack Mule are examples of this."

After he had been inspired to take up paperfolding in 1953, Robert Harbin sought out Alfred Bestall, who had included a paperfold or two in the Rupert Annual each year. They exchanged models and Alfred showed Bob the Pack Mule and its companion fold, the Elephant. Alfred had previously used the Elephant in the Rupert Annual for 1952, but was keeping the Pack Mule in reserve for future use. He accordingly gave Bob permission to reproduce the elephant, but asked him not to use the Pack Mule until after he had included it in one of the Rupert Annuals. Despite the embargo, Bob included both models in "Paper Magic" and both were shown prominently on the dust cover. It was certainly not in Bob's nature to ignore such a request and it can only be presumed either that he hadn't fully understood what Alfred had asked or had forgotten. Alfred had intended to use the Pack Mule in the 1955 Annual, but having discovered Bob's plans, he substituted a Japanese Sanbo (calling it a Work Basket") for 1955 and delayed using the Pack Mule until the Rupert Annual for 1960, in which it appeared as a "Donkey with Panniers".

The Pack Mule Is folded from the bird base, using the sideways turn of the pints to make a four-armed star. This was, perhaps the key discovery of modern paperfolding and was a move apparently discovered by Unamuno and which enabled him to fold many of his original creations of animals and birds at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was also a move independently discovered by Yoshizawa some twenty of thirty years later. The question arises whether the pack Mule was created by Unamuno. Unfortunately, while there is a large corpus of "Unamuno" models, it is impossible to decide which are by Unamuno and which by his followers. Gershon Legman wrote: "The Pack Mule is, of course, Spanish".

Alfred Bestall related the circuitous route by which the Pack Mule came to him. He was acquainted with Swedish lady who had lived in Finland and married an Englishman. Her sister worked in the medical profession in Switzerland, where one of her patients was a Spaniard who folded models from an Argentinean book which contained the Pack Mule.

In fact, the Pack Mule and the Elephant appear in many Spanish and Argentinean books of paperfolding, including "El Mundo de Papel" by Nemesio Montero (1939), "El Plegado y Cartonaje" (1940) by Corina Lucia and Antonio Lucia, "Papiroflexia" by E. Gutierrez Gil (undated) and "Papiro Zoo" by Giordano Lareo (1941). The Elephant, but not the Pack Mule appears in "Tratado de Papiroflexia Superior" (1944) by Dr. Vicente Solorzano Sagredo, who had been born in Spain, but who had emigrated to Argentina. However, I have not been able to inspect all of Solorzano's books and the Pack Mule may appear in one of his other books.

One of my correspondents (and I regret that I have misplaced the reference) said that Solorzano used the Pack Mule and Elephant on his letterhead and because of this he suggested that the model might be by Solorzano because he considered that he would not have used it in this way if it had not been his own model. I do not, myself, find this very convincing.

Following the publication of "Paper Magic" a dramatic revolution in paperfolding took place and the comparatively simple kind of folding that had hitherto prevailed was soon outstripped and forgotten as the influence of Yoshizawa came to be felt and as new techniques were discovered. The Pack Mule and the Elephant appear to have been completely forgotten and I cannot think of one more recent book in which either of them appears. In the absence of further information, all we can say is that it came from Spain or Argentina, that it was not a traditional model and that if it was not created by Unamuno, it was by one of Unamuno's pupils or followers.

David Lister

Grimsby, England.

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