The Lister List

T. Sundara Row

In her contribution titled "Origami math-ed article" dated 7th, December, Valerie Vann recommended "Geometric Exercises in Paperfolding" as an introduction to mathematical paperfolding and said that it was still in print by Dover Publications and available from the OUSA Supply Center when she last looked.

Yes, it is indeed still in print. What a remarkable publication this is! It is undoubtedly the oldest book on paperfolding in a western langage remaining in print. (In the east, there may still be available one of the modern Japanese reprints of Senbazuru Orikata, which was originally printed in 1797)

The edition of T. Sundara row's book we are referring to is the translation edited by two Americans: Wooser Woodruff Beman and David Eugene Smith. (What wonderful names!) Beman and Smith wrote "New Plane and solid Geometry" and other books of geometry, which are still held in high regard.

The English translation of "Geometric Exercises in Paperfolding" was first published by The Open court Publishing Company of La Salle, Illinois in 1901 (I have only Gershon Legman's word for this.) My own edition is the fourth, published by Open Court in 1958. For all I know, this hardbacked edition is still in print.

Dover publications Inc. of New York issued the paperbacked edition in 1966 and, of course, it remains in print It is stated to be a republication of the second edition of 1905. (Although Gershon Legman gives the date of the second edition as 1904.)

The original author,T. Sundara Row remains something of a mystery.The Introduction to the book has by the signature: "Madras, India, 1893", which may be taken as the place and date of the original publication.

Although the author's name is spelt "Row" in all recent editions, it seems to have been originally spelt (in English characters) as "Rau" with a ~ over the a, (I'm sorry that my keyboard for e-mail won't allow me to put the accent over the letter.) This was so in the second edition that Brian Bishop found in the British Museum Library and I have come across this spelling elsewhere, although I cannot trace the reference immediately.

It would seem that Sundara Row was an Indian, but this is not certain. His name certainly seems to be Indian.

What was the original language? In his Bibliography of Paperfolding, Gershon Legman appended the query: "German?" It is not clear why German should have suggested itself to him, except that the Editors' Preface to the English translation says that their attention was first attracted to the book by a reference in Klein's "Vorlesungen uber ausgewahlte Fragen der Elementargeometrie" ("Lectures on Selected Questions of Elementary Geometry"). The author of this work was the famous Felix Kein of Klein Bottle fame. This in itself does not seem to be an adequate reason for supposing that Sundara Row's orignal book was written in German. At the time, Madras was ruled by the British and there was no particular German influence there. It would seem that one of the native Indian lanuages would be far more likely.But if so, how did it come to the notice of the German Klein? And what was an Indian pedagogue doing writing about paperfolding and geometry?

As Valerie Vann says, "This isn't Origami". I should have thought so too, but in the light of questions on the definition of "origami" raised in Origami-L recently, I'm not so sure! Anyway, what does it matter: it's a book that should be in every origamist's library.

David Lister Grimsby, England.

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