The Lister List

The Origamian

I should like to add my own voice to the plea for a reprint of the complete run of The Origamian. I have, in fact, already spoken to organising members of Origami USA about it. It is, however, something that will not happen without focussed determination.

I am fortunate in that I already possess a complete set of original copies of the Origamian, from volumes 2 to 16. I also have copies of the issues of volume one, but one or two of them are photocopies, not originals. Volume 1 was not printed, but was what we used to call "duplicated", using waxed "skins". No.1 one was reproduced on American letter-sized paper and nos. 2 to 5 on American foolscap-sized paper. Some of the printing is muzzy and the diagrams are faint, so that volume one would not reproduce at all well. Ideally it should be reset. But Volume 1 dealt with the heady days immediately following the formation of the Origami Center in October 1958, and I am sure that a reprint of this one volume would be a joy to most folders.

Volume 1 appeared in five issues from October 1958 to March 1959. Then there was a gap during which the difficulties of publishing a regular newsletter or magazine defeated Lillian. But unexpectedly, in 1961, a newsapaper publisher, Peter Miller from far away in Peru, Illinois, telephoned her offering to print an origami periodical on his newspaper press. Lillian called him her Fairy Godmother and jumped at his offer. In this way that the Origamian reumed publiction in the Summer of 1961, but transformed into the form of a newspaper. Perhaps this was not inappropriate, because the name "Origamian" had been chosen at the suggestion of Lillian's great friend, Sylvia Rabinof, the concert pianist, as a play on the name of the distinguished West Coast newspaper, "The Oregonian".

Every tribute must be paid to Peter Miller. As I understand it, he printed "The Origamian" and did not ask for payment. Without "The Origamian", the Origami Center could never have been so influential as it was in bringing paperfolders together and stimulating the growth of the modern Origami Movement. And without Peter Miller, there would have been no Origamian. Still today, he deserves our very warmest thanks.

The remainder of the issues of The Origamian, beginning in 1961 are consequently printed professionally as a newspaper on large pages, 11 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches. In the earlier issues, there was only one sheet folded in half to make four pages, but later the number of pages was increased to eight. In the later volumes, too, issues were often delayed and then combined together. Occasionally special issues were published combining three issues together, for a special pupose, such as the jumbo-sized issue on Dokuohtei Nakano, which contained Gershon Legman's very long tribute to Nakano..

The trouble is, however, that The Origamian was printed on cheap newsprint paper. In the normal course of events, newsprint is intended to have a life of one day before being thrown away or used to light fires or (in England) used to wrap up fish and chips. As soon as it has been made, the acid present in newsprint paper begins to attack the paper from within and it quickly becomes brittle and tears very easily. Collectors of childeren's comics are very aware of this characteristic and go to great lengths to keep their precious copies intact, putting them in special bags, which are renewed regularly. The Times of London used to have a special edition of the newspaper printed on good quality paper. Copies were sent to the reigning monarch and other prominent people and to those who paid a special subscription, and also to libraries. I don't know whether this is still done today, but in the interests of historical record, I hope so. No doubt other newspapers did the same thing; perhaps they still do.

My own copies of The Origamian are not exempt from this slow decay and they are becoming very brittle, tending to tear along the folds. I handle them as seldom as possible and as carefully as posible, but it grieves me to watch the progress of the disintegration. Don't breathe a word to the copyright people, but I have made photocopies of the parts I use most frequently, solely to avoid handling the originals more than necessary.

So, I would certainly welcome a new reproduction of the complete "Origamian". To my mind, the actual process of reproduction of The Origamian should not be a very difficult process, given modern technology. The printing is sharp. Photogrphs might present more of a problem than the text or diagrams. Another problem is that many issues have a double-spread centrefold. It would be necessary to ensure that the two pages appeared opposite to each other in the reproduction, which should open flat, and without losing any part of the contents in the binding.

Because the issues varied in the number of pages, it is not possible to arrive at an accurate figure for the number of pages without counting each issue and I do not have the time for that.. But a rough estimate is possible. There were 57 copies of the Origamian from volume 2 to volume 16, some, as I have said, being put together in combined issues. Taking the average number of pages as six per issue, this makes a rough total of 336 pages.

A book of 336 pages of paper, 11 1/2 x 14 1/3 inches would be a very substantial publication.. Even this does not include Volume 1, which would require separate treatment. I do not think that a volume (or two or three voumes, which would be more manageable) could possibly be done for $20.00.

There is, too, the question of how many paperfolders would be willing to pay for such a prroduction. I know I would gladly pay for a copy whatever the cost, and probably buy two copies. But then I know I am a peculiar sort of paper folder, interested in history and other abstract aspects rather than in doing real folding. Many subscribers to Origami-L are not interested in matters of this sort, but they are interested in actual models and how to fold them and overcome the frequent knotty points that arise in the instructions for complex models. This seems a very reasonable attitude to me., But I know that such practical folders would be reluctant to spend $50 or more on a reproduction of The Origamian, even if it did contain many intructions for models, when they could spend their money of books containing instructions for challenging complex models.

I mention these points not in order to dissuade Origami USA or any other potential publisher from taking up this project. Far from it But in order for any project to succeeed, a realistic appreciation of the difficulties must be kept in mind.

Having said that, I do hope that subscribers to Origami-L and all other paper folders will bombard Origami USA (in a kindly sort of way - remember, they are volunteers) with encouragement at least to look into a project for reproduction of "The Origamian". Better still, as has been suggested, volunteer to join in working on the project. And if you have them, seek the interest of your millionaire uncles in the project. Hard work is what is wanted, but money, as always, would come in useful. In this way the Project can and WILL come to fruition.

David Lister

Something Wrong?

Please provide details below of any issues you may have encountered. Thank you

Rabbit by Stephen O'Hanlon