The Public Paperfolding History Project

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The Iris / Lily
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami designs known as the Iris and the Lily. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

The Iris is folded from an uncut hexagon and has three petals. The Lily is folded from an uncut square and has four. The fundamental folding method is the same for both designs.

In Japan


As far as I know the earliest illiustration of / diagrams for the Iris design that I know of appear in the Kan No Mado, which is usually dated to 1845.



The earliest illustration of the Lily that I know of appears in 'Yochien Ombutsu No Zu', a publication of kindergarten material issued by the Tokyo Women's Normal School in 1878.



A picture of the Iris appeared in 'Kindergarten Shoho' (Preliminary Kindergarten) by Iijima Hanjuro, which was copyrighted on October 4th Meiji 17 (1884) and published by Fukuda Senzo in August of Meiji 18 (1885).



Diagrams for the Lily appeared in 'Origami (Part 1)' by Isao Honda, which was published in Japan in 1931.



Diagrams for the Lily also appeared in Isao Honda's later work 'The World of Origami' published by Japan Publications Trading Company in 1965.


In Western Europe / USA


A three-petalled design, called 'Fleur d'Iris' and folded from a square, appears in the French children's magazine 'Mon Journal', probably in 1900, although I have not been able to identify the exact date of the article. The introduction says, roughly, 'I have already had the opportunity to teach you how to make a number of paperfolds, and I told you that most of these folds, absolutely unknown in France, but very familiar to young Japanese, had been communicated to us by Mlle Kavada. You will certainly be pleased to learn that Mlle Kavada has obtained for you from her friends in Japan a whole new, very curious, series which will be published in Mon Journal; today I want to show you how to make an Iris flower.'



The four-petalled Lily design appears in the American children's magazine St Nicholas, volume 41 part 1 of November 1913 to April 1914 in a letter to the editor by Horace J Rice. (Information from Oschene.) It is noteworthy that the letter-writer mentions learning it from 'a Japanese student'. The letter also explains how to make a six-petalled variation.

The 'Nantasket Sink' referred to in the opening paragraph of the letter is a misremembering of 'Nantucket Sink', a design which had appeared in the issue of St Nicholas for August 1887, and which turns out to be an alternative name for the Sanbo On Legs.



The four-petalled Lily appears, though as 'La Fleur D'Iris', in Booklet 4 of 'Images A Plier' (the fourth of a series of 6 booklets intended for school teachers) published in 1932 in Paris by Librairie Larousse.


The design also appears:

As 'un Iris', in Booklet 3 of 'Figuras de Papel', a series of 3 booklets published by B Bauza in Barcelona in 1932.



In 'La Nature' Issue 2940 of 1st November 1934 in an article by Alber headed 'Pliage de papiers' and subheaded 'L'iris'.



As 'Lily' in Margaret Campbell's 'Paper Toy Making', which was first published by Sir Isaac Pitman and Sons Ltd in London, probably in 1937, although both the Foreword and Preface are dated 1936, which argues that the book was complete at that date.



In the extended version of 'El Mundo de Papel' by Dr Nemesio Montero, which was published by G Miranda in Edicions Infancia in Valladolid in 1951, as 'La Flor'.



The 1968 Rupert Annual contains instructions showing how to 'How to Make A Paper Lily'