In the Beginning
This year the we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the British Origami Society. I thought it an opportune time to recall the events which led up to the starting of our great Society.
In May 1966 I wrote to Lillian Oppenheimer as I wanted to subscribe
to the journal. 'The Origamian'. In her reply to me she mentioned that there
was an English Paper Folding Group called the Portfolio Society and gave
me the address of the founder, Sidney French.
In February 1967 my company sent me to the USA to look into computer equipment and applications. While I was in New York I took the opportunity to meet Lillian Oppenheimer at her home in Greenwich Village. In her typical warm hearted way she invited other folders so it was quite a gathering. I was introduced to Alice Gray, Baggi, and many other New York folders. During the evening a large chest was produced which contained a great many remarkable models. In many cases the name of the creator was not known and there where no notes or diagrams on how to fold the model . Nevertheless it was a memorable memorable for me and I took great care to write a detailed account of the occasion that same evening.
On the plane returning to England I thought about the problem of models of
great merit being lost to the Origami world. It seemed to me essential to have
the folding instructions enabling anyone to attempt the models. Yoshizawa had
already shown how folding diagrams could be used and Harbin and Randlett had
extended his methods.
In March 1967 Lillian wrote to me with an invitation to an Origami meeting in April . Lillian's daughter Rosaly Evnine lived in London and when Lillian visited her she took the opportunity to have an Origami get together. Lillian Oppenheimer was the greatest ambassador for Origami in the world and we owed her a great deal for the support she gave us in England.
At the meeting in April I put the case for a British Origami library and was
asked to draw up a plan to show how it could be done. In working out the
details I had to consider the case that many folders would want to buy a copies
of the instructions sheets, rather than just borrow them from a library. We are
now very used to making copies easily and cheaply of any document but in 1967 it
was a very different story. One process used a special carbon which was then
transferred to paper using spirit, Another required stencils to be cut into a
special master. With these procedures it was difficult to make alterations to
the masters and storage them was messy and difficult.
In May 1967 I received a letter from Sidney French in which he wrote
'.......I like your proposals for the BOS and your steps for implementing them .A formal organisation is, of course. essential for the library and to extend our activities and membership '
Sidney saw the BOS as a means of extending Origami activities whereas I had thought of it simply as a way of setting up the library. He asked me to draft rules and agreed on the need for an inaugural meeting. David Lister wrote to me on the 18th June expressing his agreement with the plan for the library, but added the following comment:-
'I did have serious second thoughts about your stipulation that the Society
should be organised on a formal basis with officers and subscriptions.
Do we wish to cross this Rubicon? Do we wish to abandon our present spontaneous
little Society for one bound by rules and regulations? On further thought, perhaps
we should . '
I drafted a set of rules for the BOS but on seeing those proposed by David I was very happy to accept his approach ! David, Sidney French and I thrashed out details of a Constitution while I also continued to work on the setting up of the library ready for the launch of the BOS.
A few weeks after the inaugural meetings I sent out the first library list of 23 items. The 'M' series were transparent instruction sheets from which copies were made which could be borrowed or bought , the 'J' series were other items which could only be loaned out. The Society from the very beginning emphasised the importance of fully respecting copyright by anyone using the Library.
I freely admit that I had not foreseen the wonderful subsequent development of the Society, I had simply considered it essential for the establishment of a viable library. The BOS was possibly the first open democratic Origami Society in the world and has been blessed with many outstanding folders, administrators and donors.
As for the library ,I believe that the BOS has now the most important collection of Origami books and documents held by any Society in the world, so perhaps you will forgive me for being rather proud of the part I played in its creation so long ago.
I am most grateful to David Lister for his help in preparing this paper. Reference should be made to BOS booklet No. 3 by David giving an important account of the history of Paper Folding in Britain. I have only attempted to relate as accurately as I can the events which led to the formation of the BOS 40 years ago. The documents referred to in this article are now held by the BOS library.