Language of Napkin folding

The history of serviette and napkin folding
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Tamsyn Francoise
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:17 pm

Language of Napkin folding

Post by Tamsyn Francoise » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:45 pm

About napkin folding check the book of Luigi Spotorno "Luigi´s Language of Napkin Folding"
In pages 12-13,there is a little note about history through 600 years.
ISBN: 9780954843137 ... ookID=3773

Joan Sallas
Posts: 53
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Weimar, Germany

Re: Language of Napkin folding

Post by Joan Sallas » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:42 am

Luigi Spotorno, the excellent napkin folder that worked for some banquets of the royal english court members, mentioned in his nice napkin folding book “Luigi’s Language of Napkin Folding” (Liverpool: Capsica, 2006) that the napkin history is 600 years old. Certainly, the origin of the napkin on the table is almost ca. 100 years earlier than the art of napkin folding. The reason remain by the changement of the cloth mode from the “quatrocento” to the “cinquecento”. It taked biger clothes, and had as consequence that the napkins were biger too, to protect this clothes. The folding was a practical, social and artistic solution.

In the page 12 of his book, Spotorno writed "a little history" and give some informations:

"After the Renaissance in Italy, the new fashions spread to Northern Europe, including the the new interest in table displays - elaborate centerpieces in the shapes of animals, birds, sailing ships, dragons or castles. The starched napkins were pleated first in one direction and then at right angles; these double-pleated cloths could be moduled easily, with several napkins stitched toghether to make these fantastic creations.
Books on napkin folding were published from the middle of the 16th century, but the first famous book was by Matthias Geiger in 1629, "Li Tre Trattati". In 1657 Georg Horssdorfer translated Giegher's work into German and expanded it with many more folds; a few years later an Englishman, Giles Rose, published his own book of napkin folds, which included the Water Lily design, stil in use today."

To the Spotorno informations, I want give here some comments:

1. The explanation of the folding technic "pleated first in one direction and then at right angles" is a simply and correct description of the in german called "Schuppenfalten" folding technic, used in the 17th and 18th century in Europe. But it was not the only one. The original italian folding technic of such folding structures to wear animals in the 16th century, was called "spinapesce". It was a very similar fold system as the used today for the japanish folding artist Miura, but ca. 500 years before.... The last wittnes of the "spinapesce" folding technic was the german napkin folding book of Friedrich Kaspar Funke "Leichtfaßlicher Unterricht in der Kunst: Die Servietten bei Gastmahlen auf eine geschmackvolle und sehr zierliche Weise zu Teller-Aufsätzen zu brechen" (Erfurt, Batholomäus, 1845), which was a version of Andreas Ingolstaetter (1633 – 1711) "Analecta historico-literario-curiosa" (Erfurt, 1721). Other very interesting folding technics in the european Renaissance and Barock were "Schluß-Falten" or "Runde Falten".

2. The mentioned books from the middle of the 16th century (we can add italian books and documents from the begin of the 16th until the begin of the 17th century) are mainly the works of Paolo Palliolo "Le feste pel conferimento del patriziato romano a Giuliano e Lorenzo de Medici" (1513), Christoforo di Messisbugo "Banchetti" (1549), Domenico Romoli "La singolare dottrina" (1560), Bartolomeo Scappi "Opera" (1570) Vincenzo Cervio "Il Trinciante" (1593), Cesare Evitascandalo "Dialogo del maestro di casa" (1598) and "Libro dello Scalco" (1609) and Antonio Frugoli "Pratica scalcaria" (1638). They are not books on napkin folding, but they mentioned without pictures or folding instructions the presence of the napkin folding activity in the education of waiters as well as in some banquets.

3. Mathias Jäger, a German from Moosburg (Bavaria), was Professor for napkin folding (under other matters) in the University of Padova (Italy) and rewrited his name as Mattia Giegher (not Geiger, as Spotorno writed), to be better spoked for the italian people. In the academic literature he is today know as Giegher and not Jäger. He published the first book of the world to learn to fold "Li tre trattati" (Padova: Guareschi, 1629). After his death, appairs a second edition (Padova: Frambotto, 1639). The German from Nürnberg Georg Philipp Harsdörffer (1606-1658), not Horssdorfer as Spotorno writed, translated and expanded Gieghers work in his "Vollständig vermehrtes Trincir-Buch" first 1652 in Nürnberg. The book was published with changements (not by the napkin part) in 1654, 1657 (mentioned by Spotorno) and after Harsdörffers death in 1665.

4. The book that the Englishman Giles Rose published "A perfect school of instructions for the officers of the mouth" (London: R. Bentley and M. Magnes, 1682) was not really his own book. It was a simply translation from the anonym french book "L'escole parfaite des officiers de bouche" (Paris: Jean Ribou, 1671). In this book are the writed indications to learn and fold (not folding instructions) two folding techniques ("To frise a Napkin" and "A Napkin folded in bands") and 25 centerpieces (not napkins to clean the mouth) elaborated with folded napkins (Cockle-shell double, Cockle-shell, Melon double, Melon single, Cock, Hen, Hen and Chickens, two Pullets, Pigeon upon her Nest in a Basket, Partridge, Pheasant, two Capons in a Pye, Hare, two Rabits, sucking-Pig, Dog with a Choller, Pike, Carp, Turbot, Mitre, Turkey, Tortoise, Cross, like the Order of the Holy Ghost, Cross of Loraine). The english translation as well as his original french, don't include the model "Water Lily", as Spotorno afirm. Perhaps Spotorno think that the model "To fold a Napkin in the fashion of Cross, like the Order of the Holy Ghost" (page 124), which is blinzed three times, is the same ad the "Water Lily", but isn't anyway the same model:

"Take a Napkin corner-ways, and joyn the four corners together in the middle, then turn over your Napkin on the other side, and again joyn the four points together in the middle as before, and so turn him over again on the other side and join the four points together as before, and put a Loaf under, and you shall see that your Cross, or the Order of the holy Ghost, will be perfectly made."

The blinzed base of the "Water Lily" appairs in other books that include napkin folding models during the 18th century, as the anonym dutch cook book "Volmaakte hollandsche Keuken-Meid" (Amsterdam, 1746), but the first wittnes of this model that we can certainly identify today is the picture of Martin van Meytens (1695-1770) "Coronation banquet of Joseph II." (Frankfurt a. M., 3th April 1764). The picture is today showed in the Museum Silberkammer in Vienna.

Apart from this inaccurate historical informations, Spotornos book is really a very nice and good napkin folding book, with many of his own beautiful and delightful models or subtile variations of traditional models.

joan sallas

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