Paper Models

Paper model, Toyland, Milton Bradley, USA, c.1914

Paper is the cheapest and easiest material with which to build. The world of paper modelling is both simple and complex and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Paper buildings can amuse and educate. They reflect the real world and crate imaginary ones.

Simple paper cut-outs have existed since the invention of printing in the 15th century. Architectural paper models came slightly later, with the earliest being produced in Japan in the 1500s. There is evidence of paper models in Britain and Europe in the 1700s, but there was no real commercial production of paper models of buildings until the mid-1800s.

The development of colour lithography printing in the early 19th century meant that publishers could mass-produce all kinds of inexpensive paper products. Architectural models soon proved to be among the most popular, but they had to compete with other toys made from wood and metal. A shortage of these materials during the Second World War led to a resurgence in the popularity of paper models.

In the late 1970s more serious and complicated models for adults started to emerge, many produced in Eastern Europe. Today model buildings of various levels of difficulty can be easily downloaded from the internet.

The V&A Museum of Childhood has a collection of over 14,000 paper models, most of them collected by Robert Freidus and donated to the Museum.

Paper model, Build Your Own Worlds Fair, American Miniatures, USA, 1939

The Robert Freidus Collection of Architectural Paper Models
Robert Freidus has been collecting paper models since the mid 1980s and has so far amassed over 14,000 examples.

Read more about the collection

Paper model, Maison de Champs on Prevence, Imagerie d'Epinal Pellerin, France, 1880s


Find out about some of the major companies making paper models
Read more

A Suburban Villa


Our Things to Do page has a range of paper-based things to download and make for children of all ages, including a barn, a lodge and a suburban villa.

Things to do

Paper model, Big Ben, Domus, Italy, 1995


In 2010 the V&A Museum of Childhood held an exhibition of paper models called Cut It, Fold It: Build It With Paper. This was the first public showing of Robert Freidus' collection of architectural paper models.

Read about Cut It, Fold It




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Patrick Rylands Cool Cat

The V&A online shop stocks a distinctive and refreshingly different range for children, big and little, then and now, including toys, games, books and accessories.


Tel: +44 (0)20 8983 5200 | V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9PA