Fan, 19th century - Public domain dedication. Metropolitan Museum of Art image.
Picryl description: Public domain photograph of costume accessory, free to use, no copyright restrictions image.
A handheld fan, or simply a hand fan, is any broad, flat surface that is waved back and forth to create an airflow. Generally, purpose-made handheld fans are folding fans, which are shaped like a sector of a circle and made of a thin material (such as paper or feathers) mounted on slats that revolve around a pivot so that it can be closed when not in use. Hand fans were used before mechanical fans were invented. Handheld fans have been used for thousands of years, with the earliest known examples dating back to ancient Egypt and China. These early fans were made from a variety of materials, including feathers, parchment, and palm leaves, and were used for both practical and ceremonial purposes. In ancient Rome, fans were also used for both cooling and as a decorative accessories. The first handheld fans as we know them today, made from paper or other lightweight materials and mounted on sticks, were probably invented in Japan or China during the 9th or 10th century. These fans gradually spread to other parts of the world and became popular in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.