Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Renaissance Magic Book Translated

The Guardian reports that a book reputed to be the world's oldest text on magic has been translated into English for the first time. Luca Pacioli's De Viribus Quantitatis (On The Powers Of Numbers) was written between 1496-1508, and contains "the first ever reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is also the first work to note that Da Vinci was left-handed."

De Viribus Quantitatis has until now been secreted away at the University of Bologna, but after an eight-year transcription/translation project will now be available in English. William Kalush, of the Conjuring Arts Research Center (NY), who helped fund the translation, says of the work "Sources of magic methods go back at least to the first century, but this book teaches not only the methods but also gives a glimpse into how one might perform them with an eye to entertaining an audience."

A compendium of tricks, puzzles, and verses, the book includes hints on "how to write a sentence on the petals of a rose, wash your hands in molten lead and make an egg walk across a table." Some of the tricks are included in the Guardian article if you want to start practicing.

The translation will be published next year, according to the paper, in order to coincide with the 500th anniversary of its original completion.

You may remember Pacioli from another discovery back in January: a long-lost study of chess attributed to him was found in the Palazzo Coronini Cronberg.

[h/t The Wit of the Staircase]