David Alexander wrote:
Very interesting, but how can something that was never published and only seen by a handful of scholars be the "...the foundation not only of modern magic but of numerical puzzles, too"?
It's possible that something unpublished could be a foundational work. In fact, that's the tradition of medieval "books of secrets," which were originally manuscripts shared exclusively by the learned, only later to be printed and shared with the general public as part of the printing revolution. So something could be source material without having seen the light of day for all but a very few.
Yet, David Singmaster's words seem to be a bit of hyperbole. Given Singmaster's credentials, I'm in no position to debate his claim vis-a-vis numerical puzzles, but I do find it odd that he would annoint Paccioli's book as he has, since for him to say that, he must be certain that no books and/or unpublished manuscripts of similar content pre-date Paccioli's (and therefore that Paccioli is the
How can he have any semblence of certainty on that point?
Ricardo, Scot's book is certainly one of the most famous of early English-language works, but his book is not the first to explain magic tricks, even if we only consider books in the English language. When we look at "magic" books from the 16th century (or earlier), invariably one of the debates that surfaces is "what is a magic trick?" In many ways, the application of scientific principles was magical to the vast majority of the public, and oftentimes what we call "tricks" were not presented as such in those early texts.