Divide et impera

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Postby Mariano Tomatis » 04/13/12 06:14 AM

Hi all,
tracing the history of a very old principle - the "Divide et impera", already present in Luca Pacioli's Codex Vaticanus - I am looking for the first version in print of the well known binary trick using some tables to divine a number thought of.
Sid Lorraine printed in on his personal card at the beginning of 20th century:
http://www.praestigiator.com/materiale/sidlorraine.jpg
Any news about previous versions of the trick in print?
Many thanks!
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Postby Max Maven » 04/13/12 11:06 AM

In English this is most often called the "Magic Age Cards."

According to Tom Ransom (who knows a lot about this sort of thing), the earliest appearance of this principle as applied
to conjuring is in Recreations with Mathematics by Charles Hutton, published in England in 1801.

Apparently, much of the material in the four-volume Recreations series was derived from a French source, but I do not have details.

Michael Weber has stated that the principle appears in a 1749 book by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall. However, I do not have a specific reference. I will ask Michael.

In the meantime, there are a lot of 20th century references, but I presume you have most of those.
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Postby Max Maven » 04/13/12 12:15 PM

I heard back from Michael. The Franklin/Hall citation was not a book. Rather, it was a set of cards with quotations on them.
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 04/13/12 01:27 PM

Max Maven wrote:According to Tom Ransom (who knows a lot about this sort of thing), the earliest appearance of this principle as applied
to conjuring is in Recreations with Mathematics by Charles Hutton, published in England in 1801.

Apparently, much of the material in the four-volume Recreations series was derived from a French source, but I do not have details.


Hutton translated Ozanam's "Rcrations mathmatiques et physiques", though over the years Ozanam's work was considerably revised and augmented by various people. Also, Ozanam himself derived a lot of his material from Bachet, Leurechon and others.

I haven't had time to trace it right back to its first appearance, but Hutton's treatment of the principle in question is on page 64 of "Recreations in science and natural philosophy" (1844, revised by Edward Riddle):

http://books.google.ch/books?id=J8lUAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/13/12 03:20 PM

Max Maven wrote:I heard back from Michael. The Franklin/Hall citation was not a book. Rather, it was a set of cards with quotations on them.


I can't find anything online about this, and would love to know more details. But in lieu of that, HERE is Franklin on Magic Squares.
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 04/13/12 04:11 PM

At the risk of taking this rather far afield from Mariano's inquiry, I'll say that I just learned about Ben Franklin's interest in Magic Squares last year. In "The First American" by H.W. Brands, Franklin is described as creating an incredibly complex Magic Square consisting of 16 rows and 16 columns, and sending it to a friend with the comment "I make no question but you will readily allow this square of 16 to be the most magically magical of any magic square ever made by any magician."

I also would like to know more about the "set of cards with quotations on them."
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/13/12 06:46 PM

The Square to which Lisa is referring. Yes, it is magically magical.
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 04/14/12 04:30 PM

I've received word that the Ben Franklin press version of this idea was called "The Impenetrable Secret," and that its history is explained in Ricky Jay's "Many Mysteries Unraveled." It was the first magic trick produced in the US, and consisted of familiar quotations on a deck of cards, but I don't know what quotations were selected.
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Postby Mariano Tomatis » 04/15/12 06:23 PM

Max Maven wrote:According to Tom Ransom (who knows a lot about this sort of thing), the earliest appearance of this principle as applied to conjuring is in Recreations with Mathematics by Charles Hutton, published in England in 1801.


Thank you Max, I located here the page in Hutton's book:
http://books.google.ch/books?id=J8lUAAA ... &q&f=false
The four volumes of Ozanam (1778 edition) are here in French:
http://cnum.cnam.fr/CGI/redir.cgi?8PY9
but the corresponding chapter about "divination" (starting at page 139 of 1st volume) doesn't seem to contain the trick:
http://cnum.cnam.fr/CGI/fpage.cgi?8PY9. ... 06/441/460
Maybe it was added in a later version.

Benjamin Franklin and David Hall version (dating 1749) may be the first known. I will have a look on Ricky Jay's book - and in later edition of Ozanam's four volumes.

Thank you also to Lisa, Edwin and Bill.
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