Tuesday, February 22, 2011

De Viribis Quantitatis

Interesting news for magic and performing buffs: Reginald Scott's 1587 book The Discoverie of Witchcraft (widely regarded as the first book on magic) has been bumped from spot #1 by De Viribis Quantitatis - a text written by Leonardo Da Vinci's best friend, Luca Pacioli.

Here's some blurb from mathforum.org:

"Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk, mathematics tutor, and colleague of Leonardo Da Vinci, wrote this foundational text of modern magic and numerical puzzles between 1496 and 1508. De Viribus Quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers) contains the first ever reference to card tricks and some of the earliest recorded European examples of numerical puzzles; guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance; and insights into Da Vinci's life and work. Often called the father of modern accountancy, Pacioli also authored the first published description of double-entry bookkeeping, accountancy's basic technique. "

Apparently it's now been translated into English for the first time in 500 years and will be published later this year. Very cool. I'd love to see his advice to fire-eaters. What would they have used for fuel?!


  1. The question is, could they have quantified the cute hoppage going on in the background?

  2. I'm not sure that Discovery of Witchcraft was in the #1 spot to begin with.

    A quick search suggests that "A Brief and Pleasant Treatise" Entitled Natural and Artificial Conclusions by Thomas Hill contained card tricks a few years prior.

    Still... very intriguing news!

  3. Ooh, interesting. I didn't know that, Ryan. I'll have to look it up. I'd always heard Scott's was the first. Perhaps it was the first book dedicated solely to conjuring.