Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Edge-Marked Deck

Card cheats have for centuries secretly edge-marked one or several cards in a deck for an advantage in a game. They had no need to mark every card in a deck for suit and value—but magicians did. The first known description of a deck in which all (thirty-two) cards were edge-marked was published by Hugo Schrader in Conradi's Der Zauberspiegel, Vol. 2 No. 10, May 1897, p. 145: “Das gezeichnete Kartenspiel”. The only mentioned application is the possibility to access any desired card by looking at the edge of the squared deck. Handling details for locating the card and identifying a removed card were explained by Conradi in his “Briefkasten” column in Vol. 3 No. 1, July 1897, p. 16. Another idea was provided in Carl Willmann's competing magazine Die Zauberwelt, Vol. 5 No. 6, June 1899, p. 87, “Das magische Kartenspiel”. There the identification of a card that has been reversed end for end (the marks are only on one edge of the deck) is discussed.

Eighteen years later, Theodore DeLand manufactured a specially printed, fifty-two-card, edge-marked deck, calling it “De Land's Wonder Deck”; see The Sphinx, Vol. 14 No. 1, March 1915, p. 16. Richard Kaufman provides information on this deck in DeLand: Mystery and Madness, 2018, p. 414.

Also see Edge Marking