The Origins of Wonder
This trick, in which mental selections are determined through a system based on the redistribution of the cards, was described in Recreation Mathematique composee de plusieurs problemes plaisants et facetieux by Van Etten, a pseudonym of Father Jean Leurochon, 1626; see “Plusieurs cartes étant proposées à plusieurs personnes, deviner quelle carte chaque personne aura pensé”, p. 59. This book was translated into English by Richard Hawkins as Mathematicall Recreations, 1633; see p. 86.
Reinhard Müller has tracked the trick, described with number cards rather than playing card, in German literature to Eberhard Welper's Das Zeitkürzende Lust- und Spiel-Haus, c. 1690, p. 255. Variations that involve dealing the cards out into formations on the table for three, four and five spectators are described as “Quickly Found,” “In Rows,” and “Something Similar” respectively in R.P's Ein Spiel Karten, 1853, p. 64-66 of the Pieper translation.
Tricks of this nature have also been called “The Princess Card Trick”, a troublesome name, since it is also frequently used for another well-known trick with an unrelated method and effect: the disappearance of a thought-of card from a packet.
A classic trick using this principle of redistribution is Mutus, Dedit, Nomen, Cocis.
See also: the Twenty-one Card Trick and The Redistribution Principle.