Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Pegged or Punched Cards

Possible references to pricked cards date back to A manifest detection of the moste vyle and detestable use of diceplay, n.d. (c. 1552), p. 33 of the 1850 edition. This anonymous pamphlet bears the initials of G. W., and is speculated to be Gilbert Walker. The booklet is commonly surmised to have been written and possibly published earlier than 1552 — as far back as 1532 — but Frank Aydelotte lays out a case for why that's not possible in his Elizabethan Rogues and Vagabonds, 1913, p. 120 of the 2006 edition. The author of A manifest detection mentions cheaters who “play upon the prick” and others who “pinch the cards privily with their nails.” These mentions are telling and tantalizing, but ultimately ambiguous.

Several hundred years later, using punched cards as a cheating method for crooked gamblers was described simultaneously by two authors: Jonathan Harrington Green in An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling, 1843, p. 153, and John Henry Anderson in Fashionable Science of Parlour Magic, 1843, p. 53. It was later used for card tricks, such as in the anonymous The Magicians' Own Book, 1857, p. 61 (also published as The Boy's Own Conjuring Book, 1859). A chosen card is placed on top of the deck and is secretly pricked, so that later it can be found by touch as the magician removes the cards one by one from under a hat. Another early trick using punched cards appears in F. W. Conradi's Der Moderne Kartenküstler, 1896, p. 34. In this, punched court cards aid the performer in bringing out first the Kings, then the Queens, followed by the Jacks, from a shuffled heap placed under a cloth. Conradi offers two further tricks using punched cards on p. 35-36.