A special case of the Torn-and-Restored Card effect are restorations in which the card gradually restores one piece at a time.
Those restorations were first achieved by mechanical means. Simple two-step restorations, in which first the whole card except one corner is restored and then the last piece, have been performed already in the 19th century. Examples are “Die Kartendose” by Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser as described in his letters that were published by Magic Christian in J. N. Hofzinser: Non Plus Ultra, Vol. II, 2004, p. 75, or “The New Card Table” as described by August Roterberg in New Era Card Tricks, 1897, p. 83.
Several years later, Okito built his black-art “Card Frame” as early as 1909. A black background could be seen in this frame. Piece by piece sixths or eighths visually appeared in the frame one by one until the full card was restored and taken out of the frame. The effect was achieved by pulling away black cover pieces either with a thread from off stage (see the model in Potter & Potter auction catalogue from October 2016), or with a self-contained spring mechanism, as first described by Will Goldston in More Exclusive Magical Secrets, ca. 1921, p. 187, and in more detail by Dr. Robert Albo in The Oriental Magic of the Bambergs, 1973, p. 40.
A different mechanical piece-by-piece restoration is C. F. Waite's “The Triangle Card Trick”, published in The Magic Wand, Vol. 3 No. 27, Nov. 1912, p. 425. Here the quarters of a card appear piece by piece on top of a triangle stand.
In this sub-plot, the quarters of a torn card travel one by one to assemble in one place, where they gradually restore. A routine of that type was performed by Piet Forton at the FISM convention in 1964 in Barcelona in his competition act (see the brief mention in Franz Braun's convention report in Magie, Vol. 44 No. 10, Oct. 1964, p. 290). As described by Mr. Forton, the quarters were in a square layout and vanished one by one from the hands only to reappear restored underneath a booklet on the table.
In 1977, Peter Duffie performed a similar effect in the close-up show at the Blackpool convention. According to his recounting of the history of his routine, he told Derek Dingle about the plot in London, who published his method in 1982 as “Restoration Assembly” in Richard Kaufman's The Complete Works of Derek Dingle, p. 187. In Dingle's routine, an assembly of the four torn corners in a square layout is performed with two cardboard covers. As the quarters gather in one corner, they restore piece by piece. Peter Duffie finally published his version with its history as “Fusion Assembly” in Subtle Miracles, 2004, p. 124.
The first in-the-hands restoration, without any traveling aspect of the pieces, was David Regal's “Piece By Piece” in Harry Lorayne's Star Quality - The Magic of David Regal, 1987, p. 153.
The plot gained popularity when David Copperfield performed Chris Kenner's routine “Torn Asunder” on his television special “Fires of Passion” in 1993. While the routine was advertised in Genii, Vol. 56 No. 4, Feb. 1993, no copy was sold. The first published method that aimed to recreate the look of “Torn Asunder” with pure sleight of hand was Guy Hollingworth's “Reformation”, which he first marketed as a video tape in 1996. (It was reviewed in MAGIC, Vol. 5 No. 6, Feb. 1996, p. 78.) Since then, many in-the-hands versions have been published.