Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ghisi's Labyrinth

Simple... brilliant... beautiful. Thank you, Mariano.

Interactive version of Il laberinto del Signor Andrea Ghisi (1607)
Created by Mariano Tomatis Antoniono

March 21, 2011 postscript:

In 2007 I posted an analysis of Ghisi's Labyrinth book to the now defunct mailing list LTarot. In 2009 I posted my analysis to the Tarot History Forum. I included a link to an explanation of a well-known card trick that operates on the same progressive elimination method, and another link to a detailed mathematical generalization of the trick. I also included the text of the 1610 English translation of Ghisi's book, Wits Laberynth, along with all 60 of the illustrations. Mariano's computerized recreation of Ghisi's parlor trick conveys more understanding of it in 30 seconds than all my analysis, transcription, scanned images, explanation, and linked resources combined. Bravo!

This line of investigation for Ghisi is being pursued by magicians, (which is one of Mariano's credits), including Dick Christian at the Magic Cafe Forum. Ghisi's gimmicked-book trick is a variation of what magicians call Book Test mentalism. Christian has collected hundreds of examples, and is planning to publish a book on the subject. He also notes that "book tests -- often involving the Bible -- were commonly used by Spiritualists in the 19th century (and may well still be so today)." So these are tricks of charlatans as well as illusionists.

Magic tricks are the genre of which Ghisi's Labyrinth is a specific example. It is not an occult manifesto regarding alchemy, nor is it related to rites of initiation into an occult society, nor does it conceal secret mathematical mysteries, nor is it a contest involving two (or more) opposing players using the letter-table (below) as a game board, nor any of the other whimsical speculations that have been put forth in recent years. It's a parlor trick, as explained in Mariano's post yesterday. His post today, reviewing I giochi matematici di Fra' Luca Pacioli, further indicates that social context of Ghisi's book.

Giovanni Bembo, Doge by merit, from the 1616 Italian edition.

Illustration from the 1610 edition, Wits Laberynth

An alternative mapping for fuckwits and fortune-tellers.