London: Printed for G. Kearsley, Fleet Street; Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh; and Brash and Reid, Glasgow, by W. Glendinning, 1801.
First English edition. xix, [i, errata], 397, 3 (publisher's ads) pp. 8vo. Contemporary half leather over gray paper-covered boards. Covers worn, joints cracked but sewing sound, lacking spine label, text block roughly trimmed, occasional light soiling along lower blank margins. Remnant of contemporary bookplate. In a custom slipcase and chemise Toole Stott 240. Item #306156
The first English edition of this quite unusual and very entertaining compendium of conundrums, problems, parlor tricks, and "interesting facts" — it is actually much more fun than the title would seem to suggest. The first French edition was published in London in 1799 under the title Choix d’ amusements physiques et mathématiques. The work includes tricks with cards, magic squares, magic lanterns, feats of artificial memory, and proto-spiritualist conjuring through "palingenesy," by which a performer can make the images of the dead appear in a glass jar, plus other optical illusions. A large collection of mathematical and physical curiosities, including chapters on arithmetic (“To arrange 30 criminals in such a manner as to save 15 of them, &c.”, “A lady lamenting that her age was triple that of her daughter") and amusing "secrets" (“To make people in a room have a hideous appearance”).
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