Tuesday, April 10, 2007

De viribus quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers)

I came across some very exciting news today. The world's oldest magic text - De Viribus Quantitatis - has now finally been translated into English.

AFTER lying almost untouched in the vaults of an Italian university for 500 years, a book on the magic arts written by Leonardo da Vinci's best friend and teacher has been translated into English for the first time.

The world's oldest magic text, De viribus quantitatis (On the Powers of Numbers), was penned by Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan monk who shared lodgings with da Vinci.

It was written in Italian by Pacioli between 1496 and 1508 and contains the first ever reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is also the first work to note that da Vinci was left-handed.
Pacioli was born in Tuscany in 1445 and was a travelling mathematics tutor. He is often called the father of modern accountancy because his book The Summa (1494) contains the first published description of double-entry book-keeping, accountancy's basic technique.

He lived with da Vinci in Milan from 1496 for several years and taught maths and geometry to the painter, scientist and inventor. They collaborated on many projects.

In the magic book, Pacioli explains a technique for writing in code, which may have been inspired by da Vinci, whose left-handedness meant he sometimes wrote backwards, making the words decipherable only with the use of a mirror.
The translation of De viribus quantitatis will be published next year to coincide with its 500th anniversary. Until then, Da Vinci aficionados and aspiring magicians will have to be content with visiting the Conjuring Arts Research Centre where a copy will be kept.

The Guardian

I cant wait to see pictures of the original - especially the Title page. I've never heard of this Luca fellow, nor did I know that he invented the double bookkeeping system. If you didn't already know, I am a huge fan of Leonardo Da Vinci. Have been since, well, forever, and especially since he sometimes visited the Starship Voyager on TV. LOL


Radu Beche said...

Hello. I found your post about Pacioli's book and I've tried to find a online book store to buy it. I was a little bit disappointed when finding that neither Amazon or EBay is selling the English version of the book. Can you suggest a bookstore that has this title and is available for online shopping?
Thank you for your help.

Francesca Thomas said...

As mentioned at the end of the post...The translation of De viribus quantitatis will be published next year (2009) to coincide with its 500th anniversary.

So since this is only February 2009, the chances are high that the book is NOT yet published. You may need to wait until later this year to find it.

I can only suggest that you contact the Conjuring Arts center and ask them if they know when the English translation will be available. Contact details as follows.

The Conjuring Arts Research Center
11 W. 30th Street, 5F
New York, NY 10001

ph. 212-594-1033

Staff is available from 8:00am to 5:00pm EST.