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Mathematical Recreations

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Mathematical Recreations (Recreations mathematiques) was written by Henry van Etten, thought to be the pen name for the Jean Leurechon (1591-1690), first published in French at the French university town Pont-à-Mousson in 1624. English editions started to appear in 1633, 1653, 1674.

Mathematical Recreations
AuthorHenry van Etten
Publication Date1633

The book was originally published in 1624 by Jean Appier Hanzelet, the master engraver and printer for the university of Pont-à-Mousson, under the title Recreation mathematicqve, composee de plusieurs problemes plaisants et facetievx, En faict d’Arithmeticque, Geometrie, Mechanicque, Opticque, et autres parties de ces belles sciences

Typical problems found in the book that fall under parlor tricks and conjuring practices are:

  • To make a sticke stand upon the tipp of ones finger, without falling.
  • To make three knives hang and move upon the point of the needle.
  • How is it that a man in one and the same time, may have his head upward, and his feet upward, being in one and the same place.
  • Of a deceitfull balance which being empty seemes to be just, because it hangs in equilibrio: notwithstanding putting 12 pound in one balance, and 11 in the other it will remaine equilibrio.
  • To heave or lift up a bottle with a straw.


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