Enter the maze

A magic book from old Venice

A page from Andrea Ghisi's book, with woodcut illustrations

Andrea Ghisi was a mysterious nobleman and author in Venice in the early 1600s. In 1607 he published his biggest hit, a book full of illustrations arranged in rows. Every two pages contained the same set of 60 illustrations mixed up in different ways. That sounds like an awfully weird book to be a bestseller, but there was a method behind the madness. The book was actually a big magic trick.

The illustrations are arranged so that you can appear to read someone’s mind. You ask them to choose an illustration on one page, then follow it as it moves around the other pages. By asking your volunteer which group their illustration is in on each page, you can reveal which illustration they’re thinking of!

It wouldn’t be easy to get your hands on a copy of Andrea Ghisi’s book, but fortunately you can do the trick online! Mariano Tomatis, an Italian writer and magician, has taken the illustrations from the book and made a game out of them. Look below for a link to this historical trick and try it yourself!