To Transform by Folding Paper

First of all, Happy New Year to my readers (yes, both of you). I've been struggling to learn how to use this blog thing, as well as trying to create new content. There's no shortage of material, but it takes me ages to get it into a form I'm happy with. To those who have subscribed and even posted comments, thank you for your support, and sorry if I haven't managed to respond. I'll try to do better in future as I do appreciate any feedback.

For the first post of 2022, let's get back to the subject of "paperfolding in old magic books". I have a couple more items to cover under this heading as mentioned in my post of November 6th, and probably others in due course. For less magically inclined folders, have no fear, there will be other topics too.

The Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot was published in 1584 and was the first English-language book to explain magic tricks. Luckily for us, it also happens to include not one but two tricks with paper, under the title of “To transforme anie one small thing into anie other forme by folding of paper”.

The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) by Reginald Scot

From the slightly easier to read Brinsley Nicholson edition of 1886

Reginald Scot was a Justice of the Peace, not a magician (and definitely not a paperfolder), and his aim in writing his book was to show that commonly held ideas about witchcraft were misguided. In one chapter near the end of the book he explains some of the tricks performed by strolling conjurers, to prove that apparently magical effects could be accomplished by non-supernatural means. The short section on magic tricks was compiled with help from a French magician by the name of John Cautares.

The items involving folded paper are actually two different methods for producing the same effect, namely that of changing a copper coin into a silver one.

To Transform by Folding Paper: first method

In the first method you place a “counter” or token on a piece of paper and fold or roll the paper up around it, and when you unfold or unroll the paper the coin has changed into a groat (a large silver coin).

David Mitchell calls this the Fold and Switch effect and discusses it (as well as the second method) on his website at

Scot’s description is not particularly easy to follow, so after struggling with it for a while I decided some proper origami-style diagrams were needed to make the method more readily understandable. These were published by the French origami society (MFPP) in Le Pli No. 144 (Supplement) for the occasion of their magic-themed convention in 2017 in Blois. Since then I’ve revisited the diagrams and managed to make a few improvements (my thanks to Michel Grand for pointing out that for a start I had got the copper and silver coins the wrong way round - who would want to change a high-value silver coin into a low-value copper one?). See below for the result. Looking at them again now there are a few more changes I would make, but it takes me so long to produce decent diagrams that these will have to do for now.

To Transform by Folding Paper_colour 3
Download PDF • 1.89MB


To Transform by Folding Paper_text
Download PDF • 1.18MB


Scot's first method appears again in Hocus Pocus Junior (1634), and both methods are in Henry Dean’s highly influential The Whole Art of Legerdemain, or Hocus Pocus in Perfection, which was based largely on the material in Scot and also Hocus Pocus Junior. I haven't seen the first edition of Dean (1722), which is quite rare and practically impossible to find, but "To Transforme anie one small thing" is definitely in later editions available online and also in other derivative works such as The Old Hocus Pocus (ca. 1740).

Hocus Pocus Junior (1635) (2nd edition)

Hocus Pocus oder Taschen-Spieler (1667)

Hocus Pocus Junior was translated into German by Elias Piluland as Hocus Pocus oder Taschenspieler (1667), and presumably it was from here that the trick spread into a whole range of German magic books, right up until the 19th century. It also spawned a variation using a handkerchief and a knife, as well as a version of the Card Through Handkerchief, which I hope to talk about soon(ish) in another post.

Of all the books that describe Scot's first method, the only one I’ve seen that includes a drawing is Der kleine Taschenspieler und Magiker (ca. 1810) by Heinrich August Kerndörffer. I only found this recently, but it was a very pleasing discovery because it confirms my understanding of the folding method as shown in my own diagrams.

25. Durch bloßes Zusammenschlagen

eines Papiers, Geld zu verwandeln.

Man nimmt einen Bogen Papier, und bricht denselben in der Mitte so zusammen, daß der eine halbe Bogen über den untern etwas heraus stehe, und also die eine Hälfte des Bogens etwa um einen Finger breit länger sey als die andere, siehe Tab. I. Fig. 15. a, b. Man lege sodann zwischen die beiden Hälften des Bogens inwendig gerade in die Mitte des Bruches einen Pfennig, daß es jedoch Niemand bemerke. Auswendig aber lege man gerade über den innerhalb des Bogens liegenden Pfennig unten hin bei c ein beliebiges Stück Geld, und lege nun von unten herauf das Papier in Falten bis ganz oben an die lange Seite des Bogens, wobei das Geldstück mit in die Falten des Bogens eingeschlagen wird. Wenn nun der Bogen ganz herauf in die Falten gebrochen ist, so fasse man blos die hervorspringende kurze Bogenhälfte, siehe Tab. I. Fig. 16. b. indem die längere Hälfte des Bogens mit in die Falten eingeschlagen ist, und wickelt den Bogen wieder auf, indem man von e an beginnt ihn aufzuschlagen; so wird alsdann das Geldstück, das oben lag, verschwunden, und in einen Pfennig verwandelt senn, weil nämlich durch das Auffalten des Bogens, wobei man nur eine Hälfte, und nicht beide zugleich faßte, das vorher oben aufgelegte Geldstück nunmehr inwendig an dem Platze des vorigen insgeheim dahin gelegten Pfennigs, dieser inwendig hingelegte Pfennig aber nunmehr oben, an dem Platze des Silbergeldes liegen wird.

25. To change money by simply

folding a piece of paper

Take a sheet of paper and fold it together in the middle so that one half of the sheet protrudes slightly more than the one underneath, and thus one half of the sheet is about one finger longer than the other, see Table I, Fig. 15 a, b. Then place a penny inside between the halves of the sheet exactly at the centre of the fold, but in such a way that no one notices. But on the outside place any other coin at the bottom at point c, exactly over the penny that is inside the sheet, and then fold the paper from the bottom upwards until the very top on the long side of the sheet, bringing the coin up at the same time in the folds of the sheet. When the sheet is folded all the way up, simply take hold of the protruding short half of the sheet, see Table I, Fig. 16 b. with the longer half of the sheet becoming caught up in the folds, and unroll the sheet again by starting from point e; in this way the coin that was on top will have disappeared, and will have changed into a penny, because by unfolding the sheet and grasping only one half and not both at the same time, the coin that was on top before will not be inside in the place of the penny that was previously placed secretly inside, while the penny that was placed inside will not be on top, and will lie in place of the silver coin.

Der kleine Taschenspieler und Magiker (ca. 1810) by Heinrich August Kerndörffer

To Transform by Folding Paper: second method

Scot’s second method for “transforming anie object by folding of paper” is known to magicians as the Buddha Papers, and is still found in children’s magic books today. The preparation involves folding two squares of paper into 3x3 grids and gluing them back to back by the central square. Open one side, place a groat (silver coin) inside and fold the paper around it. To present the trick you show the unfolded half of the package, keeping the folded part with the groat in it hidden behind. Place a copper coin (a “counter” or token) on the unfolded square and fold it up again. The package is then secretly turned over and opened on the other side to show that the counter has changed into a groat.

For some reason Hocus Pocus Junior doesn’t include this method, which is presumably why it’s also missing from all the German books that were derived from the translated version. It does appear in a few other places, and more recently a number of variations have been devised to fool other magicians who are familiar with the original. I’ll talk about this more next time as it’s a classic effect that deserves its own post.


Here’s a revised and extended list of the older sources I’ve found for Scot’s first method for “transforming anie object by folding of paper”. As with my Three Scrolls bibliography in a previous post, the dates are those of the editions I’ve found, which are not necessarily always the first editions. Anyone interested enough should be able to find proper bibliographical details online without too much trouble.

The Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584)

by Reginald Scot

Hocus Pocus Junior (1634)


Hocus Pocus oder Taschenspieler (1667)

by Elias Piluland (German translation of Hocus Pocus Junior)

Neueröffnete Raritäten- und Kunst-Kammer (1702)

by Simon Witgeest

Natürliches Zauber-Buch, Oder neu-eröffneter Spiel-Platz rarer Künste (1718)

by Simon Witgeest

The Whole Art of Legerdemain, or Hocus Pocus in Perfection (1722)

by Henry Dean

Het Groot Toneel van Behendigheden (ca. 1738)

by Jan van Zuylen

The Old Hocus Pocus (ca. 1740)


Verschiedenes zum Unterricht und zur Unterhaltung (1791)

by Karl von Eckartshausen

Unterricht in der natürlichen Magie / Die natürliche Magie, Vol. 12 (1797)

by Johann Christian Wiegleb and Gottfried Erich Rosenthal

Magie für gesellschaftliches Vergnügen, Vol. 2 (1802)


Der kleine Taschenspieler und Magiker (ca. 1810)

by Heinrich August Kerndörffer

Philadelphia’s, Wiegleb’s, Pinetti’s und v. Eckartshausen’s gesammelte Schriften über natürliche Magie / Neuer Wunder-Schauplatz der Künste und interessantesten Erscheinungen, Erster Theil (1839)

by Johann Heinrich Moritz von Poppe

Mechanemata oder Der Tausendkünstler (1831)

by Dr Heinrich Rockstroh

Das Buch der Zauberei oder Magie für das gesellschaftliche Leben (1839)

by Johann August Donndorff (only in the 5th edition)

Sammlung von 139 Kunststücken (1851)