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.