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Edge dropping

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Since today is Easter Sunday, I'll take this chance to draw attention to my Easter Chick model on the Diagrams page. He's actually been there for a while, but with my daughter's help I've just managed to swap the diagrams for a colour version. Bit by bit I hope to do this for all the models on the Diagrams page, but at the rate I'm going it will probably take a while.


This post should be a lot shorter than some of the recent ones as it focuses on a very simple trick which there’s not really a great deal to say about.

The “trick” here is actually more of a stunt or bar bet, in which you challenge someone to drop a strip of paper so that it lands on its edge. The solution is to simply fold it in half before dropping it. As an item of paperfolding I have to say it's so minimalist that it barely qualifies, but as a "paper recreation" it's great – even if the solution is not 100% foolproof, as a few trials will show.

David Mitchell has a page on this with a number of references on his website, which I’m fairly sure must be the only other place on the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter) that devotes any attention to it.

The earliest source I’ve found is Deliciae Physico-Mathematicae (1636) by Daniel Schwenter.

Die XXIV Auffgab Ein ablanggeschnitten Papyrlein eines Fingerslang zu werffen / daß es auf der Schärffe stehe Es sey gegeben das Papyrlein a b c d, das solle also auf einen Tisch geworffen werden / daß es entweder auf der Schärffe c d oder a b stehe. Wer den Griff nicht weiß / und das Papyrlein 1000 mal wirfft / wird es nicht stehend werffen können : So du es aber stehend werffen wilt / so biege es / wie bey c zu sehen alsdann wirffe es / so bleibet es auf der Schärffe liegen / wie begehret worden.

Experiment XXIV

To throw an oblong piece of paper

measuring the length of a finger

so that it stands on its edge

With a piece of paper a b c d the aim is to throw it onto a table so that it stands on either edge c d or edge a b. Anyone who does not know the method and throws the piece of paper 1000 times will not be able to make it stand on its edge. If you want to throw it so that it stands on its edge, fold it as shown in c and then throw it, and it will land on its edge as desired.

The trick also appears in an early Dutch magic book entitled Natuurlyk tover-boeck by Simon Witgeest (evidently a pseudonym, meaning “white ghost” - a reference to White Magic or Natural Magic). This was first published in 1682, but the extract below is from the much-expanded 1698 edition. I don’t speak Dutch, but luckily the "paper strip on edge" trick is included in the German translation of Witgeest’s book, which was itself reprinted many times and used as a source of material for later works.

Natuurlyk tover-boeck, of,

Speel-toneel der Konsten

(1698 edition) by Simon Witgeest

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

(1718 edition) by Simon Witgeest

Skipping over a few other books (see Bibliography) that basically just repeat the same description without pictures, we find a nice illustration in Der magische Jugendfreund (1817) by Johann Heinrich Moritz von Poppe, who also admits that it's more of a joke than a proper magic trick.

Der magische Jugendfreund (1817)

by Johann Heinrich Moritz von Poppe

The stunt must have really caught on in Germany. Here it is again in an interesting little book called Kunststücke, Gesellschaftsscherze und Probleme (1922) by Hermann Pfeiffer.

Kunststücke, Gesellschaftsscherze und Probleme (1922)

by Hermann Pfeiffer

And finally, an English source. In More Paper Magic (1923) Will Blyth calls it "Edge Dropping" and says it can also be done with a wooden match sliced down the middle, as described in his earlier book Matchstick Magic (1921).

More Paper Magic (1923) by Will Blyth

Matchstick Magic (1921) by Will Blyth

I’m sure I’ve seen this in other English books as well, but the only one I can find at the moment - again, without any illustration - is Papercraft (1949) by Joseph Leeming.


Deliciae Physico-Mathematicae, Oder Mathematische und Philosophische Erquickstunden (1636)

by Daniel Schwenter

Natuurlyk tover-boeck (1698)

by Simon Witgeest

Neueröffnete Raritäten- und Kunst-Kammer (1702)

by Simon Witgeest

Natürliches Zauber-Buch Oder: Neu-eröffneter Spiel-Platz rarer Künste (1718)

by Simon Witgeest

Onomatologia curiosa artificiosa et magica (1759)

by Johann Christian Wiegleb

Die zehnmal hundert und eine Kunst (4. Teil) (1762)

by Albrecht Ernst Friedrich von Crailsheim

Künste und Geheimnisse von Philadelphia (1785)

Neuestes großes Zauberkabinet / Erster Theil: Allgemeines magisches Zauberkabinet (1816)

by Johann Michael Wagner

Der magische Jugendfreund (1817)

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)

Kunststücke, Gesellschaftsscherze und Probleme (1922)

by Hermann Pfeiffer

Matchstick Magic (1921)

by Will Blyth

More Paper Magic (1923)

by Will Blyth

Papercraft (1949)

by Joseph Leeming


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