Courtesy of Hansel De Sousa
Hansel de Sousa who is one of America’s largest collectors of anything round was recently informed that the hand painted china marbles depicting numbers are game pieces of “Magic Squares” or “Magic Numbers.” Jaques and Sons of London sold these games in the 19th century. Magic Squares is a very early game and is depicted on Albrecht Durer’s engraving Melencolia I (1514).
The engraving shows the game on the clock tower, just below the bell. Albrecht Durer 1471-1528 is a celebrated German engraver and painter of the Northern Renaissance period. The Knight, St. Jerome In His Study, and Melencolia I are the greatest creations of his copperplate engravings.
The game of “Magic Squares” became all the rage for a brief period in the last half of the 19th century. Jaques of London (a toy Manufacture) registered these particular games in 1858. Counting puzzles, like “Magic Squares” have been around since the beginning of mathematical puzzles.
THE OBJECT OF THE GAME OF 16 NUMBERS
The player must form a square of 16 numbered marbles in rows of four. The total of each line vertical, horizontal and diagonal must add up to 34. The picture above shows one of 3456 possible solutions, of a possible 20 billion combinations. Hansel explains that people in the Victorian Era had the time to pursue such mathematical puzzles.
THE OBJECT OF THE GAME OF 9 NUMBERS
The game of “Magic Squares” was also produced by Jaques and Son on a board game using nine numbered marbles, instead of 16. The player must form a square of nine numbered marbles in rows of three. The total of each line vertical, horizontal and diagonal must add up to 15.
THE MARBLE MUSEUM wishes to thank Hansel de Sousa for providing this information on numbered china marbles.
All References and pictures are courtesy of Hansel de Sousa.
Edited by Chris Cooper.
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