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Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck

Overview

Plato said God invented dice. This we learn from one of Ricky Jay's fascinating essays in a delightful small volume that takes us from the earliest forms (astragali—the heel bones of hoofed quadrupeds, four of whose six sides were used for gaming) to the myriad types of "loading" and other means of cheating with dice in the modern era. Along the way we discover that Augustus, Caligula, and Nero were all inveterate players, that Queen Elizabeth issued a search and seizure order against the manufacture of false ...
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Overview

Plato said God invented dice. This we learn from one of Ricky Jay's fascinating essays in a delightful small volume that takes us from the earliest forms (astragali—the heel bones of hoofed quadrupeds, four of whose six sides were used for gaming) to the myriad types of "loading" and other means of cheating with dice in the modern era. Along the way we discover that Augustus, Caligula, and Nero were all inveterate players, that Queen Elizabeth issued a search and seizure order against the manufacture of false dice in 1598, and that dice made from celluloid, invented in 1869, remained stable for decades, and then—in a flash—began to decompose. These are the dice of Rosamond Purcell's luminous and seductive photographs, images which transform entropy to an art form. Jay and Purcell give us a dual meditation on dice that will educate us and amuse us at the same time. 13 color photographs.

Author Biography: Ricky Jay is perhaps best known as a sleight-of-hand performer whose one-man display of talent set a record as the fastest selling show in off-Broadway history. He is also an actor, a scholar, and the author of highly popular books including the best-selling Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and, most recently, Jay's Journal of Anomalies. Rosamond Wolff Purcell's beautiful photographs of the strange and unusual have appeared in countless publications and have been collected in museums throughout the world. Among her many books are Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters, Finders Keepers: Eight Collectors, and Crossing Over: Where Art and Science Meet, the latter two with Stephen Jay Gould.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ricky Jay knows his dice. A sleight-of-hand-performer who is appearing on Broadway in On the Stem, a one-man show directed by David Mamet (in whose movies Jay has appeared frequently), Jay here presents a light, digressive history of dice, from "astragali" (or "heel bones," as mentioned in an Indian epic poem) to how they are loaded for cheating. Dipping into everything from Viking allegory to the 1820 writings of the Rev. Charles Caleb Colton (an eventual ruined gambler and suicide), Jay's anecdotes are colorful but meandering: a description of a 1501 Florentine gambler named Antonio Rinaldeschi eases into a recollection of the outcry at the Brooklyn Museum over Chris Ofili's dung-festooned Holy Virgin Mary. Chapters such as "Dice and Death" and "The Palengenesis of Craps" are complemented by Rosamond Wolff Purcell's 13 color photographs of beautifully decayed dice (when dice age, they can be chipped and crusted, appearing to be made of salt or ice). These portraits of chance's end reveal visually what Jay tells us verbally: dice are as inherently complex and frail as people. (Nov.) Forecast: Quantuck Lane is a small press run by former Norton senior editor Jim Mairs that will publish five titles this fall. Norton's distribution and Jay's name should win this casebound book (and the house) some shelf space. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780971454811
  • Publisher: Quantuck Lane Press
  • Publication date: 11/14/2002
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 1,174,217
  • Product dimensions: 7.89 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.63 (d)

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