Playing with numbers

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    The Playful Eye: An Album of Visual Delight

    Redstone, £19.95; pbk

    It may look like a nursery rhyme montage, but the illustration above is actually the five of spades from a surreal pack of playing cards. The challenge in producing such ‘transformation’ cards lies in intriguing the eye with some kind of visual pun or surprise while minimizing the element of distraction from the card's suit and value. The first such playing cards were produced in Germany in 1801, and pictorial themes have since ranged from the satiric and comic to the erotic and commemorative. Illustrations of other transformation cards form just one feature among the many tantalizing images to be found in The Playful Eye: An Album of Visual Delight edited by Julian Rothenstein and Mel Gooding (Redstone, £19.95; pbk), a collection of popular graphics of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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    Playing with numbers. Nature 402, 724 (1999) doi:10.1038/45380

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