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Tricks of the trade

For washing your hands in melted lead:

Take cool well water and soak your hands for a while; then shake them, you can put them in a pan full of melted lead over a flame, and it will not cook you. It is even better if you put some ground rock alum in the water,to the uneducated, it will appear to be a miracle.

Make a coin go up and down in a glass:

Take some magnetic powder and rub it on a quattrino [copper coin] before putting the coin in some vinegar. Then take a little bit of the magnetic powder between your thumb [and index finger] and tap the glass of water, where the coin is, and it will come up and go down ... with your hand.

How to make an egg walk:

[Take] an egg that has been emptied through a hole made with a pin, and then filled in with white wax, so the hole cannot be seen. And get a hair from a braid, the longest you can, and attach it to the shell with ... solid wax. Fasten another bit of wax to the other end ... placing the egg on the table, with the nail of your middle finger, pick up the said wax, and by moving it here and there ... it will follow. This must be [done] in a place not too brightly lit, with onlookers at a distance. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007

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