Fate casts the dice

[Soothsaying]. Loßkunst mit den Würfeln, der hailigen Alttvätter, Propheten und Aposteln, deß alten und Neuen Testaments.

[Germany or Austria, ca. 1700].

4to (162 x 211 mm). German manuscript on paper, in a single cursive hand in brown and red ink. 28 pp. on 15 ff., 24 lines, written space (ca. 12 x 17 cm) ruled in red ink with additional column for 55 diagrams of dice. Marbled wrappers.


Highly unusual German manuscript describing the art of fortune-telling and decision-making by casting lots with three dice.

The motto on the title-page explains the "art of casting lots" as that which was used by the apostles when they appointed Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth disciple: "And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias" (Acts 1:23-26). After a general introduction to casting lots, the manuscript shows the 55 (in fact, 56) possible combinations of rolling three dice. Each combination is associated with biblical quotations and instructions for righteous, Christian behaviour which, it is suggested, will facilitate the respective wish coming true. The outer margin conatins an alternating pattern of yes and no, in answer to simple questions. The text ends with six psalms.

Includes full transcription of the text (8 typed leaves, ca. 1980).


From the library of the Hungarian nobleman and bank clerk Lórant Vermes de Budafalva, Budapest, with his 20th century armorial stamp on title-page and last page.


Browned and stained throughout; some small tears or chips to edges professionally repaired.