Bill Kalush points to what may be the first published mention of this principle in “a well-preserved pamphlet of four leaves entitled Opera nuoua doue facilmente potrai imparare piu giuochi di mano et altn giuochi piaceuolissimi & gentili come si potra leggefnjdo uedere et facilmente imparare. [G. S. di Carlo da Pavia: Florence, 1520?].” Soap was applied to certain cards to make them slide or separate more than their unprepared counterparts.
Given that slick cards date back over five centuries in the toolbox of card cheats, and roughed cards are likely just as old, it is surprising how long it took for the ideas to appear in conjuring literature. An early example in English–perhaps the first–is Max Holden's “Master Card”, which is plainly a slick card, published as a new idea in The Sphinx, Vol. 23 No. 1, Mar. 1924, p. 3. Evidence of conjurers sticking cards temporarily together with an adhesive is found in the anonymous The Notebook (c. 1800), a facsimile edition of which was published by Will Houstoun in 2009; see p. 57, “52. To change a Card in a persons hand for one in the pack”. The principle became increasingly popular among magicians from the mid-1800s to the first decades of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, the Rough and Smooth Principle was still considered very restricted knowledge until Ted Annemann's publication of Dai Vernon's “Brain Wave Deck” in The Jinx, No. 49, Oct. 1938, p. 341.