The search for one who may not want to be found.
"Frankly, I find your approach the most careful and cautious of all that have been published." - Bart Whaley
"Hurt's book is very good writing on a subject I care about. I enjoyed it tremendously and learned a great deal in the process. I think you will, too." - Richard Hatch
In 1902 under the pseudonym S.W. Erdnase and the title Artifice, Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table a book on sleight-of-hand with cards was published. This book became the bible for card magicians. To this date it remains arguably the single most important book on sleight-of-hand card magic. Some of the most respected masters of card magic, like the late Dai Vernon, have repeatedly pointed to Erdnase as their guide. The book has been reprinted and annotated several times over the past decades. However, despite the importance and standing the book has achieved, the author has never been identified. Many scholars, experts of magic and gambling, as well as historians and scientists have tried to identify who is hiding behind the Erdnase pseudonym. For instance the Scientitic American puzzle editor and dean of science and math populizers, Martin Gardner, spent many years searching for Erdnase's true identity. Several candidates have been suggested and portrayed as Erdnase, but to this date the identification remains controversial.
This book by Hurt McDermott collects, evaluates, interprets and extends the facts and findings concerning the major Erdnase candidates proposed up to 2012. (For subsequent developments see The Cardsharp and his Book by Chris Wasshuber). They are carefully weighed against each other. Although through this work McDermott shows how he has formed his opinion of the most likely candidates, the book's primary purpose is to survey all existing theories, to put them under a common objective microscope, and to guide and help the reader to form his own opinion of who Erdnase might have been.
From Richard Hatch's foreword:
Hurt does a masterful job of summarizing the early publishing history of the book, the early speculation and research on the authorship question, and the major and most of the minor candidates that have been proposed. Hurt's literary analysis of the text is fascinating and his subsequent comparison of the writing styles of various proposed candidates is equally compelling.
Part of the problem of the hunt for Erdnase is that every hunter applies his own subjective criteria and often falls prey to confirmation biases to 'prove' that his candidate is Erdnase. For both the casual Erdnase enthusiast who would like to follow the various avenues that have been pursued to enjoy the mystery and legend around the author and for the veteran Erdnase hunter who would like a current summary of the state of the search, there is no better place to start ones reading than Artifice, Ruse & Erdnase: The Search For One Who May Not Want to Be Found.
1st edition 2012, 225 pages.
Table of Contents
word count: 80692 which is equivalent to 322 standard pages of text
- Author's Preface
- Introduction: Erdnase's Identity And Why We Care
- 1. Erdnase In Chicago
- 2. Publication & Early Life
- - Survival & Spread
- 3. Geniisis & Methodology
- - Genii Forums, Erdnase Thread
- - Methodology
- 4. The Men Who Are Not Erdnase (+ 1 Hopefully) Introducing The Candidates
- - 1. The Paradoxical Candidate
- - 2. The Complex Anagram
- - Part 2: Occam's Candidates
- - 3. The Railroad Agent
- - 4. The Confidence Man
- - 5. The Printer's Neighbor
- - The E. S. Andrews Brotherhood Of Writers
- - 6. The First Serious Contender
- - 7. The Presbyterian
- - 8. The Edison Pioneer
- - The Expert At The Typewriter
- - 9. Cheating According To Hoyle
- - Chicago Magicians
- - 10. The Plagiarist
- - 11. The German Connection
- - 12. The Collaborator
- - 13. The Tomb Of The Unknown Erdnase
- 5. Martin Gardner & Associates
- - Speak Memory
- - Marshall D. Smith
- - E. L. Pratt
- - MFA's Family Members
- 6. Erdnase's Testimony
- - Literary Analysis
- - Erdnase's Style
- 7. Questioned Documents
- Epilog: Journey's End?
- Select Bibliography
- About The Author