Cups and balls have been giving pleasure, as a magic trick, to generations of spectators. It is still regarded as one of the most outstanding of all magic effects. My gratitude to Dr. Henry Ridgeley Evans and to John Mulholland for writing the story of the cups and balls, so that all may appreciate the history of this classic of magic. Thanks to Bill Hanna for the illustrations which do so much to make the book come alive.
All the basic ball moves are described in detail using clear illustrations. A section of routines is described that will get you started on your way to devising your own methods and plots. Houdini said that anyone who hasn't learned the cups and balls isn't a magician!
It is entirely possible that the Cups and Balls Trick is the oldest of sleight-of-hand feats, and quite probable that it is the most popular trick in the whole world of conjuring today. It has been described in practically every general treatise on magic from the earliest times to the present day, but never before, so far as we know, with such detail as it is accorded in Tom Osborne's Cups and Balls Magic.
The book has a two-page introduction by the veteran historian of magic, Henry Ridgely Evans; and another two-page contribution entitled The Oldest Trick, in which John Mulholland tells about the many different kinds of "cups" that have been used the world over in the performance of this trick. The text proper consists of 54 "articles" (running from No. 3 to No. 56), in each of which some phase of Cups and Balls procedure, or equipment, is described.
About a quarter of the book is devoted to an explanation of "palms," "passes," and other sleights that form the basis of the trick in its traditional form. There are also "articles" on the type of cups to employ, the use of a "slanting table" in stage work, the use of the "servante," the "loading" of large balls into the cups, liquid loads, the loading of live chicks, and many other matters related to the Cups and Balls. There are a number of "routines," among which are Tom Osborne's Routine (5 pages), Non-Sleight-of-Hand Routine (3 pages), an elaborate routine with patter (pages 40 to 49) to which no specific title is given, Comedy Cups and Balls (3 pages), a one-page Silent Routine, and an even shorter Routine with Liquids. There are, in addition, several tricks which, strictly speaking, do not come under the heading of the Cups and Balls. These feats include The Cone and Ball Trick, The Cup and Ball Vase (which Professor Hoffmann called The Ball Box), The Sponge Ball Trick, The Paper Covered Glasses, and one or two others.
Cups and Balls Magic is a well-printed book of 60 pages, two of which are filled with advertising. Its division into "articles" (some of which are painfully short) give it a somewhat "choppy" appearance, which will probably not bother most readers. It has 62 clean-cut line drawings by William Hanna, and is bound in soft boards. It is hard to believe that any performer of the Cups and Balls could fail to benefit by a careful study of this comprehensive collection of material from many sources.