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Cyclopedia of Magic
by Henry Hay


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Cyclopedia of Magic by Henry Hay

Cyclopedia of Magic is an interesting book. It's primary quality stems from its alphabetical organization. It was compiled and written to provide the magician with a wide and solid background of magical knowledge. It provides definitions, descriptions, biographies and some routines on hundreds of magic topics. It is for the most part a compilation of material contributed by magicians such as August Roterberg, Charles Bertram, Eddie Joseph, Ellis Stanyon, John Mulholland, T. Nelson Downs and many others.

Paul Fleming wrote:

In 1902, William J. Hilliar produced his Modern Magician's Hand Book by bringing together, in a single volume, verbatim extracts from Hoffmann's Modern Magic and More Magic, Howard Thurston's Card Tricks, Roterberg's New Era Card Tricks, Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation, and Selbit's The Magician's Handbook. It was not a good book. Forty-seven years later, Henry Hay (who, under his real name, Barrows Mussey, translated Ottokar Fischer's Illustrated Magic in 1931 and wrote a little book called Magic in 1942) has repeated Mr. Hilliar's performance, with relatively unimportant modifications, in his latest book, Cyclopedia of Magic. In addition to drawing upon all of Hilliar's sources with the single exception of Selbit's Handbook, he has also had at his disposal almost a half-century of more recent works - Hoffmann's Later Magic, Downs' The Art of Magic, Maskelyne and Devant's Our Magic, and others - and from these books (the copyrights of which had expired) he has helped himself liberally to both text and illustrations. To these extensive borrowings, Mr. Hay has added a 10-page article on Stage Settings (of very doubtful utility to a magician) by a Columbia University contributor; a 6-page survey of The Literature of Magic by the late Leo Rullman, with special emphasis on very early works; short pieces on such subjects as Business Methods, Comedy, Night Club Shows, Programs, Psychology, Publicity, and so on, written by himself and others; and a series of biographical sketches of magicians.

The most puzzling thing about this collection of conjuring scraps is why in the world it was ever published. It is clearly no book for the serious student, for he will have seen practically all of it before, and in a far better setting. Mr. Hay wisely observes, in his introduction, that the book "does not pretend to make magicians," and certainly it never will. But he then suggests that it "steers the user to the classic and indispensable books that do make magicians"; and on this point we must differ most emphatically, for we incline to the view that, on the contrary it is more likely to steer him away! No reader will get from the Cyclopedia of Magic any real notion of the merit of Hoffmann's great trio - Modem Magic, More Magic, and Later Magic - for their ability to capture the interest of the potential student and teach him how to become a magician lies largely in their author having started at the beginning and followed through to a definite goal. The extracts Mr. Hay has given in his book of readings are not even mildly suggestive of the greatness of the Hoffmann works; and this is equally true of Sachs' Sleight-of-Hand, Maskelyne and Devant's Our Magic, and other magic classics. To hack individual sleights or tricks from these marvellous textbooks and then reassemble them on a purely alphabetical basis smacks too strongly of desecration to be at all palatable to us; and it is particularly objectionable because it cannot possibly lead to any genuinely useful end.

We have heard that books are sometimes produced, not so much for the enlightenment of readers as for the enrichment of the publisher. But this is scarcely a plausible explanation in the present instance. Indeed, anyone even slightly acquainted with present costs of production and the possible market for books on magic will surely not charge Mr. Hay or his publisher with getting out this book for profit. The plain fact is that there is only a very limited market for any $7.50 book in the "trade field," in which sales are made to the general public through the bookstores, and practically no "trade" market at all for a magic book at so high a price. Within the "fraternity" - that is, among magical enthusiasts - a book at $7.50 or even $10.00 may sell a thousand or so copies, though it is exceptional for books at such figures to sell more than two or three thousand copies. The few exceptions, moreover, must be exceptional books, in the sense that they have something very special to offer the reader, as was true of two books about which this reviewer has first-hand information - Gaultier's Magic Without Apparatus and Kaplan's The Fine Art of Magic. But there is little of the unique about the Cyclopedia of Magic except its peculiar and not particularly convenient arrangement of material. On the contrary, it is a collection of items culled chiefly from old books, most of which are already in the libraries of those who might be prepared to pay $7.50 for a conjuring book. It should be clear, then, why the publication of the Cyclopedia of Magic is a deep mystery to us. Since it had no great mission to perform, and since it seems more likely to lose than to make money, its appearance in the already overcrowded field of magic books leaves us in what The New Yorker refers to as the "Department of Utter Confusion!"

Puzzling, too, is the physical make-up of the book. It is a well-bound volume of approximately 500 pages, well printed on satisfactory paper. The type-setting has been well done, too, but the illustrations (of which there is a great abundance) form a hodge-podge that is anything but pleasing. Mr. Hay points with pride, as well he may, to the excellence of Audry Alley's photographs, which he pronounces "perhaps the most brilliant ever taken to illustrate magical manipulations," a claim that might be challenged by the publishers of the "Stars of Magic" Series, which is being illustrated with magnificent photographs by George Karger. In any event, Mr. Alley's fine pictures are partly spoiled by their unduly largely reproduction and exceedingly poor grouping, as may be verified by reference to pages 15, 128, 129, 138, 139, 140, and others. The drawings taken from Hoffmann's Later Magic are excellent, of course, but those salvaged from his earlier works (Modern Magic, 1876; More Magic, 1890), good as they were in their day, show definite signs of antiquity. When jumbled together with the weird pictures that illustrated Howard Thurston's Card Tricks and Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation, the total effect is little short of awful. Particularly painful is the placing of these halftones and line cuts. We have seldom seen poorer groupings of illustrations than appear on pages 44, 88, 136, 150, 153, 166, 240, and so on; we tremble for the sanity of that lover of good magic and good composition, Bel Dalgin of The New York Times, if his eyes should ever light upon them. The appearance of the book would have been improved immeasurably if only these illustrations of many varieties had been redrawn in a single style and the cuts placed with some slight regard for accepted standards of good bookmaking.

The biographical sketches, too, which at first glance gave promise of interesting possibilities, proved a disappointment. One might suppose that a series of this kind would include all, or nearly all, of the well-known names in magic over (say) the past hundred years. But we have looked in vain for sketches about Annemann, Dante, Dunninger, Germain, Hugard, Maro, Raymond, Rouclere, Sachs, Tarbell, or Valadon, though space has been found for many others of far less significance. These omissions mystified us greatly. So, also, did the information that Harry Kellar's real name was Harold Keller and that Frederick Eugene Powell was once an instructor at Virginia Military Institute. (Since there can be no doubt that Powell taught at his alma mater, Pennsylvania Military Academy, we shall await further evidence before accepting "Harold" in place of "Harry" as Mr. Kellar's given name.) It is surprising to note, too, in the article on Flower Productions, the absence of the most beautiful of all flower tricks, Karl Germain's Visible Growth of the Rose Bush; and to find the three pages on the Jap Box given over wholly to explaining the "production box" of ancient vintage, with no reference whatsoever to the small, lidless box with removable bottom, which is what the name "Jap Box" signifies to magicians at the middle of the twentieth century.

There is much more that might be said about the Cyclopedia of Magic, but we haven't the heart to say it. Here is a book which, as we see it, cannot possibly do anyone - compiler, publisher, or reader - any good. Here is a lot of typesetting, press-work, and binding that could have been put to much better use. Once upon a time, Henry Hay wrote a very good little treatise on conjuring, which he called Learn Magic. If we were Mr. Hay, that book - and not the Cyclopedia of Magic is the one by which we should hope to be remembered.

The ebook starts with a User's Guide which describes the purpose of the book, and an index to the contributing authors.


  • Acquitment: definition
  • Afghan Bands: short explanation
  • Amateur Magicians: definition and article
  • Anderson, John Henry: 1814-1874; bio
  • Angle-Proof: definition
  • Animals: Short article with comments on Rabbits, Pigeons, Dogs, etc.


  • Ball Manipulation: Long article, covers various Palms, Passes, and vanishes. Refers readers to Burling Hull's Expert Billiard Ball Manipulation
  • Ball of Wool: article, trick described
  • Bambergs, The: bio. Eliaser 1760-1833; David Leendert 1786-1869; Tobias 1812-1870; David Tobias (born 1843); Theo (Okito) born 1875; David (born 1904)
  • Bellachini (Sam Berlach): 1828-1885; bio
  • Billet And Message Reading: article with discussion of the One Ahead, Impressions, Transparency, etc.
  • Bird-Cage, Vanishing: definition
  • Black Art: defined, with an article on the Black Art Table and its construction
  • Blackstone, Harry: bio
  • Blindfolds: article with description of various forms
  • Blitz, Signor Antonio: 1810-1877; bio
  • Book Test: article with explanation and various approaches
  • Bosco, Bartolommeo: 1790-1863 bio
  • Bradawl or Ice Pick: defined
  • Breakaway Fan: defined
  • Breslaw: died 1783 bio
  • Bullet Catching: article
  • Business Methods: publicity article


  • Cake Baked In a Hat: article
  • Card Box: Defined
  • Card Frame: article
  • Card in Cigarette: defined
  • Card Index: defined
  • Cardini: bio
  • Card Manipulation: longer article covers Back Palm, Bottom Dealing, Break, Changes, Crimp, Double Lift, False Count, False Shuffle, Jogs, Flourishes, Forcing, Glide, Glimpse, Mexican Turnover, Palming, Second Deal, Shifts, Slips, and a card worker's bibliography
  • Card Marking: longer article covers principles, dot & puncture, manufacture, shading/tinting, line and scroll work, and marking while in play
  • Card Setups (The Rosary Deck): New packs, 8 Kings, Si Stebbins, explained along with several tricks
  • Cards, Flap: defined
  • Cards, Key: Article with several types described
  • Cards, One Way, Pointer, Divided: description of three card location approaches
  • Cards Up the Sleeve: routine described
  • Card Through Handkerchief: described
  • Card Vanisher: several types described
  • Carter, Charles J: 1874-1936 bio
  • Changeover Palm: defined
  • Changing Bag: defined
  • Children's Shows: article with recommendations
  • Chinese Magic: defined
  • Chinese Wands: described, multiple versions
  • Ching Ling Foo (Chee Ling Qua): 1854-1918 bio
  • Ching Ling Foo Water Can: defined
  • Chopper Effects: defined
  • Chung Ling Soo (William Ellisworth Campbell): 1861-1918 bio
  • Cigar Manipulation: Article covers multiple sleights
  • Cigarette Manipulation: for lighted or unlighted cigarettes, also covers holders
  • Clock Dial: Described
  • Coils: defined
  • Coin Box, Okito: defined
  • Coin In Handkerchief: defined
  • Coin Manipulation: article covers Palms, Changes, Handkerchief Folds, Palms, Passes, Sleeving, and a coin works bibliography
  • Coin Tray: described with a routine
  • Coins, Folding: described
  • Coins, Shell: described
  • Comedy: Article with advice
  • Comte, Louis Christian Emmanuel Appollinaire: 1788-1859 bio
  • Costume: article with advice
  • Costume Trunk Trick: described
  • Culpitt, Fred: died 1944, bio
  • Cups and Balls: Article covers palming, cup and wand moves, and East Indian cups


  • Dancing Handkerchief: described
  • De Kolta, Joseph Bautier: 1845-1903, bio
  • Devant, David (David Wighton): 1868-1941 bio
  • Dice: Article covers changing dots, Die Through Hat
  • Die Box, Sliding: described
  • Diminishing Cards: Described
  • Divinations: Class of effects in which performer discovers which of several similar objects has been concealed or what order they have been arranged in
  • Doebler, Ludwig Leopold: 1801-1864 bio
  • Dollar Bill Tricks: A torn and restored bill described, and the bill to lemon
  • Doll's House: Frederick Culpitt's illusion described
  • Dove Pan: described
  • Downs, Thomas Nelson: 1867-1938 bio
  • Drawer-Box: described
  • Droppers: defined
  • Drumhead Tube: described
  • Duck Vanish: described


  • East Indian Magic: Article
  • Egg and Handkerchief: effect detailed in a couple of approaches
  • Egg Bag: described, with some details of De Biere's egg bag. Includes a general approach to a routine, but no details.
  • Equivoques (Conjurer's Choice): described
  • Escapes and Releases: includes short discussions of The Jacoby Rope Tie, Handcuff Escape, Sack Escapes, The Mail Bag, Straitjacket Escape, Escape from Paper Cylinder, Packing Cases, and Siberian Chain Release
  • Exposures: short article on ethics


  • Fake: defined
  • Fawkes, Isaac: died 1731 bio
  • Fish-Catching: defined
  • Flagstaff: described
  • Flash Paper: defined
  • Flower in Buttonhole: defined
  • Flower Productions: Described in longer article
  • Forcing: defined
  • Four Ace Tricks: Covers Charles Bertram's Method, and seven other methods
  • Fox, Imro (Isidor Fuchs): 1852-1910 bio
  • Frikell, Wiljalba: 1818-1903 bio
  • Funnel: Described


  • Gambling Methods: longer article on cheating with cards and dice
  • General Card: defined
  • Gimmick: defined
  • Goldfish Bowls: described
  • Goldin, Horace (Hyman Goldstein): 1873-1939 bio
  • Grandmother's Necklace: described
  • Gyngell: died 1833, bio


  • Handkerchiefs Prepared as Vanishers: described, including the Die-Vanishing Handkerchief and more
  • Hands: how to treat
  • Hat Trick: detailed description of Joseph Michael Hartz' production of items from a hat
  • Heimburger, Alexander: 1818-1909 bio
  • Heller, Robert (William Henry Palmer): about 1826-1878 bio
  • Herrmann: family of magicians bio
  • Hertz Carl (Laib Morgenstern): 1869-1924 bio
  • History: article on the history of magic
  • Hoffmann, Professor Louis (Angelo John Lewis, MA): 1839-1920 bio
  • Hofzinser, Johann Nepomuk: 1806-1875 bio
  • Holders: several ball and egg holders described
  • Hoods: as used for coins, cards, etc.
  • Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weisz): 1874-1926 bio


  • Illusions: defined
  • Impromptu Effects: pointer to books with impromptu effects
  • Indian Basket Trick: described
  • Indian Mango Trick: described
  • Indian Rope Trick: described
  • Inexhaustible Bottle: described, with various improvements
  • Invention: article, includes a chart with Magical Technics, info on patents, etc.


  • Jap Box: described in detail
  • Jumping Peg: described


  • Kellar, Harry (Harold Keller): 1849-1922 bio
  • Kellar Tie: rope release described


  • Lafayette (Siegmund Neuburger): 1872-1911 bio
  • Laurant, Eugene (Eugene Greenleaf): 1875-1944) bio
  • Leroy (Jean Henri) Servais: 1865-1953 bio
  • Levitations: several stage levitations described, the floating ball
  • Linking Rings: a full routine is described
  • Literature of Magic: article on historical writings
  • Load: defined
  • Lota: described


  • Magical Effects: general description of magical effect types
  • Makeup: described
  • Maskelynes, The: family bio
  • Mechanical Decks: Describes Strippers, Cornered, Forcing Decks, Svengali, Mene Tekel, etc.
  • Merry Widow: described
  • Mind-Reading: general high-level discussion, with an example two-person code
  • Mirror Principle: described
  • Miser's Dream: routine described
  • Mulholland, John: born 1898, bio
  • Multiplying Billiard Balls: briefly described
  • Muscle Reading: article on mind-reading
  • Music: article on choosing music


  • Needle Trick: threading needles in mouth described
  • Nest of Boxes: described
  • Nicola, the Great (William Mozart Nocol): 1880-1946 bio
  • Night Club Shows: article


  • Organizations: SAM, IBM, Magic Circle, etc.
  • Organ Pipes: described


  • Pantomime: article
  • Passe-Passe Bottle: described with routine
  • Patter: article
  • Phantom Tube: defined
  • Phillippe or Philippe (Phillippe Talon): 1802-1879 bio
  • Pinetti, Giuseppe, De Willedal: 1750-1800 bio
  • Pistol: gimmicked pistol described
  • Plant: defined
  • Powell, Frederick Eugene: 1857-1938 bio
  • Practice and Rehearsal: article
  • Presentation: article on the rules of presentation
  • Programs: article on building your program
  • Psychology: article on deception
  • Publicity: article on advertising
  • Pulls: several varieties described


  • Rattle Box: described with a routine
  • Rice Bowls: various methods described
  • Ring: defined
  • Ring On Stick: briefly described
  • Rising Cards: methods include threads, De Kolta method, with routine described along with various other approaches
  • Robert-Houdin: 1805-1871 bio
  • Robin, Henri (Dunkell): died 1874, bio
  • Rope Tricks: defined
  • Routine: short article


  • Salting: defined
  • Sawing a Woman in Two: briefly described
  • Selbit, P.T. (Percy Thomas Tibbles): died 1938, bio
  • Servante: described in good detail
  • Shell: defined
  • Shell Game: briefly described, reader is directed to Jack Chanin's Hello Sucker!
  • Shower of Sweets: children's effect described
  • Silent Acts: defined
  • Silk Tricks: Describes various tools such as False Fingers, Wands, Production from a Match Box, Multiplying Tube, Productions, Color Changing, Knots, Sympathetic Silks, etc.
  • Slate Tests: writing on blank slates described
  • Sleeve Up His: defined
  • Sleight of Hand: defined
  • Spelling Master: card effect described
  • Spider: defined
  • Spirit Effects: article
  • Sponge Balls: very briefly described
  • Stage Settings: Article on setting the stage for stage shows, with bibliography on Stage and Theater
  • Steal: defined
  • Stodare, Colonel Alfred (John English): 1831-1866 bio
  • String Tricks: Includes brief discussion of Perambulating String, Pricking the Garter, Snare, etc.
  • Sucker Gag: defined
  • Sun and Moon Trick: handkerchief trick described in detail
  • Switch: Defined
  • Sympathetic Coins: A Coin Matrix type effect described


  • Table Tricks: defined
  • Talk: defined
  • Tambourine: production utility described
  • Telephone Trick: briefly described
  • Thimble Tricks: Decent article describes production, multiplying thimbles, and thimble passes
  • Thirty Card Trick: Cards transfer from one pile to another
  • Thread, Black: defined
  • Three-Card Tricks: Three Card Monte describe in fair detail; Mexican Three Card Monte; Slow Motion Method
  • Thumb Tie: release described
  • Thumb Tip: defined
  • Thumb Writer: Defined
  • Thurston, Howard: 1869-1936 bio
  • Torn and Restored Paper: various methods described, including Torn Cigarette Paper
  • Torrini (Count Edmond De Grisy): bio of this fictional character
  • Tourniquet: defined
  • Transfixed Pack: two card effects described
  • Traps: defined
  • Trunk Trick, Substitution: stage effect briefly described
  • Tumblers: Bottomless, Mirror Glass, others described
  • Turban Cut and Restored: described


  • Van Hoven, Frank: 18??-19?? bio
  • Vanishing Performer: described
  • Vest-Pocket Magic: defined
  • Volunteers: Short Article


  • Walking Through a Brick Wall: described
  • Wands: Article with discussion of production, coin wand, auto-gravity wand, Cigar Wand, Swallowing Wand, and Vanishing Wand
  • Watch Tricks: Several tricks described including the Watch Mortar, The Watch Winder, and Watch It! Refers readers to Samuel Berland's Tricks with Watches.
  • Wax: defined
  • Williams, Oswald: 1881-1937 bio
  • Wine and Water: briefly described
  • Wyman, John: 1816-1881 bio


  • You Do as I Do: Briefly described, with reference to Hilliard's Greater Magic and Hugard's Encyclopedia of Card Tricks

1st edition 1949, 498 pages, 1st digital edition 2014, 425 pages.
word count: 183344 which is equivalent to 733 standard pages of text