Paper is a fascinating product. Being the son of a paper maker (my father worked many years for a paper manufacturer) I developed early on a fondness to paper. And Houdini's Paper Magic is all about paper. Tricks with paper, paper folding, paper tearing, and paper puzzles. It seems today paper folding was replaced by balloon modeling. I have only seen once an act entirely based on paper tearing. Maybe this ebook version of Houdini's Paper Magic inspires one to build an act around paper. This book is definitely a good start. The Modern Conjurer has also an excellent chapter on paper folding.
The title of this volume does not give the prospective reader a very good idea of its contents. It is "paper magic," no doubt, but only if the word "paper" is taken to mean such widely different articles as newspapers, printed programs, calendars, cardboard dolls, confetti, and banknotes, and if the term "magic" is broadened to include not only feats of conjuring but also such things as paper-folding, paper-tearing, and paper puzzles. Furthermore, the book is "Houdini's" only in the sense that Mr. Houdini sponsored, possibly compiled, and perhaps even wrote up some of the material, but did not originate it. Most of this material can be found in other books, and much of it has been equally well explained elsewhere. However, it is presented here in attractive form, and its concentration in one volume will appeal strongly to magicians who are fond of tricks in which paper, in one form or another, plays either a major or a minor part.
The book has some 200 pages of actual text, of which 110 are devoted to "magic" of the type that actually mystifies and 90 to what might be called "fun with paper." We may dispose of the latter briefly by saying that there are 24 pages on paper folding, which are unlikely to be of any practical use to the public entertainer; 37 pages on paper-tearing, with explanations of Jacob's Ladder, The Trellis, The Fir Tree (or Corn Stalk), and instructions for tearing fancy designs from sheets of paper; and 24 pages of paper puzzles, which are just that and nothing more.
Far more important for the student of magic are the 110 pages of "paper tricks." There are 23 feats in all, most of which are better for close work than for stage performance. The Traveling Paper Balls, The Cigarette Paper Tear (several methods, including one by the great Harry Kellar), The Ballot or Pellet Test, The Restored Calendar, and The Floating Tissue Paper Ball are fair samples of these close-up tricks. More pretentious and better adapted to presentation before audiences of moderate (and, in some instances, large) size are The Ring and Program (a favorite of the old-time magician, Verbeck), The Pig and The Ring (an effective handkerchief and confetti combination), Kellar's tried-and-true Coffee, Milk, and Sugar Trick, and Francis Werner's Bill-Tearing Feat; and there are several others. These are first-rate "experiments," which if well done will delight any audience. The bill-tearing trick, which is explained in 11 pages of text, is exceptionally fine; and we suggest that The Ring and Program, and the Coffee, Milk, and Sugar Trick are due for a revival. They would be distinct novelties today, and would, we feel, prove far more entertaining than "the latest thing" that is being shown currently by nine out of ten magicians and is therefore already stale.
The present edition of this neat little book (the first edition of which appeared in 1922) is well printed, well bound in cloth, and is illustrated with 106 line drawings.