This is a magnificent magic ebook. Some put it among the top 10 or even the top 3 magic books ever written. It was translated by Barrows Mussey, of Amateur Magician's Handbook fame, from the German original Das Wunderbuch der Zauberkunst. It has many photos and beautiful illustrations and covers all disciplines of magic.
This is one of the handsomest books thus far produced on the subject of magic. It is a volume of 206 large pages, excellently printed on coated paper, illustrated with 234 line-cuts and halftones (chiefly the latter), and well bound in sturdy, attractive cloth. It is a translation of a German work, Das Wunderbuch der Zauberkunst, edited and to some extent revised by Fulton Oursler. The English text is excellent.
The book opens auspiciously with a fine halftone portrait of Harry Kellar. This is followed by a preliminary chapter by Mr. Oursler, entitled The Magic of Today, a 17-page account of some of the leaders in the world of modern magic, with excellent photographic likenesses of Frederick Eugene Powell, David Devant, Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, Harry Blackstone, Richard Cardini, Eugene Laurant, Horace Goldin, Al Baker, and a half-dozen other well-known magicians. Another preliminary item, and one that will command the attention and respect of every thoughtful magician, is a three-page article written by Mr. Kellar in 1912, on the subject Three Secrets of Success for Magicians. Here, at last, is advice on how to win success in magic, written by a man who himself had actually done it!
We cannot undertake to describe in detail the contents of the book proper. Chapter 1 (4 pages) is a quite inadequate historical sketch. Chapter 2 (11 pages) tells how the senses are deluded, with examples mainly of the "optical illusion" type. Chapter 3 (20 pages) describes the magician's table, servante, and other appliances, and gives explanations of a dozen tricks, old and new, with apparatus. Chapter 4 (13 pages) gives illustrations of the magician's coat and vest, explains in considerable detail The Ring and Envelopes Trick, and much less fully The Handkerchief and Soup Plates, The Handkerchief and Decanters, The Multiplying Billiard Balls, and several coin sleights. Chapter 5 (6 pages) lists, illustrates with halftones, and describes very briefly thirty-eight fakes or "gimmicks." Chapter 6, the longest in the book (38 pages) is called Vest-Pocket Magic, and contains explanations which unlike those in many of the chapters - are sufficiently detailed to be clearly understandable. The Chinese Coin Trick, The Cigarette from Nowhere, and The Sympathetic Coins (as described in Downs' The Art of Magic) pages 235-238) are among the best of these feats.
In Chapter 7, The Wonders of Card Magic (25 pages), the surface of these "wonders" is barely scratched, though there are some fine photographic illustrations of card sleights and several good tricks, including a first-rate "mathematical" card feat by William Larsen. Chapter 8 (14 pages) presents "mental" demonstrations, mostly of the "code" and "muscle-reading" variety. Chapter 9 (16 pages) reveals the secrets of Sawing a Woman in Two, Asrah, and several other famous stage illusions. Chapters 10 (7 pages) and 11 (3 pages) treat, respectively, ghost illusions and the "black art act." Rope ties, thumb ties, handcuff and straight-jacket releases, and box and milk-can escapes are sketched in Chapter 12 (14 pages). Chapter 13 (10 pages) tells of "the wonders of the fakirs" (that is, Oriental magic); and Chapter 14 is an 11-page explanation of puzzles of many kinds.
One of our greatest magicians told the present reviewer, when the first edition of Illustrated Magic appeared in 1931, that he considered it a perfect example of what a book on magic should not be! His point was that this book tells how tricks are done, but does not teach how to do them - that it gives away many important secrets of magic without making magicians of its readers, and is on that account a very objectionable medium of exposure. We are inclined to accept this view. The explanations given in Illustrated Magic are certainly, in general, too meager to enable the beginner to become a performer by reading them and putting them into practice. However, this does not mean that the book is valueless to those who are already members of the craft. Indeed, though we hold that this kind of book is "bad for magic" because it reveals secrets to the sort of readers that would soon lay aside such substantial works as Modern Magic or Greater Magic, we feel that Illustrated Magic is bound to have interest for nearly every magician who reads it. We cheerfully testify that it has given us a good deal of pleasure, and we believe that it will do as much for any magician who finds entertainment, if not too much practical information, in a well-written, beautifully illustrated book that does not burden the reader with troublesome details! The first edition sold at five dollars. The current edition, which is in no way inferior to the original and is available at three-fifths of the original price, may be recommended as light reading for the brain-fagged magician who has been plodding his way through some of the more technical books on conjuring.