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Learn Magic

by Henry Hay
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Learn Magic by Henry Hay

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Learn Magic is a classic magic book for serious beginners. It teaches 20 lessons and focuses not just on effects, tricks and moves, but also on the 'how to learn magic' aspect. Beautifully illustrated by Hans Jelinek.

Henry Hay's larger magic book for beginners, The Amateur Magician's Handbook is broader in scope and already assumes some basic knowledge about magic.

Paul Fleming wrote:

Some three or four years ago, we examined (in Review No. 19) a little book by Barrows Mussey, entitled Magic. The same author, writing under another name, has now given us a new treatise for beginners in conjuring which is not only larger but far more likely than his earlier book to make a competent performer of the reader.

This book, Learn Magic is a volume of 287 (viii +279) pages, illustrated with 92 figures. There are two preliminary chapters on how to watch and how to be a magician; twenty chapters (or "lessons"), six of which deal with cards, two each with coins, balls, and silk handkerchiefs, and one each with rope, thimbles, thumb-tips, escapes, mind-reading, eggs, tricks with cloth bands and turbans, and conjuring accessories such as tables, servantes, and the magic wand; and a final chapter on stage illusions.

As is suggested by the title, Learn Magic is not a book that was written for those who are already conjurers, unless they happen to be conjurers of the "magic shop" variety who think of magic in terms of handiwork of the tinsmith and cabinetmaker. To such unfortunate souls Mr. Hay's book may be strongly recommended as proof that a moderate amount of personal skill will produce vastly better magic than hundreds of dollars' worth of suspicious-looking apparatus. The well-read magician will already have learned this lesson - and, let us hope, profited by it. For him, the contents of Learn Magic will in the main be familiar material, for Mr. Hay - like Hoffmann, Sachs, Tarbell, Hugard, and other writers of general treatises -has naturally had recourse to the common stock of principles and feats that has been accumulating for many decades.

Hence, we find in this book such well-known tricks as The Afghan Bands (which in this form might well have been credited to James C. Wobensmith), The Turban Trick, The Sack Escape, The Egg Bag, "One Ahead" Mind Reading, The Rising Cards (three methods), The Torn and Restored Paper Strip, Handkerchief Production and Color-change, The Sympathetic Silks, The Miser's Dream, The Cards Up the Sleeve, The Sponge Balls, the Multiplying Billiard Balls, A Thimble Routine, and a host of other feats. There are, in addition, explanations of dozens of sleights with cards, coins, balls, and thimbles; of "codes" used in apparent thought-transference; of black-art tables, bottomless glasses, mirror glasses, and other kinds of conjuring equipment.

Indeed, we incline to the view that more ground has been staked out here than an author should attempt to cover in a volume of this size. We feel, too, that stage illusions should have been omitted, for two reasons: (1) because the space used could have been employed more advantageously in giving fuller explanations of tricks which the reader has some chance of being able to present, and (2) because there seems to be no good reason for giving the "general reader" - the specific audience to which Learn Magic is addressed - any knowledge, however superficial, of the principles employed in stage illusions. Mr. Hay's excuse for these exposures - to give the beginner "some basis for judging the illusionists" he sees - is pretty lame.

Drawing upon the experience of many years of professional performing, we question the soundness of some of the author's statements and the wisdom of some of the advice he offers the beginner. He says (p. 12) that it is best not to memorize patter, though such famous performers as Kellar, Germain, Powell, and Rouclere took pains to be letter-perfect in their lines. He writes (p. 17): "The fear of detection and the dropping of anything you practice with will go on as long as you do magic." This is certainly not true of a number of performers with whom we are acquainted. Nor is it true, as the author says (p. 6), that "things go wrong at every performance of every magician who ever lived." Some magicians unquestionably suffer from nervousness, and things do go wrong at times, but we see little to gain and much to lose by teaching that it is normal for performers to be fearful of detection and for things to go wrong. The magician for whom things habitually go wrong (who is also the one most likely to experience fear of detection) is almost certainly the careless performer, who has not given sufficient time to preliminary preparation or who undertakes to present new effects without proper rehearsal. We believe the beginner should be taught that slovenliness leads to disaster in conjuring, and that the magician who is a credit to his art is the one for whom things do not frequently go wrong!

In speaking of the use of confederates, Mr. Hay says (p. 70): "The only objection in my eyes is that you can't be ready at a moment's notice to do the trick (and that your stooge may not be much impressed with your powers as a magician)," completely ignoring the fact that both the confederate and the performer are dishonest with the audience - the former in bearing false witness and the latter in causing him to do so. He instructs the performer (p. 26) to hold a coin between his teeth (an act that can scarcely be recommended as being in good taste); and says (p. 7) that "John Mulholland ... has a trick with two half dollars, a trick in which he asks someone - preferably a good-looking girl - to sit on his knees and hold his wrists!" We refuse to believe that one about Mr. Mulholland until we have actually seen it!

Apart from a mercifully small number of such lapses, Learn Magic impresses us as an exceptionally good book to place in the hands of the would-be magician. It is exceedingly well written, though personally we are not fond of the staccato effect produced by the frequent use of one-word sentences and one-line paragraphs. The text is unusually clear, despite the brevity of some of the explanations. The illustrations are very good - "perhaps the best ever printed in a magic book," says the author in the foreword. Finally, the book is well printed on good paper, and neatly bound in blue cloth with gold-stamping on the spine. It is so modestly priced as to be an unusual bargain, whether purchased as a first book of magic for the beginner or as a refresher course for the more advanced student.

1st edition 1947, 2nd edition 1975; 1st digital edition 2013, 210 pages.

Table of Contents

  1. FOREWORD
  2. INTRODUCTION

    PART 1

    CHAPTER 1. HOW TO WATCH A MAGICIAN

  3. The Greatest Magician?
  4. The Different Kinds of Magic

    CHAPTER 2. HOW TO BE A MAGICIAN

  5. Rehearsal Before Practice
  6. How to Get Applause
  7. Your Personality and Your Patter
  8. Planning
  9. Learning a Trick
  10. Enlarging Your Repertory

    BOOK LIST

    PART 2

    LESSON 1. THE FLYING COIN

    LESSON 2. HANDLING A DECK OF CARDS

  11. Dealing Position
  12. The Overhand Shuffle
  13. The Riffle or Dovetail Shuffle
  14. The "Waterfall" Finish
  15. Second Split for the Dovetail Shuffle
  16. Fanning the Cards
  17. The Card at the Number
  18. Mind Control

    LESSON 3. THE LARIAT KING

  19. Inventing Magic
  20. The Lariat King
  21. How the Trick Is Done

    LESSON 4. THE AFGHAN BANDS AND THE CUT TURBAN

  22. How to Make the Afghan Bands
  23. How to Work the Turban Trick

    LESSON 5. FINDING A SELECTED CARD, 1: FORCING

  24. Forcing and Forcing Decks
  25. The Svengali Pack
  26. Forcing Sleights: The Fan
  27. Forcing Sleights: The Slip
  28. Another Knife Force
  29. The Telephone Trick

    LESSON 6. FINDING A SELECTED CARD, II: LOCATIONS

  30. False Shuffles
  31. The Tap Location
  32. The Glimpse
  33. The Spelling Master
  34. The Stripper Deck
  35. The Long Card
  36. The Double Card
  37. The Short Card
  38. The Pass, or Shift
  39. The Red and Black Aces

    LESSON 7. ESCAPES

  40. The Kellar Tie
  41. The Sack Escape
  42. The Chair Tie

    LESSON 8. THE EGG BAG

  43. Palming an Egg
  44. Egg Production Routine

    LESSON 9. MIND READING

  45. The Billet Test
  46. The "All-Alike" Gag
  47. The "One-Ahead" Gag
  48. The Envelope Test
  49. Getting Impressions
  50. Torn-Billet Reading
  51. Stage Clairvoyance
  52. Codes
  53. Pointer Codes
  54. Number Codes
  55. Talking Codes
  56. Silent Methods

    LESSON 10. REVEALING A SELECTED CARD

  57. The Turned Card; Victim's Choice
  58. The Card Nailed to the Ceiling
  59. The Jumping Cards
  60. The Transfixed Pack
  61. The Rising Cards (Three Methods)
  62. First Method
  63. Second Method
  64. Third Method
  65. The Mental-Selection Spelling Master

    LESSON 11. THE THUMB TIP

  66. Cigarette Vanish
  67. The Torn and Restored Paper Ribbon
  68. Handkerchief Vanish

    LESSON 12. A SILK ROUTINE. PART I

  69. Preparing for the Act
  70. Handkerchief Production (Elbow)
  71. The Dissolving Knot
  72. Shaking in a Knot
  73. Silk from Candle
  74. The Flying Knot
  75. Handkerchief Production (Thread)
  76. The Sympathetic Silks

    LESSON 13. A SILK ROUTINE. PART II

  77. Preparing for the Act
  78. Hand Silk-Dyeing
  79. Silk-Dyeing (Paper Tube)
  80. The "Lamp-Chimney" Vanish

    LESSON 14. THE MISER'S DREAM

  81. Coins for Magic
  82. The Finger Palm
  83. The Thumb Palm
  84. The Regular Palm
  85. The Edge Palm
  86. Palming Several Coins
  87. The Back Palm
  88. The Miser's Dream

    LESSON 15. CARD PALMING

  89. The Top Palm
  90. Palming Several Cards
  91. Williams' Card in Pocket
  92. Color Changes
  93. Clip Color Change
  94. Erasing the Spot
  95. The Side-Steal Color Change
  96. Reversing the Color Change
  97. The Double Lift
  98. The Back Palm
  99. Five-Card Vanish and Recovery

    LESSON 16. TWO GREAT TRICKS OF CARD PALMING

  100. Leipzig's Lightning Locations
  101. The Cards Up the Sleeve
  102. The False Count

    LESSON 17. THE SPONGE BALLS

  103. The Basic Sponge-Ball Move
  104. The Routine

    LESSON 18. THE MULTIPLYING BILLIARD BALLS

  105. The Conjurer's Clothes
  106. The Trap Pass
  107. The Change-Over Palm
  108. The Multiplying Ball Routine

    LESSON 19. THIMBLE MAGIC

  109. Silent and Talking Acts
  110. Quieting a Noisy Crowd
  111. The Thimble Thumb Palm
  112. Deliberate Vanish
  113. Thimble Routine

    LESSON 20. YOUR MAGICAL OUTFIT

  114. The Magician's Table
  115. The Black Art Table Top
  116. Servantes
  117. The Bottomless Glass
  118. The Mirror Glass
  119. Flying Silk
  120. Candy Production
  121. Wands
  122. Programs
  123. Stage Management

    PART 3

    HOW STAGE ILLUSIONS WORK

  124. The Floating Lady
  125. The Vanishing Performer
  126. The Trunk Trick
  127. The Mirror Principle
  128. Lost in the Crowd
  129. Bullet-Catching
  130. De Kolta's Cocoon
  131. The Oyster Shell
  132. De Biere's Costume Trunk
  133. The Goldfish Bowls
  134. The Rapping Hand
  135. The Talking Skull
  136. The Merry Widow
  137. The Spirit Cabinet
  138. The Milk Can Trick
  139. The Basket Trick
  140. The Sword Cabinet
  141. Sawing a Woman in Two

word count: 72806 which is equivalent to 291 standard pages of text

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Magic

Magic / [for Beginners]