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Biographies & History

Magic has a rich and long history. You will read fascinating stories about Houdini, Robert-Houdin and their predecessors, or about long forgotten inventors of today's popular tricks. Maybe you have seen the movie "The Illusionist" or "The Prestige" and want to find out more about magic and some of the tricks from the movies. Here is a great place to start to wet your appetite and then later you can dive into the methods and how to ebooks.

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Ed. S. Taylor

The History of Playing Cards by Ed. S. TaylorIncludes chapters on conjuring, fortune-telling and card-sharping.
  • Preface
  • Part The First. The History Of Cards
    • I. Introduction
    • II. Oriental Origin Of Cards
    • III. Introduction Of Cards Into Southern Europe
    • IV. Date Of Introduction Of Cards
    • V. Introduction Of Cards Into France
    • VI. The Cards Of Charles VI
    • VII. Invention Of The French Cards And Game Of Piquet
    • VIII. Cards In England
    • IX. History Of Tarots, As Told By Themselves
    • X. Modern History Of French And English Cards
    • XI. The Application Of Cards To Science
    • XII. Card Miscellanies
  • Part The Second. Card Playing And Card Players...
2020 / 9 / 3
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W. R. H. Trowbridge

Cagliostro: The Splendour and Misery of a Master of Magic by W. R. H. TrowbridgeThis is a very good book on Cagliostro, because Trowbridge does not simply parrot the opinion of other authors who wrote about Cagliostro, but he did his own research and came to his own conclusions. One can certainly argue about some of Trowbridge's conclusions, but overall this is a very thorough and detailed description and analysis of Cagliostro's life.
  • Preface
  • Bibliography
  • Part I
    • Chapter I: The Power Of Prejudice
    • Chapter II: Giuseppe Balsamo
  • Part II
    • Chapter I: Cagliostro In London
    • Chapter II: Eighteenth Century Occultism
    • Chapter III: Masked And Unmasked
    • Chapter IV: The...
2020 / 8 / 16
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Henry Ridgely Evans

Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry by Henry Ridgely EvansEvans raises the possibility that Cagliostro's real name might not have been Giuseppe Balsamo, as well as describes his Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry.
  • Introduction
  • PART I.—A Master Of Magic
  • PART II.—The Egyptian Rite
  • PART III.—A Visit To The House Of Cagliostro
  • PART IV.—Reception Of An Apprentice In An Egyptian Lodge
1st edition 1919, 26 pages; PDF 37 pages.
2020 / 8 / 5
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Henry Ridgely Evans

Cagliostro by Henry Ridgely EvansCount Alessandro di Cagliostro, by real name Giuseppe Balsamo, was an Italian occultist, mentalist and magician, who managed to achieve entry into the royal courts of Europe where he practiced various occult arts, mentalism, magic, alchemy, etc. His fame continued beyond his death, but eventually he was labeled a charlatan. Regardless of how one wants to portrait Cagliostro, there is a lot magicians and mentalists can learn from him and his exploits.
  • Proem
  • I. A Master of Magic
  • II. The Conjurer and the Cardinal
  • III. The Affair of the Diamond Necklace
  • IV. The Downfall of the Grand Cophta ...
2020 / 7 / 25
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Henry Ridgely Evans

Adventures in Magic by Henry Ridgely EvansFrom the Foreword:
Some years ago I went to see a performance by the late Imro Fox, a clever conjurer, that pleased me very much. The curtain rose on a gloomy cavern, in the middle of which stood a smoking caldron, fed by witches à la Macbeth. An aged necromancer, habited in a long robe covered with cabalistic characters, entered. He went through certain incantations, whereupon hosts of demons appeared and danced a weird ceremonial dance about the caldron. Suddenly, amid a crash of thunder and a blinding flash of lightning, the wizard’s cave was metamorphosed into a twentieth century drawing-room,...
2020 / 7 / 12
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Henry Ridgely Evans

Some Rare Old Books on Conjuring and Magic by Henry Ridgely EvansFrom the introduction:
Magic has been divided into (1) White Magic, or the evocation of angels and beneficent powers; (2) Black Magic, or the summoning of demons; and (3) Natural Magic, or feats performed by dexterity and mechanical appliances, etc. Although believing implicitly in white magic and black magic, the medicine men, spirit doctors, and hierophants of olden times did not disdain to use natural means also to overawe and surprise their votaries.

...

With the passing of so-called genuine magic or sorcery we see the rise of natural magic and conjuring. In the Middle Ages conjurers...

2020 / 7 / 12
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Arthur Watson

Conjurers by Arthur WatsonA very interesting article about early conjuring, conjurers, books and manuscripts. Includes detailed research on how the term 'hocus pocus' came about.
Up to about the end of the sixteenth century, the wonderful was by preference regarded as magical—as the work of supernatural powers, good or bad, but mostly bad. A puzzling phenomenon, the explanation of which was not obvious, was generally regarded as due to the invocation of powers above the natural. Many of the feats ascribed to demoniacal or divine aid are such as we know to be similar to the tricks included in the conjurer’s repertory....
2020 / 6 / 28
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Henry Ridgely Evans

History of Conjuring and Magic by Henry Ridgely EvansHenry Ridgely Evans provides an account of the history of conjuring, from ancient Egypt through the Middle Ages and into the 20th century. He develops biographical portraits of many well-known magicians and includes descriptions of their acts. Perhaps the most unusual feature of the work is that at the very end he includes photos of the hands of many famous magicians.

From the Proem:

With the passing of so-called genuine magic or sorcery we see the rise of natural magic and conjuring. In the Middle Ages conjurers were mere strolling mountebanks who exhibited their feats at fairs, in barns,...
2020 / 6 / 13
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Thomas Frost

The Lives of the Conjurors by Thomas FrostThis is considered one of the best early histories of magic.

From the Preface:

The present volume closes the series of works on the entertaining classes which I contemplated when writing Circus Life and Circus Celebrities, the greater part of which was written before The Old Showmen and the Old London Fairs was commenced, though the publication of the latter work preceded that of the former. In embracing within the present volume the lives of the conjurors of every period and every country, while the record of shows and showmen is confined to London and the suburban districts, (which may now be said to embrace a circle of twenty miles across,) and that of circuses...
2020 / 5 / 19
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Patrick Davison

Born on the Highwire: The Autobiography of Arthur Duchek by Patrick DavisonArthur Duchek, born (almost literally on the highwire rigging of his parents' circus act) into a European circus dynasty in 1930, grew up to be a world-famous circus and variety artist and international entertainment agent.

He survived a devastating accident on the circus lot as a 4-year old child, an accident that left him with a speech impediment. His will power and determination, along with the help of an eccentric Parisian speech therapist, helped him overcome this obstacle. After joining his uncles with the circus in America, Arthur experienced unbelievable abuse at their hands.

You...

2020 / 5 / 2
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Thomas Frost

The Old Showmen and Old London Fairs by Thomas FrostA detailed chronology of places, dates and performers of fairs in and around London. We learn mostly of theatrical productions of various kinds including pantomime and dances, and menageries exhibiting exotic animals, and less so of tumbling and acrobats, juggling, balancing and the like. It includes some coverage of conjurers including Fawkes, Pinchbeck, Breslaw and others. There is some overlap of stories from Circus Life and Circus Celebrities because some performers and operators were active in both venues.
  • PREFACE
  • CHAPTER I: Origin of Fairs - Charter Fairs at Winchester and Chester - Croydon Fairs - Fairs in the Metropolis...
2020 / 4 / 19
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Thomas Frost

Circus Life and Circus Celebrities by Thomas FrostA history of the circus in Britain during the 19th century. One chapter deals with America, another with circus slang. Perhaps most interesting are the recollections of a gymnast and how he made it into the circus.

From the Preface:

But of the circus artistes - the riders, the clowns, the acrobats, the gymnasts, - what do we know? How many are there, unconnected with the sawdust, who can say that they have known a member of that strange race? Charles Dickens, who was perhaps as well acquainted with the physiology of the less known sections of society as any man of his day, whetted public...
2020 / 4 / 14
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Charles Bertram

A Magician in Many Lands by Charles BertramThis is a fascinating travel log, including a good number of photos, by an accomplished magician circling the globe including visits to India, China, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Unites States, Canada and other places. He devotes three fascinating chapters to the tricks of the Indian conjurers, but does not tell us a lot about his own performances during his voyage.

From the introduction by Professor Hoffmann:

A book of travel, written by a keen observer, is always interesting. Charles Bertram was not only a keen observer, but enjoyed opportunities of observation denied to ninety-nine travellers out of...
2020 / 4 / 3
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Charles Bertram

Isn't It Wonderful? by Charles BertramA history of magic interwoven with Charles Bertram's recollections.

From the introduction:

The profession of conjuring, if not the most ancient, is certainly one of the oldest professions in the world, and, before commencing my account of the efforts made by a humble professor of the art, I trust that the reader may be interested by a short sketch of its history. Without this, it is possible that he might receive a book relating to the conjurer's art with a shrug of the shoulders. But conjuring, if it has now drifted down to the level of mere entertainment, has played its part in the history...
2020 / 4 / 3
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David Devant

My Magic Life by David DevantThis is David Devant's autobiography. On top of his personal recollections he included three chapters on how to perform magic, and six chapters on the history of magic.
  • Publisher's Note
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Pictures Of My Early Life
  • CHAPTER I. My Introduction To Magic
  • CHAPTER II The Hot Pudding And The Vanishing Lady
  • CHAPTER III Mixing Magic With Midgets
  • CHAPTER IV My Attack On London
  • CHAPTER V I Appear With Maskelyne
  • CHAPTER VI The First Animated Pictures
  • CHAPTER VII Magical Sketches
  • CHAPTER VIII A Feast Of Magic
  • CHAPTER IX Magic And The Public
  • CHAPTER X Secrets Of Magic ...
2020 / 2 / 28
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Harry Houdini

Houdini Souvenir Program by Harry HoudiniDuring the 1925-26 season this program was sold at Houdini's shows in the lobby of theaters.
  • Houdini - A Biography
  • Some of the Wonderful Feats Accomplished by Houdini
  • Houdini's Greatest Thrill
  • Magical Tricks and Illusions
    • The Vanishing Matches
    • The Mysterious Thumb Tie
    • The Vest Turning Mystery
    • The Spirit Release
    • The Spirit Knots
    • The Vanishing Knot
    • Surgery Extraordinary
    • The Restored Tooth-pick
    • Black or Red
    • A Good Coin Trick
    • The Sphinx
    • The Thauma Illusion
    • The Magic Butterflies
    • The Rope Amputation
    • A Subtle Dime Vanish
  • A Few Personal Facts
  • Houdini Reveals He "Reads" Minds ...
2020 / 2 / 3
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Mark Lewis

Lives of a Showman by Mark Lewis
"Mark is one of the truly interesting characters in the world of showbusiness. He has a brilliant yet wicked sense of humour, and is often misunderstood by his peers. As someone who has known him for much of his life, I consider him to be a man of incredible talent as both a performer and grafter [demonstrator]. He is extremely resourceful, and is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to magic and other branches of entertainment. His life is truly one of mystery and intrigue, and he is a wonderful raconteur as will be seen in the pages of this masterpiece. I would consider Mark to be a true showman, and...
2020 / 1 / 28
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Al Mann

To the Sea in Ships by Al Mann

Biography of Captain Gilbert S. Aleman's, a.k.a. Al Mann, early part of his life.

You may know Al Mann only as magician and mentalist. He was also a master mariner, a captain in the merchant marines, who spent years on the sea. This is an autobiographical account of his life before he became a mentalist. There is some mention of gambling, John Scarne, and how Al Mann got into magic, which may be of particular interest to magicians.

  • Chapter I First Impressions
  • Chapter II Rumors of War
  • Chapter III The School
  • Chapter IV Of Pins and Heroes
  • Chapter V Through the Golden Gate
  • Chapter VI Passage To...
2019 / 12 / 30
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Topper Martyn

Topper Martyn Interview: all 4 parts by Topper MartynMartin Breese recorded this interview on September 16th 1977, but never released it. He passed on the reels to me with the instruction to release them whenever I wish. Topper Martyn was an extraordinary showman, magician, juggler and musician. Learn about his life and the lessons he learned.
2019 / 11 / 18
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Thomas A. Sawyer

Professor Hoffmann and his Conjuring Serials of 1872-1888 by Thomas A. SawyerThis is the first digital-edition of Thomas A. Sawyer's Professor Hoffmann and His Conjuring Serials of 1872-1888. The first printing was a softcover printed book, published in late 2016. That printing consisted of less than 60 copies, so the book is not in wide circulation, and in fact even its existence is not well known.

What is there about the contents of the book that could make it well worthwhile?

Chapter 1 is called "Angelo Lewis in Perspective." That chapter is an overview of Professor Hoffmann. It alludes to several of Hoffmann's books, inside and outside of magic, that can be considered classics. ...

2019 / 11 / 8
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