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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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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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£6.48
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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
$22.00

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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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Thomas A. Sawyer

Angelo J. Lewis of the Chancery Bar by Thomas A. SawyerThis is the first digital-edition of Thomas A. Sawyer's Angelo J. Lewis of the Chancery Bar. The first printing was a softcover printed book, published in 2016. That printing consisted of fewer than 100 copies, so the book is not in wide circulation.

It is well known that Professor Hoffmann was a barrister, but details relating to his law practice are not generally known. This ebook delves into that topic and related topics. As Sawyer says in his Preface to the book:

"Angelo Lewis's specific activities as a barrister have received almost no recognition at all in magic histories. Typically writers do mention...
2019 / 11 / 6
$18.00

£14.58
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Hardin Jasper Burlingame

Herrmann the Magician by Hardin Jasper BurlingameFrom the preface:
Having devoted a number of years to the inventing, manufacturing and sale of many of the most popular magical apparatus made in this country, I now present to the reader, biographies of the two great conjurers known to the world under the names of Carl and Alexander Herrmann, both equally famous in their specialties. The main portion of the book is devoted to clear, compact and illustrated descriptions of the best tricks performed by the two Herrmanns, whom I unite under the appellation of Herrmann the Magician, and by other celebrated per formers, such as Cazeneuve, Kellar, Vanek,...
2019 / 10 / 13
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Thomas A. Sawyer

Victorian-Age Conjuring Books by Thomas A. Sawyer

A guide for collectors and bibliographers.

This is the first digital-edition of the third edition of Thomas A. Sawyer's Victorian-Age Conjuring Books: A Guide. The first printing of the third edition was a softcover printed book, published in late 2017. That printing consisted of less than 60 copies.

This edition is significantly longer (in terms of the number of words) than the second edition (which itself was longer than the first edition).

In preparing the third edition, Sawyer thoroughly overhauled the second edition (which appeared over 25 years ago), making additions and deletions....

2019 / 9 / 19
$28.00

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Thomas A. Sawyer

Rethinking S.W. Erdnase by Thomas A. SawyerThis is the first digital-edition of Thomas A. Sawyer's Rethinking S.W. Erdnase, which was first published in a small hardcover-edition (of about 105 copies) in late 2015.

The book has an in-depth discussion of different approaches that might be considered in attempting to figure out who S.W. Erdnase was. Many people probably tend to "shoot from the hip," and to use intuition and common sense. Those are not necessarily the best tools available.

Rethinking S.W. Erdnase includes a fair amount of information regarding Frederic J. Drake & Co., including images relating to the 1912 Drake catalog...

2019 / 9 / 12
$35.00

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₹2422.00
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Stephen Short

Johnny Hart: International Star of Magic by Stephen ShortThis is a wonderful opportunity to experience the life and times of one of the UK's major performance artistes, whose illustrious career started in the 1960's and spanned over 40 years. Not only does this ebook provide a carefully researched and fascinating look at Johnny himself, it also shines a light on the general showbiz scene of the same period, as Johnny rubbed shoulders with many of the greats from the entertainment and TV world.

The ebook runs to over 200 pages and is profusely illustrated with playbills and photographs that really help to conjure up a clear vision of showbiz in...

2019 / 7 / 11
$25.00

£20.26
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Hardin Jasper Burlingame

Around the world with a magician and a juggler by Hardin Jasper BurlingameWonderful biographical information about magician Baron Hartwig Seeman, and juggler William D'Alvini. Also includes a chapter on the German magician Bellachini and a fascinating chapter on the psychology of conjuring.
  • CHAPTER I. Introductory Remarks
  • CHAPTER II. Life Of Professor Seeman
  • CHAPTER III. Thrilling Experiences With Ole Bull
  • CHAPTER IV. A Visit To The Pyramids
  • CHAPTER V. The Czar Befriends The Magician
  • CHAPTER VI. To England, Africa And India
  • CHAPTER VII. Experiences With A Great Fakir
  • CHAPTER VIII. A Problem Solved
  • CHAPTER IX. Martin Luther's Wedding Ring
  • CHAPTER X. William...
2019 / 5 / 5
$7.00

£5.67
€6.33
C$9.72
AUD$10.28
₹484.40
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JP¥762.87
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