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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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Henry Ridgely Evans
Adventures in Magic by Henry Ridgely Evans

From 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,...
$10
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Henry Ridgely Evans
Cagliostro by Henry Ridgely Evans

Count 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 ...
$7
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Henry Ridgely Evans
Cagliostro and His Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry by Henry Ridgely Evans

Evans 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.
$5
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W. R. H. Trowbridge
Cagliostro: The Splendour and Misery of a Master of Magic by W. R. H. Trowbridge

This 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...
$10
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Ed. S. Taylor
The History of Playing Cards by Ed. S. Taylor

Includes 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...
★★★★ $10
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Henry Ridgely Evans
The Napoleon Myth by Henry Ridgely Evans

(We are carrying this ebook primarily because of the author, Henry Ridgeley Evans, who published several interesting books on conjuring.)

On its face the book is about the myth that Napoleon never existed. It was at one time a popular myth, hoax, or fake news as it would be called today. It also provides interesting lessons and insights on how myths can develop. Since there are a number of myths in the world of conjuring, this work can help one understand why and how some of the myths in magic may have developed.

  • Introduction
  • Grand Erratum. The Non-Existence of Napoleon Proved
  • The Mythical...
$5
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Thomas Carlyl
Count Cagliostro by Thomas Carlyl

This is Thomas Carlyle's long essay on Count Cagliostro, published in 1833 in Fraser's Magazine. He is examining the hero and his shadows - what was false about Cagliostro. Cagliostro was a Sicilian mountebank, whose lasting notoriety was a bit part in the Diamond Necklace Affair that rocked pre-Revolutionary France, and whose most enduring work was the confession extracted by the Roman Inquisition, a tome published in 1792, three years previous to Cagliostro's demise in an Inquisitional cell.

1st edition 1833, 61 pages; PDF 42 pages.

$5
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Harry P. Bowman
As Told On A Sunday Run by Harry P. Bowman

A collection of basic information about circuses small and big, their names and when they were in operation.

  • War Time Circus
  • Shows Harry Bowman was connected with
  • Famous Firsts in Circus History
  • Circus Wrecks and Accidents
  • Circuses and Tent Shows (in alphabetical order)

1st edition 1942, 31 pages; PDF 75 pages.

$10
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Barton Whaley & Martin Gardner & Jeff Busby
The Man Who Was Erdnase by Barton Whaley & Martin Gardner & Jeff Busby

This book won the SAM Special Library Award. It details Martin Gardner's, Jeff Busby's and Bart Whaley's search to uncover the person hiding behind the pseudonym S.W. Erdnase. It lays out in detail the case for Milton Franklin Andrews. It describes the life of Andrews, how he started with magic, and how he transitioned to become a cardshark, including his travels around the word hustling and cheating to make a living.

A detailed analysis of Erdnase's likely sources and inspirations, as well as other information about the book, its reprints, and other pertinent information will help every Erdnase researcher....

$45
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John King van Rensselaer
Prophetical, Educational and Playing Cards by John King van Rensselaer

This work explores the history, meaning, and uses of playing cards.

From the foreword:

If an apology is needed for writing again on the subject of playing cards, the excuse may be offered that new lights have been turned on the subject, so that there is fresh information to lay before the public, derived from a close and exhaustive study of the European libraries and museums, as well as of the pictures on the Playing Cards themselves or prints found in those repositories, and also in the collection owned by the writer; for these speak their histories to those who regard their symbols with...

★★★★★ $10
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Richard Hatch
Searching for Erdnase by Richard Hatch

This article succinctly critiques the Milton Franklin Andrews case, and introduces us to two at the time new suspects, James DeWitt Andrews and Edwin Sumner Andrews.

This article first appeared in the 1999 December issue of Magic Magazine, except for this release Richard Hatch added two pages introductory notes to better frame his article in the historical context of the hunt for Erdnase. The article is also essentially the talk Richard gave at the 1999 Los Angeles Conference on Magic History.

1st edition 1999 (intro 2021), PDF 16 pages.

$4.99
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Ken Brooke
It's Better Than Digging Roads by Ken Brooke

Ken Brooke was known throughout the world of magic. He was a magic dealer who achieved such a reputation for reliability and quality that there are thousands of magicians throughout the world, amateur, and professional who bought almost every trick he produced. Visitors from every country in the world made a beeline for his studio within minutes of arriving in London because just to visit Ken Brooke was an experience not to be missed. In partnership with Frank Farrow, he built the Ken Brooke Magic Place into a magical institution second to none. Considered by many to be the greatest magical...

$15
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J. F. Burrows
Programmes of Magicians by J. F. Burrows

Showing at a glance the tricks performed by all the leading conjurors, extending over a period of forty-two years, from 1864 to 1906.

  • Robert Heller
  • Warren Wright
  • Prof. Duval
  • Signor Bosco
  • Prof. Fuller
  • Mons. Kellar
  • Verbeck
  • Prof. and Maude Anderson
  • Prof. Anderson
  • Herr Frikell
  • Dr. Holden
  • Prof. Hoffmann
  • Bautier de Kolta
  • Prof. Devono
  • Herr Döbler
  • Hartz
  • Prof. Duprez
  • Dr. Lynn
  • Servais Le Roy
  • Hercat
  • J. N. Maskelyne
  • Harry Kellar
  • Imro Fox
  • Prof. Hulbert
  • David Devant
  • Prof. Weber
  • Prof. Geo. Davison
  • Charles Bertram
  • Dr. Nix
  • Prof. St. Clair
  • Chevalier Thorn
  • Fred Harcourt
  • Charles Karnak
  • De Biere the Mysterious
  • Paul Valadon
  • Charles Morritt
  • Melot Herman
  • Carl Hertz
  • Martin...
$10
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T. Hayes
The Reference Guide to Early Works on Card Cheating by T. Hayes

This ebook presents an analytical review of works on card cheating that are written in English and published before 1900. Given this scope, The Reference Guide to Early Works on Card Cheating takes 151 publications, and documents the card cheating techniques that they describe. Only card techniques discussed in the context of cheating at card games are considered. The 146 defined techniques are used to evaluate the publications based on their breadth and their contribution to the literature. The breadth is indicated by the absolute number of techniques each work describes, and the contribution...

$20
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Giovanni Iuliani
Freaks by Giovanni Iuliani

The renowned sideshow showman Ward Hall reminisced about the time Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Circus attracted a record-breaking crowd of over 20,000 people inside the sideshow. "The Greatest Show on Earth" was playing Montreal during the 1950s. However, over a decade later, Giovanni Iuliani surpassed this world-breaking record many times over.

200,000 ATTENDANCE RECORD!

In 1966, Giovanni Iuliani presented 5 major freak phenomena alive on a high elevated stage at two Montreal movie houses. These high attendance halls each featured on their giant screen the classic horror...

$10
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Stuart Cumberland
People I Have Read by Stuart Cumberland

Cumberland was a muscle reader who did not claim to possess any psychic abilities. In this work he recounts many such 'thought-reading' encounters with notable people.

From the introduction:

I have visited many courts and travelled in many lands and have, from time to time, been brought in close contact with the world’s rulers and those who have made their mark in the world’s history. With a great number of them I have performed actual experiments, whilst others I have read without the direct application of any experiments at all.

Upon the correctness of my reading in connection...

$8
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Stuart Cumberland
That Other World by Stuart Cumberland

A witty memoir-like debunking of all things paranormal.

Stuart Cumberland describes the fascination of European kings and queens with the occult. He gives a detailed analysis of how Rasputin participated in the fall of the Romanovs. He thoroughly skewers the German government of Wilhelm II. He describes the fake spirit photography, the false claims of clairvoyants, how folks fall for physical manifestations of the spirits such as table rappings. Overall a fun read and expose of human gullibility.

  • Chapter I: By Way Of Introduction
  • Chapter II: Monarchs And Mystics
  • Chapter III: Concerning...
$8
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Giovanni Iuliani
Archives of Human Prodigies 1 by Giovanni Iuliani

There once was a dream world that travelled at night on a train full of possibilities. This was the Golden Age of the circus (1880-1930s). Aboard this magical train, you would find circus performers, a menagerie of exotic animals and those known as "freaks".

Also called human prodigies, the "freaks" were born with special physicalities. Among these were giants, midgets, siamese-twins, etc. All were gathered inside a giant tent known as the sideshow (or annex attraction).

Get ready to see many astonishing if not shocking pictures. The Archives of Human Prodigies is published in three...

$12
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Giovanni Iuliani
Archives of Human Prodigies 2 by Giovanni Iuliani

Freaks, strange people, monsters, and even prodigies are some of the words used to describe the human beings that you will find in this ebook. While we realize that today many of these words might be considered "politically incorrect" we have taken the liberty of using these terms insofar as to better communicate the mindset of the sideshow people of that era. No disrespect is intended.

At the time, sideshows went by many different names, among these: dime museums of one kind or another and tent attractions, fronted by huge banners, depicting very unusual people and or animals. Curiosities...

$12
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Giovanni Iuliani
Archives of Human Prodigies 3 by Giovanni Iuliani

More unusual people including super fat, slim, tall, small, and many other freaks of nature. Learn about giants such as Chang Yu Sang, Edward Beaupré, Allen E. Tilden, Conrad Furrows, Bimbo, Sgt. Emmet M. Stephens, Capt. George Dowling or John Aasen. Or perhaps you are more interested in midgets such as Lynn Major White, Lia Graf, Tom Thumb, Major Rhinehart, Doletta Boykins, and Major Mite. Many more identified and unidentified prodigies are documented.

1st edition 2013, 62 pages.

$12
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Wolfgang Riebe
Smoke, Mirrors, Braavileis and Sauerkraut by Wolfgang Riebe

A 'magical' autobiography and an inspirational book.

  • 1+ million people have seen him live in 165+ countries
  • 15+ million views on YouTube with over 1000+ videos
  • 180+ TV shows and multiple prime time TV series
  • thousands of global online students
  • 40+ Books and best-selling author
  • TedX Speaker
  • Known as the German with a South African accent

Can you believe it! A non-US, UK, or Europe magician that achieved fame and fortune, traveled the world, became a TV star in his own country, and achieved all his dreams! A magical inspirational real-life story like never before. Magician, Professional...

$12
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S. W. Erdnase
Article Series: Estimating for Printers by S. W. Erdnase

This series of 14 articles was written by Edward Gallaway, aka S. W. Erdnase. It is a compact but thorough introduction to estimating for printers. For many years, Gallaway taught estimating to printers at the then largest privately held printing company, R. R. Donnelley. He was an instructor in their apprentice school and was at the same time the chief estimator of the company. He would later found his own School for Print Estimating in Chicago, the only such school solely dedicated to teaching this subject. He wrote the textbook for his school Estimating for Printers as well as other works...

$10
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David Alexander & Richard Kyle
The Magician as Detective by David Alexander & Richard KyleThis product consists of an ebook with two parts and a video. The first part of the ebook is a reproduction of David Alexander's article from the Genii January 2000 issue where he introduced his candidate for Erdnase, Wilbur E. Sanders. The second part is an unpublished booklet titled The S.W. Erdnase Report by Richard Kyle which includes a narrative and several letters to David.

David Alexander and Richard Kyle would speak for hours on the phone exchanging their thoughts, their insights, and their discoveries regarding Erdnase. Richard Kyle would often write a letter to David afterward to memorialize...

$29.50
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Chris Wasshuber
Invisibility Rays by Chris Wasshuber

This is the story of an Austrian inventor, his patent, and his appliance to make objects and people invisible on demand.

In the 1930s the Austrian press was excited about the invention of "invisibility rays" by an Austrian inventor. The invention was licensed by the company Semperit (the largest car and bicycle tire manufacturer in Austria) and exhibited at a trade show where it became a sensation and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors. During that trade show, the inventor made for the first time also people invisible. He applied and received a patent in Great Britain for his...

$19.50
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