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Published 1800-1899 in Magic & Conjuring

The magic textbook that was primarily written for the adult magician started in the US with August Roterberg in the late 19th century. Before that magic books were either written primarily for a juvenile audience or were of expository nature where the intent was mainly to reveal rather than to teach.

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Frank Bellew
The Art of Amusing by Frank Bellew

A collection of graceful arts, merry games, and odd tricks, intended to amuse everybody and enable all to amuse everybody else. Full of suggestions for private theatricals, tableaux, charades, and all sorts of parlor and family amusements. With nearly 150 illustrative pictures.

In the days without the Internet, TV, or even radio, people entertained themselves. This book covers all kinds of things one can do from arts and crafts, little plays, simple conjuring tricks, and other activities.

1st edition 1866, 302 pages; PDF 157 pages.

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Paul Preston
The Fireside Magician by Paul Preston

Familiar and scientific explanation of legerdemain, physical amusement, recreative chemistry, diversions with cards, and of all the minor mysteries of mechanical magic, with feats. As performed in public by Herr Alexander, Robert Houdin, "The Wizard of the North," and distinguished conjurors of all ages and nations.

    • SECTION FIRST. Arithmetical ingenuities.
      • I. How to divine the numbers remaining in a sum which some person has thought of.
      • II. How To Find 6 Times 13 In 12
      • III. A comic dilemma.
      • IV....
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Edward Peron Hingston
The Genial Showman by Edward Peron Hingston

Reminiscences of the life of humorist Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne) and pictures of a showman's career in the Western world.

A wonderful account of show business by the example of the humorist Artemus Ward during the 19th century. In particular, it describes how performers had to travel through the US during the 1860s, how they had to advertise and promote their shows, including the characters they encountered and the situations they had to master.

For conjurers most interesting is chapter 25: Spiritualism And Conjuring. This tells of how Hingston and Browne helped a conjurer by...

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Signor Blitz
Fifty Years in the Magic Circle by Signor Blitz

An account of the author's professional life; his wonderful tricks and feats; with laughable incidents, and adventures as a magician, necromancer, and ventriloquist.

Excerpt from the Preface:

In presenting my Autobiography, I am fully aware of the grave responsibility I assume, and equally so of the presumption of a person describing, in a measure, his own character;—yet it is essentially better to relate one’s adventures himself, than to entrust them to the dictation of others. The reminiscences of my life may not be entitled to any special merit, beyond the amusement they may afford...

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Wiljalba Frikell
The Parlor Magician by Wiljalba Frikell

100 tricks for the drawing room.

Containing an extensive and miscellaneous collection of conjuring and legerdemain; sleights with dice, dominoes, cards, ribbons, rings, fruit, coins, balls, handkerchiefs, etc. All of which may be performed in the parlor or drawing room. Without the aid of any apparatus; also embracing a choice variety of curious deceptions which may be performed with the aid of simple apparatus.

    • Preliminary Observation
    • Palming Coin
    • The Magic Coin
    • To Untie a...
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The Champion Pig of England by unknown

This is a lovely old-school children's story about a pig named Grunter Growler, his life on a farm, his animal as well as human friends, and his success winning 1st prize as the most beautiful pig in the country.

The interesting part for conjurers is that Grunter meets Toby the Learned Pig which includes a description of a typical performance of Toby. Those who study and research learned pigs might find it interesting. All learned pigs in England were named Toby. It is therefore not clear which Toby was the model for this description.

  • Preface
  • Chapter I. Introductory
  • Chapter II. Our...
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John Henry Pepper
The True History of Pepper's Ghost by John Henry Pepper

John Henry Pepper took a projection invention of Henry Dircks, called The Ghost, with his permission, and made it practical so that it could more easily be performed. He earned a lot of money staging it. Even though Dircks did not want any payments from Pepper, there was a falling out between the two because the invention became known as Pepper's Ghost. Dircks wanted to have his name associated with it. This prompted Dircks to write The Ghost. Pepper's answer to that publication and dispute came almost 30 years later in this work The True History of the Ghost.

He also includes the history and working of Metempsychosis...

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Henry Dircks
The Ghost by Henry Dircks

As produced in the spectre drama, popularly illustrating the marvellous optical illusions obtained by the apparatus called the Dircksian Phantasmagoria being a full account of its history, construction, and various adaptations.

Henry Dircks was the first who came up with the stage illusions that later became known as Pepper's Ghost. He had an arrangement with Pepper, they took out a patent in both their names, and Dircks did not want any monetary remuneration for it. John Henry Pepper improved the configuration to make it more practical and successfully staged it earning quite a lot of money with it. However,...

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Lulu Hurst
Lulu Hurst Writes Her Autobiography by Lulu Hurst

For the first time explains and demonstrates the great secret of her marvelous power.

In this autobiography, Lulu Hurst tells her rise to fame and fortune by performing acts of incredible strength on stage. She does this with personal recollections as well as quoting from various newspaper reports. At the time she performed many attributed her strength to some as of yet unknown or unexplainable force. But she had no unusual strength or the aid of any special force. She cleverly used mechanical principles as well as showmanship to make it appear she had super-human strength. In the second...

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Albert Deane Richardson
Beyond the Mississippi by Albert Deane Richardson

Life and adventure on the prairies, mountains, and Pacific coast.

Beyond the Mississippi is a travel log of Albert Richardson from a few years before and after the American Civil War. As the title suggests, he traveled west of the Mississippi through states and territories such as Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Iowa, Oregon, California, Nevada, etc. He describes nature, people, politics, and commerce. It includes exciting adventures as well as fairly dry facts such as how many bushels of grain a particular area produces. Overall it is quite readable and the...

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Edward Barton-Wright
How to Pose as a Strong Man by Edward Barton-Wright

Barton-Wright, one of the first Europeans to study Japanese martial arts, explains eleven pseudo-strength tricks in words and photos. Forty years before this publication Lulu Hurst created a sensation demonstrating similar stunts as manifestations of 'unexplainable forces'.

The tricks explained in this article are:

  1. How to Master a Man with Two Fingers
  2. How to Hold a Chair in the Palms of your Hands, and to Defy Anyone to Pull it through your Hands
  3. How to Lift from the Ground a Chair in which a Person is Seated
  4. How to Lift a Chair with Four Men Packed upon it
  5. How to Defy Anyone Standing in Front...
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Popular Mechanics
Two Pounds Less Than An Elephant by Popular Mechanics

A nicely illustrated article explaining some of the popular pseudo-strength demonstrations made popular for example by Lulu Hurst and others.

200 years ago demonstrations of this kind created a sensation. Nobody could explain them. Many believed these were manifestations of some yet unexplained force. Today they are relegated to party stunts. Nevertheless, some are quite surprising demonstrations you can try out in your living room.

1st edition 1928, PDF 6 pages.

★★★★★ $4
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Professor Hoffmann
Baccarat Fair and Foul by Professor Hoffmann

Being an explanation of the game, and a warning against its dangers.

Excerpt from the preface:

A good deal of public curiosity has been of late aroused respecting the game of Baccarat. The present work is designed, in the first place, to satisfy such curiosity by giving an explanation of the game and a statement of its laws. But it has also a second object. There is perhaps no game which so lends itself to the arts of the card-sharper as Baccarat, and if it be true that "in vain the net is spread in sight of any bird," an exposition of the frauds to which the honest player is liable should...

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Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin & Professor Hoffmann
Card Sharping Exposed by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin & Professor Hoffmann

A translation of Les Trickeries des Grecs by M. Robert-Houdin, one of the most valuable and interesting works on the subject of card sharping.

Excerpt from the preface:

Meanwhile, the march of science has continued, and the arts of deception, like other arts, have received many new developments. There are fashions in fraud, as in more innocent matters. I have endeavoured in the present pages not only to offer a faithful translation of Robert-Houdin's text, but by the aid of notes to bring down his work, so to speak, to present date. In so doing I have to acknowledge special obligation...

★★★★★ $12
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Games of Skill and Conjuring by unknown

Instructions for games, magic tricks, model building, giving shows, and more.

  • Games Of Skill
    • Draughts
      • Laws Of The Game
      • Games For Practice
      • Concluding Observations
    • Dominoes
    • Chess
      • The Chess-Board And Chessmen
      • Value And Moves Of The Pieces
      • Laws Of Chess
      • Technical Terms Used In Chess
      • Opening The Game
      • Games For Practice
      • General Observations
      • Conclusion
    • Morrice
    • Fox And Geese
  • Conjuring
    • Legerdemain And Simple Deceptions
    • To Lift A Bottle With A Straw
    • The Tobacco Pipe Jug Stand
    • To Break A Stick Placed On Two Glasses
    • The Bottle Conjuror
    • The Mysterious Wafers
    • Advantageous...
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Jonathan H. Green
Gambling in its Infancy and Progress by Jonathan H. Green

A dissuasive to the young against games of chance.

  • DIALOGUE I. On Playing Pins.
  • DIALOGUE II. On Playing Marbles.
  • DIALOGUE III. On Pitching Coppers.
  • DIALOGUE IV. On Matching And Tossing Coppers, Throwing Heads And Tails, &c.
  • DIALOGUE V. On Sabbath Breaking - Telling Lies - Disobedience To Parents, &c.
  • DIALOGUE VI. On The Use Of Tobacco.
  • DIALOGUE VII. On Playing Various Games.
  • DIALOGUE VIII. On Gamblers, Lotteries, &c.
  • Death Of A Boy On A Race Course.
  • Social Card-Parties.
  • The Gambler's Victim.
  • The Ruined Family; Or, A Warning To Those Who Play For Amusement.
  • The Charm Of Gambling. ...
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Judge Publishing Co.
Judge's Library No. 79 by Judge Publishing Co.

Judge's Library was a satirical periodical published in the USA from 1881 to 1947. It was a rival magazine to Puck founded among others by cartoonist James Albert Wales, dime novels publisher Frank Tousey and author George H. Jessop.

This issue No. 79 of Judge is all about poker. It provides a wonderful glimpse into how ubiquitous poker was in the US that such a successful periodical would dedicate an entire issue to it.

Also noteworthy, particularly for Erdnase scholars, is the fact that pretty much all the funny dialogs in this issue are in various national slang and ebonic. Thus the few lines...

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Douglas William Jerrold
The Hand-Book of Swindling by Douglas William Jerrold

A humoristic manual about swindling, how to become a successful swindler, as well as why it is such a good thing - featuring the late captain Barabbas Whitefeather.

  • Preface Of The Editor
  • Chapter I. The Reader Is Introduced To Captain Whitefeather's Relations.
  • Chapter II. Captain Whitefeather Takes An Enlarged View Of Swindling - Social Evils And Their Remedy.
  • Chapter III. Of The Face Necessary To A Swindler - (An Incidental Speculation On The "Division Of Property") - And Of The Use And Abuse Of Mustachios.
  • Chapter IV. Of The Parentage And Name Of A Swindler - Of His Equipage - Of His...
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A. Anderson
How To Do Chemical Tricks by A. Anderson

Containing over one hundred highly amusing and instructive tricks with chemicals.

  • Chemical Affinity
  • Sympathetic Inks
  • Alum Baskets
  • Easy Crystallizations
  • To Make a piece of Charcoal appear as though it were Coated with Gold
  • To Give a Piece of Charcoal a Rich Coat of Silver
  • Combustion
  • Chemistry of The Air
  • Amateur Air Pump
  • Asphyxia
  • Balloon in Vacuum
  • Boiling Cold Water
  • A Sucking Tube
  • Cupping
  • The Barometer
  • A Novel Barometer
  • Compressed Air
  • Noiseless Bell
  • The Bursting Bladder
  • Weight of the Air
  • Spoons which will Melt in Hot Water
  • Effect of Compression
  • To Cover Iron with Copper ...
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Scientific Mysteries by unknown

A collection of simple and effective experiments illustrating chemical, physical, and optical wonders.

Published by the Offices of the Chemist and Druggist. 42 Cannon Street, London.

    • 'The Four Elements'
    • Collecting Gases
    • Oxygen
    • Nitrogen
    • Hydrogen
    • Experiments With Hydrogen
    • Composition Of Water
    • Making Gas From A Bottle
    • A Model Gas Manufactory
    • Inextinguishable Flame
    • Gas Balloons
    • Musical Flame
    • Musical Tubes
    • Carbonic Acid Gas
    • Carbonic Acid Gas From The Lungs
    • Combustion And Respiration
    • Decantation Of Gases
    • Weighing...
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A. Anderson
How to do Sleight of Hand by A. Anderson

Containing over fifty of the latest and best tricks used by magicians. Also containing the secret of Second Sight.

Excerpt from the introduction:

In Egypt, Greece and Rome, sleight of hand, accompanied by the supposed answers of the gods produced by ventriloquism, enabled the priest to keep the ignorant nations in subjection to their will. In the Middle Ages, too, a great deal of what happened under the influence of Black Magic was simply the cunning of professors of sleight of hand, sometimes mixed up with a few chemical tricks.


One thing the young conjurer must remember, and...

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Alfred Trumble
Faro Exposed by Alfred Trumble

At one point it was believed that only one copy of this book existed. This and other myths are addressed in the introduction by Frank Lehmann, who has studied this book in detail.

The book exposes various ways in which the game of Faro was crooked. It was a very popular betting game in the United States and usually was rigged in one way or another. It was published by Richard K. Fox, the proprietor of the Police Gazette.

  • Introduction
  • Part I
    1. The Game Of Faro
    2. The Cards In Faro
    3. Dealing The Cards
    4. Keeping The Game
    5. Technical Terms Used In Faro
    6. Laws Of The Game
    7. The Chances Of The...
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Card and Conjuring Tricks and Book of Riddles by unknown
    • The Certain Guesser
    • The Disappearing coin
    • Money Makes Money
    • A Good Variation
    • The Magic Coin Box
    • Catching the Falling Pile
    • The Flexible Watch
    • Coin and Bottle Trick
    • Needle Dart
    • The Magic Double Ring
    • The Magic Ribbon
    • The Burnt Handkerchief
    • The Vanishing Ball
    • The Wand and Ring Trick
    • Swallowing the Knife
    • The Vanishing Coin
    • Telling a Selected Card
    • A Wonderful Discovery
    • The Twenty-one Card Trick
    • Naming all the Cards in the Pack
    • Forcing the Choice
    • The Chosen Card
    • Divination
    • Further Divination
    • The Seven Heap
    • Spelling the Cards
    • Changing...
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The New Conjuror's Museum and Magical Magazine by unknown

For magicians most interesting is a section with arithmetic tricks and another with legerdemain featuring effects such as letting a pen-knife jump out of a goblet, some card tricks, coin tricks, and chemical tricks.

  • Of Astrological Influence
  • Lives Of The Most Eminent Magicians, Astrologers, Conjurers, &c.
  • On The Interpretation Of Dreams
  • Apparitions, Witchcraft, &c.
  • Philolosphical And Ingenious Amusements
    • A person having fixed on a number in his mind, to tell him what number it is
    • Another method of discovering a number thought on
    • A quantity of eggs being broken, to find how many there...
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Mason Long
The Life of Mason Long the Converted Gambler by Mason Long

Being a record of his experience as a white slave; a soldier in the Union Army; a professional gambler; a patron of the turf; a variety theater and minstrel manager; and, finally, a convert to the Murphy Cause, and to the Gospel of Christ.

This book is an illustration of this paragraph by S.W. Erdnase:

Hazard at play carries sensations that once enjoyed are rarely forgotten. The winnings are known as "pretty money," and it is generally spent as freely as water. The average professional who is successful at his own game will, with the sublimest unconcern, stake his money on that of another's, though...

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David Prince Miller
The Life of a Showman by David Prince Miller

This is a wonderful account of a traveling showman's trials and tribulations in England and Scotland during the middle of the 19th century. Among other things, he was a conjurer. While this is not a book of tricks, one coin trick is explained as part of one story of his life. But much more interesting are the descriptions of various scams and the modus operandi of various ways to defraud the public by traveling hucksters the author encountered. The operation of the thimble rig is explained in detail. It is an account of how traveling showmen struggled essentially their entire life to make...

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Collin MacKenzie
Jack Pots by Collin MacKenzie

For anybody interested in Erdnase, this poker story compilation should be of interest because many poker stories are from Chicago. It was published in 1887 which means it likely overlaps somewhat with the active time of Erdnase. We are not saying you will find a story featuring Erdnase. But such poker stories, even if they are often exaggerated or purely fictional, do provide one with some sense of the times of Erdnase.

In particular, it is educational to compare the stories with the ones from Eugene Edwards' Jack Pots. There isn't any significant overlap, however one aspect is noticeably different. Eugene...

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John W. Keller
The Game of Draw Poker by John W. Keller

A fairly detailed work on the rules and variations of draw poker. Also includes some advice on how to play the game successfully. This work includes Robert C. Schenck's rules for draw poker.

    • Introduction
    • The Element of Chance
    • The Question of Stakes
    • Technical Terms
    • The Order of Hands
    • The Straight
    • The Blaze
    • Rules of Draw Poker
    • The Limit
    • The Ante
    • The Straddle
    • The Deal
    • Betting Before the Draw
    • Discard and Draw
    • Betting After the Draw
    • Jack Pots
    • Incidental Jack Pots
    • The "Buck"
    • Progressive Jack Pots
    • Freeze Out
  • CHAPTER...
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Robert C. Schenck
Draw: rules for playing poker by Robert C. Schenck

While Robert Schenck served as ambassador in the UK, he was persuaded to write down his rules for poker by a duchess. This was the first publication to deal solely with draw poker.

1st edition 1880, PDF 6 pages.

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Jonathan H. Green
Gambling Exposed by Jonathan H. Green

Full exposition of all the various arts, mysteries, and miseries of gambling.

It is a complete exposure, of the different and various ways of deception and cheating in all the numerous games played, such as Faro, Two, Three, and Four-Handed Poker, Shuffling Cards, Roulette and Rolling Faro, Vingt-Un, Brag, Euchre, Game of Boston, All Fours, Cribbage, Whist, Dice, Stealing out Cards, Palming, Playing by Signs, Marking Cards, Backgammon, Solitaire, Playing Three against One, Spring Tables, Spring Boxes, Pulleys, Ingenuity of Gamblers, Card Manufactories, Lotteries, then modes of drawing and...

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Jonathan H. Green
Games and Tricks with Cards by Jonathan H. Green

You will find here card tricks, cheating exposes, card games, and gambling stories.

A later expanded version of this book was published under the title Gamblers' Tricks With Cards Exposed and Explained.

  • Chapter I
    • Invention Of Cards
    • Mysterious Trick Of Thirty Six Cards; Telling The Card You Look At Without Seeing The Pack.
    • To Tell A Card Thought Of
    • Three Jacks As Thieves, Caught By A King As A Policeman
    • To Burn A Card And Fin'd It In A Watch
    • How To Shift Cards
    • The Four Associates
    • To Make A Card Jump Out Of The Pack
    • How To Change Cards To Pictures
  • Chapter II
    • All Fours
    • Deceptions Used In The Game Of All Fours
    • How To...
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The Magic Oracle or Conjuror's Guide by unknown

This work reveals a mix of card tricks and other small magic effects, science tricks, and in particular chemical stunts and experiments. It also covers the making of fireworks in some depth including how to make an artificial volcano.

Interesting was that even in 1850 it was clear that experimenting with mercury (quicksilver) was risky as the following quote from the book shows:

Feats performed through the medium of quicksilver should be executed with the greatest caution, as there is some danger attending them.

(Obviously, nobody should be casually experimenting with mercury. It is...

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