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Magic Without Apparatus
by Camille Gaultier


(1 review, 1 customer rating) ★★★★★

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Magic Without Apparatus by Camille Gaultier

A sleight-of-hand reference work for cards, coins, billiard balls, and thimbles.

Magic without Apparatus is the first English translation of La Prestidigitation sans Appareils, which has been recognized by authorities on magic as the world's greatest treatise on legerdemain with cards, coins, billiard balls, and thimbles. The French edition elicited such comments as these:

Leo Rullman (Connoisseur of magical literature): "The greatest work on pure sleight-of-hand in any language."

Professor Hoffmann (Author of Modern Magic, More Magic, Later Magic): "A contribution of the first rank to the literature of the subject. ... The book may fairly claim to contain the best sleights of the most finished performers, many of them never, till now, described in print. ... To the serious magician, the man who aims at becoming a master of his art, the information here given should be of the highest possible value."

George Johnson (Editor of The Magic Wand): "A magnificent volume on sleight-of-hand. ... Here we find the beautiful sleights of de Kolta, Carl Herrmann, Fusier, Duperrey, Bertram, Hellis, Devant, Downs, Houdin, and scores of others, carefully and lucidly explained by one who is both an enthusiast, an expert, and a competent literary craftsman. ... It has only to be known to be appreciated."

Among the well-known performers whose sleights are explained in detail in this book are Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, Robertson Keene, Arnold de Biere, Burling Hull, Charlier, Roterberg, Alexander Herrmann, Clement de Lion, l'Homme Masqué, Cazeneuve, Caroly, Melot-Herrmann, Erdnase, J. Warren Keane, Imro Fox, Nate Leipzig, Allan Shaw, Trewey, Ellis Stanyon, Selbit, Chung Ling Soo, and the author himself.

This is the one work on pure sleight-of-hand to which the term "encyclopedic" is applicable. It presents written and visual instructions on how to perform the choicest specialties of the outstanding experts in card, coin, ball, and thimble manipulation. The sleights are not only explained with admirable clarity but they are analyzed critically and their points of strength (and weakness, if any) are emphasized. The thoroughness with which the author has performed his task is indicated by the fact that he explains five methods of false shuffling with cards, eleven for making the pass, fifteen for avoiding the use of the pass, four ways to force cards, eleven methods of card-palming, and seventeen "color changes" with cards. Sleights with coins, balls, and thimbles have likewise received exhaustive treatment.

With this volume in his possession, the student of sleight-of-hand will have at his disposal the finest methods that have ever been devised for performing feats of legerdemain. Though Magic without Apparatus is, first and foremost, an encyclopedia of sleights, it contains also a substantial number of complete tricks and manipulative routines which will prove a revelation to all who have not read the book in the original, French edition. Special attention has been given to the basic principles and variations of the back and front palm with cards, coins, thimbles, and even billiard balls. Never before have the possibilities of this important sleight been so thoroughly explored.

In the field of pure sleight-of-hand, Magic without Apparatus will certainly be the book of the year, probably the book of the decade, and possibly even the book of the century. No magician who relies upon the magic of his fingers can afford to be without it.

Paul Fleming wrote:

Some books on magic are prized for their great antiquity and consequent scarcity, others for their value as practical textbooks on the subject. Definitely in the latter class is La Prestidigitation sans Appareils, by Camille Gautier, which now appears in English translation under the title, Magic without Apparatus. First published in a limited edition in 1914, this book has been exceedingly scarce for many years. Probably fewer than a half-dozen copies have changed hands in this country in the past quarter-century; and a lone copy is currently quoted in London at the English equivalent of forty dollars, and another in Paris at six thousand francs - or one hundred and twenty dollars, at the present rate of exchange! From the very day of publication, this book was recognized by the well-informed as without parallel among works on magic. It still remains a unique book in the field of pure sleight-of-hand, unrivaled in the extent and thoroughness of its treatment of sleights with cards, coins, billiard balls, and thimbles. It has, of course, been a closed book to many magicians, because it has hitherto been available only in French. The publication of Magic without Apparatus now places this vast store of practical information at the disposal of English-speaking magicians.

Having had a part in preparing this edition of Gaultier's great treatise, we shall try, in reviewing it, to restrain our enthusiasm for the book and deal chiefly with facts (which are objective and verifiable) rather than opinions (which are subjective and sometimes reflect a reviewer's likes or dislikes).

Magic without Apparatus has an unusually long Introduction. It runs for 58 pages, and concerns itself mainly with a review of French books on magic, and more particularly with early works of this kind. Especially extensive are the descriptions of the writings of Ozanam (6 pages), Guyot (6 pages), Decremps (8 pages), and Ponsin (9 pages), of whom many English-speaking magicians will here learn for the first time, and to whom the reader is unlikely to give much time and attention unless he is more interested than the average conjurer in the kind of magic that was being done in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. However, he will not (we may hope) overlook the fine tribute which M. Gaultier pays to Robert-Houdin, and Gaultier's spirited defense (to which he returns later in the book) of "The Father of Modern Conjuring" against the attack made by Harry Houdini in his Unmasking of Robert-Houdin. Of real interest, also, should be the author's account of how La Prestidigitation sans Appareils came into being, and his 8-page section (with which the Introduction ends) on the technique and presentation of magic.

Once the reader gets past the Introduction, he will discover that Magic without Apparatus is divided into four parts of unequal size, dealing with sleights and tricks with cards, coins, billiard balls, and thimbles. Part One (182 pages, 76 illustrations) consists of four chapters on card work. Chapter I is a 67-page chapter on basic card sleights, which include a wider variety of methods and a greater thoroughness in explanation than the student of magic is likely to have encountered elsewhere, unless he has seen the present work in the original French. For example, M. Gaultier explains five methods of false shuffling, eleven for making the pass, fifteen for avoiding the use of the pass, five ways to force cards, fourteen methods of card palming, thirteen card changes and substitutions, and seventeen "color changes" with cards. Robert-Houdin, Alexander Herrmann, Houdini, Charlier, Roterberg, Cazeneuve, l'Homme Masque, Melot-Herrmann, Buatier de Kolta, Erdnase, and Clement de Lion are among the performers whose favorite sleights are divulged here.

Chapter II (22 pages, 11 illustrations) presents twenty-two "card flourishes," as they have been performed by such well-known artists as l'Homme Masque, J. Warren Keane, Houdini, and Gaultier himself. Chapter III (46 pages, 34 illustrations) is the most exhaustive exposition we have ever seen of back palming with cards. There are five ways of doing the back palm, and four for "vanishing" cards (singly or in a fan) by means of this sleight. There are two methods of performing the back and front palm, so that both sides of the hand may be shown empty. There are ten ways to hold cards concealed in the hand, and yet separate the fingers; and five (including those employed by Howard Thurston, de Biere, and Gaultier) for secretly transferring cards from hand to hand, so that both hands may be proved completely empty, with the fingers spread out. There are six explanations of how to reproduce cards lone by one, or in a fan) after they have disappeared; two methods by Thurston and Robertson Keene) of "vanishing" cards, one by' one, while keeping only one card back palmed; an explanation of the Thurston passage of a card across the arms and through the knees; and four "color changes" with cards by means of the back palm.

The final chapter on cards (Chapter IV, 47 pages, 13 illustrations) opens with thirteen methods for revealing chosen cards; eleven ways to cause a chosen card to appear at a number in the pack selected by a spectator, and seven procedures for concluding The Cards Up the Sleeve (the weak point in most presentations of this sterling feat); and then explains fifteen other complete card tricks. Three of these (The Ambitious Card, Everybody's Card, and The Ladies' Looking-Glass) are old but excellent; six (including Harry Houdini's Card with the Torn Corner and Warren Keane's famous Three Cards Through the Handkerchief) are described as "new tricks based on standard sleights"; and four (among which is Max Cadet's very effective Magic Bell) make use of back palming. The chapter closes with a detailed explanation of The Three-Card Trick and Mexican Monte, which includes a 6-page "ThreeCard" routine complete with patter.

Part Two (114 pages, 57 illustrations), on coin magic, follows the same general plan of treatment as Part One, but, because there are not enough "coin flourishes" to require a special chapter, has three main divisions instead of four. Chapter I (44 pages, 17 illustrations) describes the basic sleights on coin conjuring. There are fourteen methods of coin palming, thirty-six ways to "vanish" coins, and five coin "changes" fifty-five fundamental coin sleights in all. Prominence is given to Nelson Downs' oblique and perpendicular "palms," which form the basis of a number of coin routines and manipulations that are explained in this and the following chapters; and a number of Mr. Downs' very special "passes" are described here in great detail, and (we venture to say) with greater clarity than in that performer's Modern Coin Manipulation. Methods devised or used with success by l'Homme Masque, the celebrated French magician, by Ellis Stanyon, by M. Gaultier, and by M. Grivolas (a prolific inventor of practicable coin and card sleights) are also found in this chapter.

Chapter II (44 pages, 40 illustrations) deals largely with back palming and other methods originated by Mr. Downs, as any treatise must which undertakes to explain twentieth-century coin magic. In addition to describing the Downs methods (and criticizing them, at times, as psychologically unsound or unnecessarily complicated), M. Gaultier draws upon his long experience as a recognized expert and describes his adaptations of the Nelson Downs sleights. We may cite, by way of illustration, "a procedure which enables the performer to conceal a coin, and yet separate the fingers, one by one, with the palm of the hand turned toward the audience." This is but one of dozens of "variations" and "modifications" which appear throughout the book, and which carry special weight because of M. Gautier's unquestioned position as an authority in the world of pure sleight-of-hand.

One feature of the chapter is the B-page section on secret transfers (of the "change-over palm" type) from hand to hand, permitting both hands to be shown empty, back and front, while concealing one or more coins. Another feature is the series of feats (by Felicien Trewey, l'Homme Masque, and Nelson Downs) in which a coin is passed magically from hand to hand, or through the knees, after the audience has been warned of what is to happen, by means of several different types of sleights. There is a 9-page section devoted to the production of coins, now one by one and again in a fan, sometimes with the back and sometimes with the palm of the hand facing the audience; and a section consisting of three complete manipulative routines, one of which is described as "the disappearance of five coins, one by one, at the right fingertips, with the palm of the hand toward the audience, and their reappearance in like manner, after both sides of the hand have been repeatedly shown empty." The chapter closes with explanations of two coin flourishes-the "turnover" of coins in the hand, and the revolution of a coin between the knuckles of each hand (which is known to American magicians as both The Coin Roll and The Steeplechase).

Chapter III (22 pages, no illustrations), on tricks with coins, explains four feats that go back to the days of Robert-Houdin (The Melting Coin, The Two Hats, The Coin in the Dinner Roll, and Magical Filtration of Five-Franc Pieces), and three others (The Coin Extracted from a Card, The Expansion of Texture, and The Shower of Money or Miser's Dream). The most important of these seven feats are, of course, the last two. The Expansion of Texture is a coin and handkerchief trick, explained in the language and with the patter of its famed inventor, l'Homme Masque. But the coin-catching trick, or Shower of Money, will doubtless have a stronger appeal for most readers, partly because it is by all odds the greatest of all coin tricks, but also because of the almost unbelievable attention to detail that M. Gaultier has accorded it. His explanation fills 12 large pages of print and describes, under separate headings, methods for "loading" the coins into the hat, for producing the first coin or coins, for passing a coin invisibly through the hat, for catching coins with the palm facing the spectators, for simulating the sound of a falling coin, for replenishing the reserve stock of coins, for catching coins while in the midst of the audience, and for concluding the feat by causing the disappearance of all the coins. If The Shower of Money has previously been so painstakingly described, the description has escaped our observation.

Part Three (101 pages, 58 illustrations) is an unusually complete exposition of billiard ball sleights and tricks. In Chapter I (61 pages, 50 illustrations) are found ten methods of palming balls, and twenty-six billiard ball "vanishes." There are also seventeen ways to show the hands empty while keeping a billiard ball concealed-a procedure which is of the utmost importance in billiard ball manipulation. The principle used is a secret transfer of the ball from hand to hand, under cover of a series of graceful movements. The necessity of repeatedly showing the hands empty, in the course of a billiard ball routine, suggests the desirability of injecting variety into the movements that are employed. The transfers here explained include those which have helped to make the reputations of such manipulators as Harry Balzar, M. Duperrey of the Theatre Robert-Houdin, the late Arnold de Biere, Ellis Stanyon, and Clement de Lion. Another surprisingly extensive section of this chapter is the one devoted to "color changes" with balls, which (with 13 pages of print and nine illustrations) explains fourteen methods used by Clement de Lion, David Devant, J. Warren Keane, Harry Balzar, Burling Hull, Charles Medrington, and Robertson Keene.

The chapter just reviewed is, of course, preparatory to Chapter II (36 pages, 8 illustrations), in which complete billiard ball tricks and manipulative routines are presented. M. Gaultier begins the chapter by explaining two procedures which are applicable to most billiard ball tricks - (l) the production of the first ball, and (2) the final and complete vanish of the last ball. There are explanations here of eighteen ways to pro· duce the first ball (using the bare hands, a handkerchief, a wand, or a fan), including the methods employed by de Biere, de Lion, Warren Keane, Charles Bertram, Robert-Houdin, Chung Ling Soo, Madame Adelaide Herrmann, and Burling Hull. The six "vanishes" for the last ball are those used by M. Odin, Ellis Stanyon, l'Homme Masque, and others.

The multiplication of billiard balls, which is the typical present-day feat with balls, appears in this chapter in four forms. There are two methods of performing the Three-Ball Trick, which was the earliest version of billiard ball manipulation as a complete trick. There is an explanation of a Four-Ball Production, without the use of a shell; of The Excelsior Billiard Ball Trick with four balls (the form in which billiard ball manipulation is usually presented); and of the Eight-Ball Production (an elaboration of the Excelsior trick). M. Gaultier's explanation of the last two tricks, to which he devotes 12 pages and six illustrations, is certainly the most thorough-going description of billiard ball manipulation with which we are familiar. If he has overlooked the slightest detail of any "move," we have not detected the omission. There are two other effective little tricks-The Billiard Balls and Foulards, and The Billiard Ball and Paper Cone. They are well presented, but will not, we feel sure, attract anything like the attention that will be given the author's remarkable explanation of The Excelsior Billiard Ball Trick and the Eight-Ball Production.

Thimble magic is a development of the twentieth century, and does not yet enjoy the popularity that has been accorded conjuring with cards, coins, and billiard balls. Nevertheless, M. Gaultier feels warranted in allotting Part Four (52 pages, 35 illustrations) to sleights and tricks with thimbles. Chapter I (38 pages, 31 illustrations) explains seventeen ways to palm thimbles, eleven thimble "vanishes," twelve methods of back palming thimbles, four ways of apparently passing a thimble magically from hand to hand or through the knees, and six ways to cause the reappearance of thimbles that have previously vanished. In this chapter, more fully than in any other, we see the original work of M. Gaultier, who devoted much time and energy to devising new and puzzling thimble sleights and won for himself an enviable reputation in this branch of magic. Some of the methods of other performers-of Nate Leipzig, for example-appear in the chapters on thimbles, but less extensively than in the other parts of the book.

Many of the sleights described in Chapter I, the practicability of which is vouched for by M. Gaultier, find application in Chapter II (12 pages, 4 illustrations), which consists of six complete tricks or routines with thimbles. One of the best is described as "the vanish, one by one, of five thimbles from the tip of the forefinger, and their reappearance, one by one, on the tip of the middle finger, while both hands are continually shown empty, back and front," to which three pages of explanation and two illustrations are given. The typical One-to-Eight Multiplication of Thimbles is given detailed description, an earlier version of this feat is presented, and there is also An Impromptu Four-Thimble Trick. An original Production and Vanish of Two Thimbles in the Same Hand (by Gaultier), and The Thimble and Paper Cone, complete the chapter, and also bring to a close this encyclopedic work on pure sleight-of-hand-except for the 12-page Index, which should be helpful to the magician who is searching for a particular sleight among the hundreds that are explained in Magic without Apparatus.

Translated from the French by Jean Hugard, edited by Paul Fleming, illustrated by Donna Allen with drawings posed by Frederick Braue.

1st edition 1945, 527 pages; French original 1st edition 1914; PDF 399 pages.
word count: 194873 which is equivalent to 779 standard pages of text

Reviewed by Christopher Reynolds (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Saturday 29 April, 2023

Camille Gaultier was a French lawyer with a doctorate in law who later pursued a career as a full-time magician. He lived from 1872 to 1943. "Magic without Apparatus" is the English version of his 1914 book "La Prestidigitation sans Appareils."

Since its initial U.S. publication in 1945, "Magic Without Apparatus" achieved instant success among English-speaking magicians as one of the leading resources for advanced sleight-of-hand knowledge. Translated by author and magician Jean Hugard, it presented written and illustrated entries on performing everything from card and coin sleights to manipulating thimbles and billiard balls.

Professor Hoffman (author of Modern Magic) wrote:

"A contribution of the first rank to the literature of the subject. ... The book may fairly claim to contain the best sleights of the most finished performers, many of them never, till now, described in print. ... To the serious magician, the man who aims at becoming a master of his art, the information here given should be of the highest possible value."

Leo Rullman was a book dealer, Deputy Collector of the Port of New York. He was a skilled juggler and amateur magician. Rullman was known for his appreciation of magic literature. He once praised "Magic Without Apparatus" as "the greatest work on pure sleight-of-hand in any language."

This book contains a collection of the most effective methods for performing sleight-of-hand tricks, compiled from the works of famous magicians like Howard Thurston, Harry Houdini, August Roterberg, Charlier, Felicien Trewey, Chung Ling Soo, and others, including the author. This is an invaluable resource for those who are fascinated with sleight-of-hand conjuring.

For history buffs such as myself, the 58-page introduction was alone worth the price of the (e)book. Gaultier begins by discussing the influence of French conjurers (like Alexander Herrmann, Robert Houdin, and Buatier de Kolta) in magic history before reviewing early French conjuring literature and describing the types of magic performed in the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries.

The initial section of the book covers playing cards, containing various techniques with in-depth explanations beyond what a typical magic learner may have previously encountered, including five methods of false shuffling, eleven for making the pass, fifteen for avoiding the use of the pass, five ways to force cards, fourteen methods of card palming, thirteen card changes and substitutions, and seventeen "color changes" with cards.

Part Two of the book delves into coin magic. It's structured similarly to Part One, covering the fundamental techniques used in coin conjuring. Overall, there are 55 essential sleights to learn, including 14 methods for coin palming, 36 ways to make coins disappear, and 5 methods for coin transformation.

Part three thoroughly covers billiard ball sleights and tricks, while part four focuses on sleights and tricks using thimbles.

This book is exceptional as a reference for pure sleight-of-hand as it offers an unparalleled and comprehensive treatment. Over the past decade, the art of magic and illusion has significantly progressed, particularly with playing cards. However, magic enthusiasts may find the techniques presented in "Magic Without Apparatus" moldy and unappealing. It's a shame that some may dismiss it as outdated.

Modern performers need to appreciate the roots of their art form. They shouldn't live in an artistic vacuum with only the latest YouTube videos. Neglecting the history of their craft, they limit their creativity.

Spend the time reading Magic Without Apparatus, remembering that you're a link in a chain that spans back to antiquity. There is no such thing as an "old" sleight or trick, only forgotten ones ready to be dusted off and taken out of retirement.

As the saying goes, "If you don't know your past, then you won't know your future."

This product is listed under the following topics:

Magic & Conjuring / Coins, Chips & Buttons

Magic & Conjuring / Thimbles

Magic & Conjuring / Cards / Moves

Magic & Conjuring / Balls, Eggs, Dice & Cups / Billiard Ball Manipulation