Practical effects with cards, flowers and silks. Here is Verrall Wass in his own words about the motivation of this book:
Modern magicians are not magi, yet some wizards wish to divide conjuring into innumerable religions and subdivide each religion into as many sects. The doing of tricks for them becomes a ritual. To one, he who does not use Professor Shuffle's (the "Professor" is still with us) double-trouble riffle is a heretic. To another, disciple of The Great Marmagic (the "Greats" are still with us too), he who does not employ Marmagic's boil-and-bubble pass, aptly named because the performer grows hot under the collar and breaks out in beads of sweat fearing the audience will spot it, is doomed to eternal damnation.
Alas, no heretic writes these words, but a heathen who does not believe the public cares one jot of a very small tittle what method the magician uses if the effect seems the same as some effect seen before. There are hundreds of ways of making "chosen" cards rise from a pack, but so long as the cards rise in some inexplicable way, the audience is not concerned how. Provided the audience is deceived, the magician should use the method he finds the simplest, and not let complicated manipulations and complex devices distract his attention from his presentation.
New sleights and devices are only justified if they make an old problem more difficult to solve, simpler to perform, or make possible a new effect. Far better a new effect accomplished by an old method than an old effect accomplished by a new method, for often in the latter case the audience will not notice any difference. Best of all a new effect accomplished by a new method.
This, while being true of all magic, is especially true of card conjuring in which in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to see the effects for the multitude of methods. In realising this the late Ralph W. Hull showed his genius, for while sometimes he used new sleights and devices for making old problems more mysterious than ever before, more often he used them for creating new effects: "best of all a new effect accomplished by a new method".
The eighteen or so card effects comprising approximately two-fifths of this book are in no way intended to be imitation Hull or imitation Annemann. But, like these two masters, the author has striven after originality of effect and simplicity of performance.
What is true of the card tricks is true also of the remainder of the book. No claims are made to originality in its pristine sense. Here are no foundation stones of magic, for originality to-day is only the laying of a few more bricks on the vast magical temple built in the past by the master craftsmen of old.
As to the descriptions of the effects, there will be two schools of thought: those who think too much has been said, and those who think what has been said is not enough. American Paul Fleming, probably the best reviewer of magical books today, tends to the belief that every effect should be described in minutest detail, omitting no move, even the patter being given in full. He has taken Will Goldston to task for the brevity of his descriptions, and considers David Devant the ideal magic-master.
Probably the ideal lies between the detail of Devant and the quick-trick description of Goldston. For the beginner, the inch by inch advance of Devant to the effect's conclusion is doubtless advisable; for the professional Goldston's brevity is usually sufficient. Possibly Devant erred in giving the patter to each effect too fully, so that many magicians are still using his patter today, and the handkerchief is still "the same size on both sides, with the centre in the middle".
Goldston too may have erred in his haste by occasionally omitting an important move, and sometimes in his magazines even going so far as to forget to print the diagrams to which his contributor referred in the text. Yet these faults are but as spots on the sun of genius. Would there were more writers like them to place with Hoffmann, Hilliard, Tarbell, and others of the past and present.
Sailing this little yacht amid such a mighty magical fleet, the author has tried to steer a middle course and bring his little cargo safely through. Maybe on the way the treacherous currents have dashed him from side to side, so one reader would say he has gone aground on the sands of "too much" and waited long before floating once more on the tide, or another reader would say he has been dashed against the rocks and some of his cargo washed overboard so that "too little" remains. He can but plead he kept his eye on the luff of the sail and did his best, trying to sail free, but at times he had to tack, and much of the patter had to be flung overboard to lighten the load.
But he saved most of the patter outlines, knowing these could be adapted to each individual's needs. Now his yacht lies in safe harbour, between the covers of this book, awaiting the reader's inspection. The author's sincere wish is that, if he may change his boat and be pardoned the pun, the cargo in the hold will hold the reader's attention.