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by Nick Bolton & Fred Robinson & Eric Mason

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Pabular by Nick Bolton & Fred Robinson & Eric Mason

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Here is the complete file of Pabular, one of the most remarkable and influential magazines ever published.

Pabular was first published in 1974 by Nick Bolton and ran for just over eight exciting volumes. It is probably the finest ever British close-up magazines to be published. It was mainly edited by the well respected Fred Robinson (later by Walt Lees and Stephen Tucker) and the art editor throughout was Eric Mason.

The first effect in the magazine was by Roy Walton and contributors include: Jack Avis, Gaeton Bloom, John Carney, Tony Corinda, Ted Danson, Will Dexter, Bob Driebeek, Shiv Duggal, Peter Duffie, Alex Elmsley, Dominique Duvivier, Cy Endfield, Bob Farmer, Flip, Piet Forton, Roberto Giobbi, Ray Grismer, Paul Hallas, Steve Hamilton, Francis Haxton, Jim Hooper, Basil Horwitz, Charles Hudson, Gentleman Jack, Larry Jennings, Rick Johnsson, Peter Kane, Fred Kaps, Gerald Kosky, Steven Kuske, Simon Lovell, Trevor Lewis, Ed Marlo, Bob Ostin, Pat Page, Oscar Pladek, John Ramsay, Bob Read, Rovi, Jerry Sadowitz, Sam Schwartz, Al Smith, Hans Trixer, Stephen Tucker, Dai Vernon and Tommy Wonder. Some contributors had one man issues and these include: Roy Walton (2 issues), Phil Goldstein (3 issues), Gordon Bruce, David Carre, Walt Lees and Barrie Richardson.

A wonderful index of 74 pages by Ian Keable is included.

Pabular Magazine

The indexing of Pabular did not arise out of any altruistic or financial considerations: it purely arose because many times I had attempted to find something in my own Pabulars which I vaguely recalled but could not place. Eventually I got so frustrated that I sat down and indexed the entire magazine - the result of which is included with the digital Pabular.

It may be of interest to mention one or two points about Pabular that those who have picked up copies over the years might be unaware. Pabular was the brain child of three people - Fred Robinson, the first and longest serving editor; Eric Mason, the illustrator and Nick Bolton who ran all the administrative side, including the printing and publishing. Fred Robinson came to writing on magic very late in his life and rather to his own surprise found himself to be a gifted writer. In London he was always the first port of call for all overseas magicians: to those who did not know him, attempting to witness his legendary dealing; to those who did, just to hear him chat and tell his, oft-repeated, stories.

The strength of contributions to Pabular rested entirely with Fred Robinson: he had the kudos and the reputation to draw out the best from the best in the world. However it is noteworthy how very much a British magazine Pabular was. The vast majority of contributors came from these lands and confirmed Fred's belief that the British tended to underestimate their own skills and innovation when it came to close-up magic. Certainly contributions from the likes of Alex Elmsley, Roy Walton, Jack Avis, Peter Kane and Gordon Bruce, to name just a few, would seem to confirm this.

If Fred had a fault as an editor it was to create "magazine heroes" - a fault, it must be said, that the majority of magic magazines tend to make. Mind you, Fred Robinson chose his heroes carefully: Fred Kaps, Ricky Jay and Juan Tamariz were three of his favourites whilst John Ramsay, the great Scottish magician, was beyond all objective criticism.

Fred was in essence an extremely modest man. However he was especially proud of two particular pieces that he wrote in Pabular: one was his write-up of Tamariz’s Oil and Water (Volume 4, Number 3, Page 484); the other his appreciation of Fred Kaps in one of his Oasis columns (Volume 6, Number 4, Page 830). The latter he always insisted should be read in conjunction with one of Kaps' own rare pieces of writing which was reprinted in Pabular (Professional Views On Doing Professional Magic For Laymen - Volume 1, Number 7, Page 82).

If the content of the magazine lay with Fred Robinson, the look of the magazine was undoubtedly that of Eric Mason. Eric Mason was one of the few genuine artists, as opposed to illustrators, that have turned their attention to the insular world of magic magazines. From the distinctive logo, through to the generous spacing and onto the free and easy drawings, Pabular looked like no other magic magazine before it.

Eric himself made many contributions to the magazine of his own unique tricks and sleights - ones it must be said that very few other magicians could possibly get away with. Not because they were technically particularly difficult but because they were so imbued with his own misdirection and flair that they were almost impossible to imitate.

Unlike Fred Robinson, who on his own admission was no great close-up performer, Eric Mason most certainly was: he was the supreme amateur, in that he only performed for the love of it, rarely for the money. In the Marlborough Arms, a pub around the corner of the old Magic Circle at Chenies Mews and the unofficial "office" of Pabular, Eric Mason would regularly weave his magic every Monday night.

Maybe memory plays its own tricks but watching Eric Mason perform his vanishing pack of cards under a wallet, a glass penetrating the closed fingers of a spectator's hands (Moniker - Volume 3, Number 2, Page 313) or his colour changing packet tricks that seemed to go on and on until the spectator just could not believe that any more changes could take place (The Problem Is… - Volume 4, Number 10, Page 585 followed by Beau Ideal - Volume 4, Number 12, Page 606), I have never felt more uplifted as a magical spectator. All that, and his charming and winning smile too - it makes the close-up workers of today seem like pygmies in comparison.

It was not just Eric Mason who tried out his Pabular contributions in the Marlborough Arms. Many other contributors demonstrated their own creations within its crowded walls: in particular I recall Barry Richardson had people gasping with disbelief at his magnetised pencil (Volume 4, Number 4, Page 504); Tommy Wonder achieving something which was totally beyond explanation with his torn and restored cigarette (Volume 7, Number 4, Page 1018) ; and Kevin Davie analysing to the ninth degree the theory of misdirection with the top change (The Lollipop Trick - Volume 6, Number 4, Page 835).

Fred Robinson always saw Pabular as a magazine of practical close-up magic that could and would be performed: certainly whilst he was Editor, that is precisely what it was. There is no doubt that with the replacement of Fred Robinson by firstly Walt Lees and then Stephen Tucker, the magazine did gradually lose its distinctive style. Fred, I suspect, stepped down partly because of age and partly because he felt he had said everything that he had to say. He had kept it going for over 5 volumes (66 issues - he stood down in Volume 6, Number 6). Walt Lees was editor for 17 issues before handing over to Stephen Tucker (Walt said his farewell in Volume 7, Number 12 - an issue which he credited to Stephen). I must here express a personal interest as I mentioned to Walt, on hearing of Stephen Tucker's appointment, that I might have wanted to become the Editor. Walt replied that I should have asked! I was that close to becoming Pabular editor. Walt has always been a literate man and this he put to good use in his short reign as Editor. His editorials and some of his articles still bear re-reading. I have always in particular liked his creation of the "magically sophisticated layperson" (Iconoclasms No. 3 - Volume 5, Number 9, Page 736).

By the time Walt had handed over to Stephen Tucker the magazine was on its last legs: it still managed to keep going for a further 10 "British" issues but the magazine had lost direction and, more importantly, its heart. Contributions were clearly less forthcoming as demonstrated by the inclusion of tricks and letters that were found in the back files of Walt Lees and Fred Robinson (ones that had perhaps originally been "passed over" for publication).

It was in New York that the final two issues of Volume 8 were published, still under the editorship of Stephen Tucker - these came out in 1989 and 1990.

Many purchasers of this index may be slightly surprised at hearing of the existence of these final two issues. Certainly paid-up subscribers to the magazine (of which I was one) never received copies of them - I managed to track down my copies with the kind assistance of Keith Bennett. I have included them in my index for the sake of completeness but as they are of a slightly smaller size and of a different texture to the other Pabulars, they cannot really be considered to be part of the true Pabular.

Taking it even more up to date, in 1992 there was published Volume 9 Number 1 - an issue devoted to George Schindler, written by him and with illustrations by Delvin. The logo and format of the magazine remains the same. However without the drawings of Eric Mason, the Pat Page column and a British editor, it is Pabular only in name: in any event my index makes no reference to Volume 9.

I would like to finish by thanking Shiv Duggal who painstakingly checked my index correcting errors and omissions. Any remaining mistakes are, of course, entirely mine. I would be grateful if any reader would point them out to me.

Ian Keable, author of Stand-Up, A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic

Copyright 2016 by
1st edition September 1974 - May 1985; 1376 pages.

word count: 775650 which is equivalent to 3102 standard pages of text

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Reviewed by Howard Port
★★★★★   Date Added: Monday 13 June, 2011

This is a fantastic resource for the close-up magician. At almost 1400 pages, there is a wealth of information and effects here. I've had it for a year and don't think I have yet plumbed its depths. Here are just a few names I recognized as I leafed through the pages (and I edited this list down from double the number): Ross Bertram, Alex Elmsley, Andrew Galloway, Roberto Giobbi, Phil Goldstein, Larry Jennings, Simon Lovell, Juan Tamariz, Roy Walton. Here you'll find the original text of Tony Corinda's "The Powers of Darkness". Here are several Barrie Richardson effects with his extensive attention to detail. I can heartily recommend Fred Robinson's detailed write-up on the Faro shuffle: after years of being able to complete it only haphazardly, I can now do it perfectly (albeit still slowly) every time. I recommend this as one of the best bargains in magic.

Frequently bought together with:

New Pentagram MagazineHugard's Magic MonthlyJinx

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