Hello! I love the Fine Art of Magic and was very excited that a new edition was coming out, especially one with an introduction by Juan Tamariz. I feel like the hardbound version that I received wasn't a great value for the price. Fleming did such a lovely job with their printing, so I was sad that the new version is just a print on demand level job...especially with the high price.
This is a large book with 371 pages that should be in every serious magician's bookcase (or computer as a PDF). While almost 73% of the book deals with cards, a wide variety of other props are also covered. George G. Kaplan wrote (with Jean Hugard
) the first edition in 1948. In 2019 Warren J. Kaps (who served as National President of S.A.M. during 2001-2002) created this second edition by updating some of the methods and adding some of his own effects. Really the best praise for this book comes from the Parent Assembly of the S.A.M. in 1995:
"His book, The Fine Art of Magic, is now considered one of the most important books on magic ever published. Like its author, it relies on effective presentation, subtleties, and clarity to create miracles. The entire world of magic is grateful to George for his contributions to its literature."
We’d heard about George Kaplan and about his Fine Art of Magic* for a very long time. Never thought we’d see a copy we could afford, and I wasn’t sure it deserved its reputation. So few things do. This is one of those happy exceptions - It actually exceeds my expectations. Frankly, I find it as fun to read as Greater Magic - maybe more so. You ever try to run a search on that humongous book? Not so easy when it’s not digitized.
Kaplan seems unduly modest in his Foreword, not seeming to realize how this isn’t just another magic trick book, but a well-written book about how to perform magic. The whole project starts out on the right foot with this opening: “A good trick, properly executed, is as individual a work of art as a fine painting, and, like every work of art, is a reflection of the skills of the artist. Gone is the day when magicians sought merely to ‘fool’ their audiences. The present-day performer aims both to mystify and entertain.”
That last sentence may have been true in 1948, but a casual walk today at a magic convention or through You(too?)Tube belies the statement. Or worse, the guy performing to the public who ruins, ruins, ruins the reputation of magicians and ensures that THAT particular customer will never ever hire a magician again. Because we desperately need a lot of new magicians, real magicians, who know how to perform and entertain, who know that humans have a sense of wonder and want that itch scratched.
Yes, we need more books (BOOKS!) such as Kaplan’s Fine Art of Magic, Tarbell’s lessons, and the Amateur Magician’s Handbook**. And not only do we have them in our libraries (and in our Lybrary) but in a second edition which has been gently and respectfully seconded editionated by Warren Kaps. It’s not that the original text was wanting - it was, after all, edited and evidently written, by Jean Hugard from the work, research, and drafts of Kaplan. So there are no egos to bruise here, but there are tender feelings of the living generations of magicians and authors who want to see credits, historical origins, and possible methods which just didn’t exist in the 1940s.
See how many of today’s hot new tricks (many available as download videos for more than the price of this PDF) you find within this book. The immortal Denny Haney and I once went through his showroom and tried to find something which didn’t come out of Tarbell. We could have done much the same with this book. Because, I do not tire of repeating this, you have a choice of learning methods of tricks or learning how to perform magic.
Buy this book. Study. Practice. Your audiences will thank you.
* Please excuse me for “fixing” the title. As past librarians and editors know, leaving the article “the” at the front of a title absolutely wrecks the ability to alphabetize anything with a title.
** Yes, here’s an exception to the aforementioned rule. Thank goodness I don’t need to alphabetize herein.