An Incomplete History of Card Magic Literature: Intro

An article of this type is destined for failure. I started this endeavor as a response to an online poll of card books with status similar to J. B. Bobo‘s New Modern Coin Magic (1966), itself a revised and expanded edition of Modern Coin Magic (1952). I was hoping to address a few “significant” titles on card magic over the years that were not the immediate and obvious answers and ended up digging deeper than intended.

I initially dug out books from my library and started to compile a list of works, authors, and publishing dates. Each volume pulled off the shelf reminded me of three others and I soon found myself surrounded by stacks of books with seemingly no end in sight. The list of authors rapidly expanded from five or six to dozens, most of whose work was worthy of consideration. I put out a call and had two wonderful conversations with some good friends: Stephen Minch and Jon Racherbaumer. While I have worked with both of them on projects, I have yet to meet either in person and truly look forward to the opportunity. Both brought some remarkable insight into my task and helped to crystallize my approach.

The topic is vast and looks like it will have to become an ongoing project. After this broad introduction, I plan to tackle the contributions by decade. In the process, I have limited myself to cover influential texts. In order to be influential, the work had to be widely disseminated. While there are several examples of either extremely limited editions of books, unpublished manuscripts, or “lost” or obscure texts, I have necessarily omitted them.

One great example of the latter is the booklet Tyler Wilson recently unearthed – The 52 Wonders: Cards Manipulated by Science – a thirty-two page booklet reprinted in the Winter 2015 issue of Gibicière. While some of the descriptions of card handling predate Erdnase by twenty-five years, it is not influential by my definition. [For those interested, Tyler’s article and a facsimile of The 52 Wonders was made available for free by The Conjuring Arts Research Center and can be found here.]

I intent to only cover published works that feature mostly card magic (85% or more). That being said, I am certain that I have missed authors and texts and look forward to readers suggesting additions. Near the end of the twentieth century, I found that there was an explosion of both authors and books that will likely pose a significant challenge to my definition of “influential” works. Also, more and more efforts are being released only on video (either on DVD or streaming) Despite my likely failures, I hope students of card magic will find it of some benefit and use it as a jumping off point for additional discussion.

In preparing these “briefs,” I have taken advantage of a significant magic research resource: MagicPedia. This online “wiki”-like encyclopedia of magic just celebrated the publishing of its 8,000th article and is available through the generosity of Genii Magazine and its publisher, Richard Kaufman. It is maintained and expanded (like Wikipedia) through a group of dedicated volunteers and is open to expansion by all. At the helm of this effort is Joe Pecore (who, as of this writing, is not represented by his own page, something that warrants addressing). I have incorporated links throughout the articles to external sources, most frequently to MagicPedia pages, in an effort to help dedicated students in their visits “down the rabbit hole.” Special thanks to everyone who has (and who will) help to expand this remarkable knowledge base.

I look forward to expanding the work over time and hearing your thoughts, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.


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