Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

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Dustin Stinett
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Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Dustin Stinett » June 25th, 2015, 9:58 pm

It has been quite a long time since the old Book of the Month Club has seen new life. My thanks to Vince Hancock for this somewhat controversial contribution. (Note that this controversy is over the book, not CARC, and anyone doing to this thread what happened to The Sphinx thread will have their posts disappear. Thanks in advance for keeping your comments about this book.)

The free eBook offer is ending soon, so jump on that; a link is below.

Thanks again to Vince for his first foray into this fun and frivolity. I hope it's not his last. To the rest of you, please to enjoy:

Maskelyne's Book of Magic

In the Winter 1935 issue of his Magical Quarterly, Will Goldston announced Jasper Maskelyne's upcoming Book of Magic.

The notice said the volume would contain "eighty thousand words." It did not predict how many of those would be Goldston's. Nor did it guess at the quantity lifted from another English writer, Will Blyth.

Over several months between 1937 and 1938, the youngest member of the Maskelyne dynasty, within magic circles, publicly apologized to Goldston for the plagiarism. He took out ads in magazines, including Goldston's own Magical Quarterly. The confession read:

APOLOGY

To Mr. Will Goldston,

I am extremely sorry that in the production of MASKELYNE'S BOOK OF MAGIC a quantity of the material contained in books written by you, was, without my knowledge, copied almost verbatim, and in no case any acknowledgment given to you. I very much regret the infringement of your rights and the injustice which has been done to you. I, therefore, welcome the opportunity of publishing this apology in the Press at my expense.

Jasper Maskelyne.

Solicitors for the Plaintiff:HUGHES, HOOKER & CO.,26 Budge Row, London, E.C.2


There's no evidence of a similar public apology to Will Blyth, whose book Paper Magic of 1923 appears to have mined for Maskelyne's chapter on the same topic. In the case of some trick descriptions, almost 60 percent of the text was copied directly from Blyth, including the sequence of multiple tricks. Much of the rest was paraphrased. Blyth died in 1937.

In the last ten years, Jasper Maskelyne's reputation as a war hero has been questioned, with new research conducted by Richard Stokes. In one essay, concerned with the question of general credibility, Stokes cites the instance of admitted plagiarism.

A portion of the traditional publishing world appears to be unwilling to admit the same. In 2009, Dover Publications, a popular source of classic magic books, reprinted Maskelyne's Book of Magic with an introduction by Edwin A. Dawes. Even 70 years later, however, Dover blocked four critical remarks by Dawes from accompanying the original text. One of them was a gentle rebuke towards Maskeylne's co-author, Arthur Groom, for not being "punctilious in acknowledging his sources."

The Conjuring Arts Research Center (CARC) has published its own electronic edition of the Maskelyne/Groom work. Through Saturday, they offer it for free, as the first selection in its Summer Reading promotion:

https://shop.conjuringarts.org/store/pc ... YxkZhtViko

Within its pages, Maskelyne's Book of Magic offers encouragement for performers who don't have svelte figures and provides glimpses into the persistence demanded of Howard Thurston in his early years. It even hammers on the theme of presentation taking precedence over sleights. While questions of authorship remain, what helpful points can be gleaned from the text? What lessons, perhaps unintended, can be learned from it?

Sources:

http://askalexander.org/display/15670/G ... arterly/22

http://askalexander.org/display/15677/G ... uarterly/8

and also

https://www.lybrary.com/knowledge_base_ ... er+apology
The Magic Wand, Vol. 27, Number 177 March-May, 1938 )

http://www.geniimagazine.com/magicpedia/Will_Blyth

Comparison of texts. Statistics derived from use of http://www.copyscape.com/, CARC's Maskelyne/Groom text and Lybrary.com's Blyth text (within its Learned Pig Project archives)

https://www.lybrary.com/tlpp/books/paper1/01.html.

http://www.maskelynemagic.com/Resources/Munchausen.pdf

http://www.themagiccafe.com/forums/view ... &forum=135

Vince Hancock
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Vince Hancock
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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Vince Hancock » June 26th, 2015, 12:39 pm

Thank you, Dustin.

My interest is primarily to stimulate some discussion in this forum, especially given the accessibility of the current title. As an enthusiast/amateur, I expect to learn as much, if not more, as any other participant.

I have not yet been able to track down the specific passages from Goldston that Maskelyne apologized for, but I did happen to discover the appropriation from Blyth's Paper Magic (Part II).

Here is a side-to-side comparison of the most flagrant verbatim lifting.
Image
(See an enlarged image by clicking here.)

Find Blyth's version here and M/G's on p. 121 (PDF) or p. 105 (hardcopy).

(This could be a fun and colorful production. Blyth provides entertaining patter about a new cooking technique. Doggerel at no extra charge.)

The other six tricks in Maskelyne's chapter on paper magic (Coloured Balls, Two Little Dicky-birds, Ribbons of India, Moths of Japan, Tree/Fence/Ladder/Dancing Elves, Tissue Papers) appear to be equally similar to Blyth's descriptions, but slightly changed via paraphrasing.

Blyth, however, doesn't seem to have had the popularity or recognition that Maskelyne had. Have Blyth's contributions survived directly due to Maskelyne's famous name?
Last edited by Vince Hancock on June 26th, 2015, 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Jonathan Townsend » June 26th, 2015, 1:29 pm

? so the apology is that the work was copied "almost verbatim"... as opposed to verbatim?

The notice said the volume would contain "eighty thousand words." It did not predict how many of those would be [snip] Nor did it guess at the quantity lifted from another English writer, [snip].

For that matter perhaps it did not mention any averse reactions, severe averse reactions or whether past performance is an indicator or future performance... though none the less may be read as "weasel words"

Going forward with the OP and dialog it's good to have more ready access to older works and their provenance.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Jack Shalom » June 26th, 2015, 4:11 pm

So does Maskelyne's apology that it was "without my knowledge" imply that the whole thing was ghosted?

Edit: Ah, I see the document that says yes.

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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Vince Hancock » June 27th, 2015, 4:26 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:For that matter perhaps it did not mention any averse reactions, severe averse reactions or whether past performance is an indicator or future performance...


Although each issue of "Goldston's Magical Quarterly" appeared to have new book reviews, I did not find any pertaining to this work. I did notice that the apology ad identifies "solicitors for the plaintiff" at the very end. I'm not quite sure how to read that; if Goldston brought suit, wouldn't that phrase refer to his attorneys? Or is Maskelyne identifying the firm representing himself?

I would think the appropriation of Blyth's writing might cause more acute embarrassment, as the book came out while Blyth was still alive. And Blyth's book had an introduction written by Jasper's pa (emphasis mine).

Nevil Maskelyne wrote:Introductory Note
Mr. Will Blyth's book on "Paper Magic" is a most interesting work upon the subject; containing, as it does, so much matter not to be found elsewhere.

It not only includes the elementary paper-folding manipulations familiar to most of us in our early days, but also much that should prove entertaining during the leisure moments of our later years.

NEVIL MASKELYNE.
St. George's Hall,
Langham Place,
London, W. 1.
29th June, 1920.


* * *

I wondered if a variation on "Paper Bag Cookery" would work. We do have Jiffy Pop and paper bag-based microwave popcorn. What if kernels, instead of ribbon, were scooped up? (Or pretended to be - glue some kernels on top of the concealed load.) Then have everybody point their cell phones at it.

Image

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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Vince Hancock » June 30th, 2015, 1:26 am

Jack Shalom wrote:So does Maskelyne's apology that it was "without my knowledge" imply that the whole thing was ghosted?

Edit: Ah, I see the document that says yes.


I'm not convinced all of it was ghostwritten, Jack. There's some degree of reminiscing that harks back to his White Magic family history account (also ghostwritten?). At some point, the personal recollections must have come from the horse's mouth.

Other chapters, which don't depend on (supposed) first-hand observations, are still fun to read.

After reading the chapter on Howard Thurston (Chapter 20, pdf p.253/hardcopy p.225), I have new appreciation for the process of making small improvements, and gradually feeling one's way towards larger audiences - with setbacks along the way. Maskelyne/Groom offer the biographical overview as an encouraging example.

I can't help but think of the excitement Thurston must have felt on the way to see Herrmann the Great at City Hall (Columbus, Ohio). The newspapers buzzed with sightings of Herrmann as he took short strolls through cities and towns, while on tour. Thurston was seven; Alexander Herrmann was thirty-two. Thirty-two!

Image

I wonder if the building continued to evoke any feelings afterwards. That was Thurston's own City Hall, in the city he grew up in. Or partly grew up in. In Iowa, according to Maskelyne/Groom, some horse trainers he fell in with forced him into a weight-loss program.

On one occasion the trainers, hoping to get young Thurston down to the proper weight to ride in a race, wrapped him in a sheet and put him in a barrel of manure to sweat off five pounds of surplus flesh. The five pounds of flesh came off all right, but his night in the barrel left him so weak that he could not stand on his feet, much less ride in a racing-saddle.

Later on, as a performer yet to make it big, but carrying on with his shows, he met up with another rude sort in Colorado.

[O]ne night at Boulder a member of the rough audience fired a revolver while Thurston was setting the stage for his act. The bullet broke the specially made goblet, and in a flash the great magician hit upon a method of doing the trick in his bare hands, making each card rise out of the pack and float through the air to the fingers of the other hand held high above.

What insight came from shattered glass? And why don't they build buildings like City Hall in Columbus? Apparently everyone hated it and was glad to see it burn in 1921.

Two days after the fire, Mayor James Thomas received a letter from several prominent citizens extending “congratulations on the successful fire.”

Architects, where are you? City planners, be brave! Shall all of our structures convey the blandness evoked by the word, "municipal?"


https://harvardmagazine.com/1999/01/magic.html
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/ ... nge&page=1
http://www.genealogybug.net/franklin_co ... meline.htm
http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories ... urned.html (Would Walter Mitty have had the same daydreams if Thurber never roamed the halls?)

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Re: Maskelyne's Book of Magic (Submitted by Vince Hancock)

Postby Vince Hancock » July 5th, 2015, 9:45 am

At all events, I think that young magicians should be handy with tools and start a small workshop where they can make and invent some of their own tricks. It is obvious that a new trick that is invented by the performer must be more successful than any other, because it is as novel and up-to-date as it can be. [...]

A propos of this question of having a workshop of your own, I must add that it is essential to create an atmosphere of mystery and surround it with that atmosphere. Keep the door securely locked and bolted, do not allow strangers to enter, and cover half-completed tricks before you leave the workshop for the night. There is a limit to this secrecy, of course-—a limit that poor Lafayette the Great passed, as you will read in the next chapter; but in the main I would say guard your secrets as the vaults of the Bank of England are guarded. If rivals or even members of your audiences happen to see the way you are doing your tricks, you will have to scrap your whole show and start all over again.


--Maskelyne's Book of Magic, pdf pp. 31-32/hc pp. 25-26

O rivals! wherever are thee to be found?

I wondered if any parts of the "Popcorn Bag Cookery" idea, sketched out in a previous post, could be realized. A dozen or so web searches put me in the right ballpark for the vinegar-to-baking soda ratio. I still wanted to see, first-hand, what a bit of variation would mean, in terms of reaction time and inflation, plus the question of how bags would fit into other bags and all of that bothersome practical rubbish.




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