Bruce Cervon's Castle Notebooks Volume 1

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Postby Guest » 11/17/07 06:13 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I know for a fact that there is unpublished Jennings material in the Castle Notebooks, but how much and of what type I can't say since few have since read them.

Your posts above are very interesting.

I cannot believe that Cervon would not even let Jennings read past the 4th Castle Notebook.

Since very few people have had access to the Castle Notebooks and even fewer have read them, is there any way to know if there really is anything of value in them?

By this, I understand that Cervon has published many books with material that was taken from the Castle Notebooks: 3 Vernon Chronicles and a few of the Cervon books (Ultra Cervon?).

How are we supposed to know if all of the "A" material has not already been published?

Maybe all that is to be discovered from the Castle Notebooks is the "C" material? Endless variations? (Before you guys start telling me that Vernon does not have "C" material, I suggest you re-read some of the effects in Vernon Chronicles.)

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/17/07 07:46 PM

Bruce was a very clever guy--his material is generally very good. He had tons of very good card material that he never published. I assume much of that will be in the Castle Notebooks. But Cervon was more a student of Marlo's than Vernon's, and his material is not terribly difficult to describe.

Describing Vernon's material is more difficult because it's more subtle--ditto for Jennings. The first three volumes of The Vernon Chronicles were written by Stephen Minch, not Bruce. And he didn't work just from Bruce's notes--both Larry and Bruce demonstrated most of the material to Stephen so he could write it properly.

My information about the Jennings material comes from one person who has had a chance to look at all the Castle Notes over a period of years while Bruce was alive. But, I really don't know what's in there and Jennings felt there was a lot of material (both his and Vernon's), but couldn't remember it--which is why he wanted copies of the notebooks. He had to ask Bruce repeatedly for several years for copies of the notebooks, and then only received the first four (again, this is my recollection of what I saw in Larry's magic den).
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Postby Guest » 11/17/07 08:05 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
But Cervon was more a student of Marlo's than Vernon's, and his material is not terribly difficult to describe.

I am not sure I follow you on the above. Are you saying that there is a lot of Marlo material in the Castle Notebooks?

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/17/07 10:10 PM

No, I don't know if there's any Marlo material in the notebooks. My point was that in his way of thinking, and his style of handling cards, that Bruce followed more closely in the steps of Ed Marlo.
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Postby Guest » 11/17/07 10:59 PM

I may have found the answer to some of my questions:

In Cervon's introduction to The Vernon Chronicles volume 1:

"[...] In 1971 my note keeping stopped, but I had by then thirteen, hand-printed, eight-by-eleven inch notebooks with over one-hundred pages each. Unfortunately, for Vernon fans, after the fifth volume most of the material is my own."

It makes me wonder if interest will not die off way before all of the notebooks are reprinted.

In Cervon's introduction to The Vernon Chronicles volume 3"

"[...] First I go through my notebooks and cull Dai's work from the many items recorded there. Often my notes are condensed and details must be filled in from memory; and sometimes I find tricks that neither Dai nor I have done for many years, and that both of us have forgotten. In such cases, details of handling must be reconstructed."

It makes me wonder if the Castle Notebooks will be useful to learn practical material or if it will just be a bunch or cryptic notes.

Postby Ryan Matney » 11/18/07 12:53 AM

I'm guessing the notes are fairly complete in most cases. Probably more so than the Daley notebooks.

Counting these and Cervon famous stash of many many homemade videotapes of his own material he must have left behind a mountain of card tricks.

Wonder if we will see those...

I'm still waiting for someone to publish ANY of Michael Skinner's notebooks.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 11/18/07 02:35 AM

Wasn't there a scan of one of the pages in the Cervon issue of Genii a couple of years ago? Looking at that may give one an idea of what to expect.

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Postby Terry » 11/18/07 12:16 PM

Whether the notebook series continues past the first volume will depend upon the buying public deciding it is worth purchasing.

If Volume 1 sells out, but volume 2 only sells 50%, then L & L would have to make the business decision to continue publishing volume 3 to 5.

Either way, it was Bruce Cervon who took the time to record the material for posterity. His estate should have the sole rights to do with it as they will.

Since these aren't subscription based and L & L is a reputable company, any reference to Busby is ignorant. Surprised the individual didn't just do the regular name dropping.

With all the wailing about Vernon's 'Revelations' book being little more than a reprint of Erdnase's book with minimal additions, it should be interesting to see if Bruce recorded more information than the "shadow" figures would allow in Revelations.

Re Jennings - maybe he should have been as astute a note taker rather than relying on someone else to do it? Since Richard has a monetary interest in preserving the Jenning's material, it's understandable why he is defensive.
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Postby Guest » 11/18/07 03:29 PM

Originally posted by Ian Kendall:
Wasn't there a scan of one of the pages in the Cervon issue of Genii a couple of years ago? Looking at that may give one an idea of what to expect.

Take care, Ian
While these aren't those scans, here are two larger inside page images. These are in the L&L Presents PDF that I mentioned earlier.

Image 1

Image 2

One other item of interest with these is that there aren't effect descriptions. You have to read through each one & work through it to discover what the effect is.

Postby Rick Ruhl » 11/18/07 04:04 PM

So this is what I got in email...

"Thank you for ordering Bruce Cervon's Castle Notebooks Volume 1. You are now guaranteed to own a copy of this monumental work. The book is in the finishing stages of production and you can expect shipment by December 10. Your credit card will not be charged until it has actually shipped and you will be notified then. Congratulations on your purchase of this remarkable piece of magic history!"

Hmm didn't say anything about shipping in Decemeber on the webpage. I know L&L has a good rep, but you'd think they do like others and put down the real shipping date.

My guess is, this book will appricate in a few years, because of the content in it, and the limited number of books printed.

Another investment, like Richard's version of Greater Magic.
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Postby Guest » 11/18/07 05:57 PM

I think I will wait for the Jennings books. (Well, I have been waiting so I will continue to wait.)

Personally I don't want to read facsimiles of hand written notes. For 200 dollars!!! For that amount I'd want a typeset, edited and proofed leather bound book. Plus I want several experts to have gone through all that material and cull out or fix effects that simply don't work.

As it stands if I purchase one of these volumes I will have to do all that work myself. It's hard enough to work through a well written effect from a trusted author and publisher. (ie. Kaufman)

Seems to me a monumental mistake to not present this material in as professional a manner as possible.


Postby Guest » 11/18/07 06:13 PM

Unless one is really, really interested in filling in "missing links," "blank spaces," and other kinds of lacuna that always exist in the history yet to be written, the value of old correspondence, notebooks, diaries, film footage, and so on seldom hold much interest to the average consumer-hobbyist. Just a only a few care about provenance (even though they may endlessly argue about obscure facts and factoids), the same people are only marginally interested in one person's annotations about another person's annotations regarding a set of arcane lecture notes and other esoteric works...

On the other hand, I love the scholarship and rich details evident in journals such as GIBECIERE or in fastidious translations done by Vanni Bossi and others. I swoon over limited-edition monographs by Bill Kalush and beautiful books produced by Stephen Minch and Ricky Jay. These guys and several others significantly connect the dots in the history of our art form.

Side-bar: In my personal collection I have hundreds and hundreds of letters written by Marlo and written to Marlo, plus scads of unpublished notes. All of this assorted "stuff" could be collected and put into a book called THE SACRAMENTO CODEX or something equally pretentious. Fifty copies would be printed and these would be privately sold to collectors at an undisclosed price. Who else would care?

Considering the tepid response to other projects I've finished (like writing a large treatise on the 21-Card Trick or collating all of the unpublished material (by Marlo) on CARD TO WALLET, it is doubtful that the SACRAMENTO CODEX will be written.

Meanwhile, I applaud those who are taking the time and trouble to enrich the Published Record...regardless of the price they are asking and the fickle nature of the marketplace that may rebuff their efforts...

In the end, all is grist for the mill...or end up on e-Bay or sold at flea markets.


Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/18/07 07:04 PM

Larry Jennings invited Bruce to come out to Los Angeles and meet "The Professor." Bruce did, and he and his first wife lived with Larry for quite a while until they could get settled on their own

Jennings was verbally articulate, but couldn't write well because his primary education was inadequate--his parents were divorced and he was constantly going back and forth between rural Georgia and Detroit. Consequently, writing was extremely difficult for him, which is why he made all of his notes on audio cassettes.

Terry--perhaps I'm defensive because of spending over a decade trying to make sure the Jennings material is properly described and explained. I've invested a large part of my life in that and it's more important--at this point--than money. Here's the equivalent, with the Jennings books, of what they're doing with The Castle Notebooks. I could have simply taken all the audio cassettes that Jennings left and transferred them to CDs and sold them in a large set. And good luck to the poor bastards who bought them and tried to learn the tricks!

Before that, however, Jennings asked Bruce to begin writing down all of the material that Vernon was explaining to him. Vernon hated Cervon at first and wouldn't spend time with him, so Vernon would show Jennings stuff, and then Larry came home and told it to Bruce, who wrote it all down. Larry also told all of his own material to Bruce so notes could be taken.

Eventually Bruce did ingratiate himself with Veron and was able to receive material directly.

That's the story behind the Castle Notebooks, and it doesn't matter who preserved the material, the material is always the property of the creator or his estate, not the person who made the notes. This is the essence of IP (intellectual property law).
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Postby Guest » 11/18/07 08:27 PM

"That's the story behind the Castle Notebooks, and it doesn't matter who preserved the material, the material is always the property of the creator or his estate, not the person who made the notes. This is the essence of IP (intellectual property law)."

Regarding the quoted passage, how do the Castle Notebooks differ from The Lost Notebooks of John Northern Hilliard?

Postby Guest » 11/18/07 10:30 PM

After reading the long list of posts on this subject, I have to really ask why it would take 15 years to write two books on Larry Jennings material? My guess is that the material really isn't that good. Sorry to stir it up in here, but I am really tired of all the fuss always made about Larry Jennings. I happen to know people that knew him pretty well and the truth is that there is more hype than substance. Anybody ever heard the story of "Wide Open Larry" at the Magic Castle, with Vernon present? I have been completely disapointed at the footage I have seen of him. If you cannot already see how the trick is done, it usually looks unnatural. I was all excited when I purchased his last VHS tapes. I even talked to him and BJ (by the way she had the class to let me in on what BJ stood for) on he phone when I ordered them direct. I have to say I was disappointed with the performance tapes. Typically, you guys out there in California will protect him by saying that "you didn't get a chance to see him in his prime" blah, blah, blah.....I actually want the hype to be true about Larry. I just got the feeling that I will be let down again in the future.


As I antipate the "who in hell are you?" reply, just keep in mind that your future published books on Larry will be the true measure of the hype......beyond the raving reviews that will be published in your magazine.

Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/18/07 11:03 PM

The Hilliard material is in the public domain.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/18/07 11:11 PM

Reviewers in Genii are free to write whatever they want. Some of my publications have received less than glowing reviews. The Jennings book will also get reviewed in MAGIC, MUM, and Linking Ring, so there will be other reviews if you're suspicious of what you read in Genii regarding the book.

I don't see how you can equate the amount of time it takes to write a book with the quality of its contents--where's the relationship?

How can it take over a decade to write a book? Well, when you have so much material, it has to be structured in book form in some coherent way. The material has also been screwed up in print before, so I go the extra mile to make sure everything is corrct. Oh, and I edit and publish this magazine that comes out every month.

Having spent much time with Jennings, Dingle, and Hamman, I can safely say that all of their videos suck in comparison to seeing them live. The only Jennings videos that are remotely decent are the ones shot by Dominique Duvivier in Paris. The simple fact is, however, that Larry did his best work when standing, and he couldn't stand up toward the end of his life (in fact I think all of his videos were shot while he was seated). People who make magic videos really don't understand the fine points of sleight of hand, so getting things shot properly is always a problem. Larry was also uncomfortable in front of a camera, as was Dingle.

I can assure you that Jennings was a master.
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Postby J Bright » 11/19/07 02:33 AM

Hi Dan,

I never met Larry Jennings but I have seen old b&w footage from his prime. He really was great. And, how 'bout the dvd L&L just put out? That was great too.

Since the people involved are longer with us, I'd prefer to see the Castle Notebooks in original form. If they were transcribed and edited, errors would probably be made. Just my preference.

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Postby Guest » 11/19/07 05:55 AM

I'm just curious why all of this "great" material that has been discussed doesn't become valuable to us as consumers or the producers of it until . . . they die?

i.e., Vernon, Marlo, Houdini, Jennings, Cervon, etc.

It's like an added dimension of mystery lies out there after they are gone. Why is that?

Look at all of the time and energy that has gone in to "finding Erdnase". Again, why?

Shouldn't this material be valuable, maybe even more valuable when the creator is with us to discern, describe, interpet and explain the material.

Now we're left with another set of notebooks to decipher. Anyone ever tried to decipher the Daley Notebooks? Someone already posted about the dissappointing Braue Notebooks.

It just seems to me that there are people out there (I'm not suggesting anyone specific here, so don't call me out on this), that take advantage financially from the death of one of the legacy's in this industry.

Just some deeper thoughts . . . we now return you to your normal programming. :)

Postby Guest » 11/19/07 07:29 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
it doesn't matter who preserved the material, the material is always the property of the creator or his estate, not the person who made the notes. This is the essence of IP (intellectual property law).
I think Mr Kaufman is referring to the magical convention rather than the law. Our own rules within magical "society" provide exactly the sort of protection he refers to.

The law, however, typically works in entirely the opposite way as copyright will not extent to the creator of the tricks but will instead protect the author. I would be surprised if the unpublished card magic of Larry Jennings, however brilliant it was, was either patented or patentable.

Postby Guest » 11/19/07 07:43 AM

I personally have some sympathy for both Cervon and widow here.

- Why should Cervon hand over his notes to someone who hadn't bothered to take their own? Was he Jennings paid secretary? I think not.

- Why shouldn't his widow publish his notebooks which had been compiled at his own time and expense. The "secrets" have no legal protection, but notwithstanding that, she and L&L have reached an agreement with the relevant publishers/estates.

If the result is as bad as Mr Kaufman suggests it will be then it will fade into obscurity without affecting the legend that Vernon and Jennings et al have become.

However, it also gives the opportunity for magical historians and authors (possibly including Mr Kaufman) to compile a well described version of important contents using the facsimile of the original notebooks as their source.

As a consumer, I can only benefit.
  • Mr Cervon's widow gets the benefit of the proceeds of her husband's work in compiling the notebooks.
  • Mr Kaufman and other magical authors get easy access to the original material.
  • I and other more casual enthusiasts may in future get the benefit of well considered write-ups of the best of the material. Maybe the publication will remove some of the hype around the contents and maybe that reduction in hype coul make the publication of a full volume uneconomic, but I suspect the best will surface through magazines, specialist forums etc in due course.

Postby Guest » 11/19/07 08:10 AM

When I interviewed Bruce for Genii he showed me the notebooks and I glanced through them. I was amazed at the cleanliness of the write-ups (by hand) and the general breadth of detail - even illustrations accompanied some effects. This had to have taken much labor. I, a cheap mother, have sent L&L $200.

Postby Guest » 11/19/07 08:19 AM

Notebooks are often (usually) private notes taken for that person's own use, with no thought of publishing. For example, in the case of Jack Avis, the estate trustees were surprised to find nearly 30 notebooks. They (the notebooks, not the trustees) could not have been scanned and published because there was much already in print that Jack was told about, or borrowed the book, or went to a lecture. It would have been unfair to sell facsimiles of varying legibility and therefore I did sort out and write up the applicable entries, published last year as "Rara Avis".

I am posting this to show what can occur with notebooks and not to try to sell the book!

Postby Guest » 11/19/07 09:24 AM

If you order two other items (I finally got around to ordering the Tamariz reprint and Essential Stewart James)you save $20 on Notebook.
Which covers CA sales tax. Shippig around Dec 10th I think.
Be sure to come up and say hello in the poorhouse. :D

Postby Pete Biro » 11/19/07 09:29 AM

Regal... get back with Farringtnon on he picket lines. :D
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Postby Steve Bryant » 11/19/07 12:28 PM

I am disappointed that the Vernon Chronicles ended (there is definitely A material in there too), but certainly look forward to a peek into the notebooks on which they were founded. These days it ain't the $200, it's finding the leisure time to sift through all the material that is set before us.
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Postby Terry » 11/19/07 02:09 PM

I have to say I was disappointed with the performance tapes.
Let me state that I was in no way attacking Larry Jennings or his legacy with my post. I was addressing the disdain I felt in Richard's post and the promotion of "his" guy since he was publishing Mr. Jennings material.

No to be accused as a name dropper, I do want to express my impression of Larry Jennings as a performer.

In 1989 (or so) I attended my only Steven's convention at the Tropicana. A friend from Florida, Ed McGowan, happened to be there and we hung out at the bar. Later in the afternoon, someone walked up behind us and Ed said, "Let me introduce you to someone." It was Larry Jennings.

He spent the next few hours blowing minds with his work. I can state that video/DVD does NOT do him any justice. I purchased the Classic Magic & The Cardwright from him on the spot. He later shipped them to me from his home and personally autographed them too.

Anyone arguing he said/he said now is fruitless since both parties are now deceased. It is also low class to speak evil about two gentlemen who gave so much to magic.

Both gentlemen were extremely nice to a nobody like me and I personally hold them both in high regard.

Other's opinions are their own.
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 11/19/07 04:19 PM

The Complete Works of Fred Kaps. Heh, heh. Anyone who owns the Fred Kaps...Seeing is Believing! DVD will understand Racherbaumer's story...Mike Caveney was also taken in by that book.

What lover of card conjuring and magic history wouldn't want to peek through the Cervon notebooks? As always, the price is high...Onward (with apologies to Racherbaumer)
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Postby Guest » 11/19/07 04:22 PM

Originally posted by Leonard Hevia:
The Complete Works of Fred Kaps. Heh, heh. Anyone who owns the Fred Kaps...Seeing is Believing! DVD will understand Racherbaumer's story...
Hope they got the special glasses to go with that book.

Postby Harvey Rosenthal » 11/20/07 09:16 AM

Thought I should mention for the record that when I met Bruce Cervon in June of 1967 we hit it off extremely well and began an avid correspondence that lasted between 10 to 15 years. During that time I sent him my own material in typed format and he would respond sending me photo-copied pages from his Castle Notebooks containing tricks of his and Vernon's. To date, I have well over 300 pages from the Castle Notebooks. In 1967, when he first took me to his house when he was married to his first wife, he showed me the Castle Notebooks and allowed me to look through them for hours at a time. The notes were on lined loose leaf paper. I saw magic of Vernon, Jennings and Bruce's own material. If my memory serves me, there was also material of other magicians as well. I would estimate that about three quarters of the magic I have contained in the Notebook pages has not seen print. I saw the Castle Notebooks on a number of different occasions when I was out to lecture at the Castle.

When I was corresponding with Roger Klause from 1969 to about 1971 he sent me a great deal of material some of which were pages from Bruce's Castle Notebooks. Evidently, Bruce sent pages from the Notebooks to a number of magicians.
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Postby Guest » 11/20/07 10:28 AM

What was the quality of magic like in the castle notebooks Mr Rosenthal, and how understandable is Cervon's descriptions and hand writing? Thanks.

Postby Harvey Rosenthal » 11/20/07 07:35 PM

The Cervon descriptions are generally pretty understandable.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 11/20/07 09:47 PM

Bruce told me that he was very meticulous in transcribing the notes as soon as he would get home from the castle.

As believe these notes will be very understandable.
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Postby Guest » 11/21/07 08:42 AM

Great news. L&L has sent an email saying the the Castle Notebooks has been shipped. If I had any willpower I'd put it under the tree and wait till Christmas.

In any event, Christmas will arrive early this year. Happy Holiday Everyone!

Postby Guest » 11/21/07 01:06 PM

L&L has sent an email saying the the Castle Notebooks has been shipped
Thanks, neighbor, on the update, though I haven't heard from L&L...looking forward to getting my copy.

Postby Guest » 11/21/07 09:02 PM


Sorry George, false alarm. The other two books I ordered were shipped. The website didn't provide details about the shipped order.

Ah, patience, patience.

My apologies to all.

Postby Guest » 11/22/07 02:01 AM

My email says they are aiming to ship by dec 10th.

Postby Gordon Bean » 11/24/07 07:20 PM

Bruce Cervon is one of the great sleight-of-hand artists of all time, and his record of the Castles golden era has no real rival as an unseen magical treasure trove.

Once when I was working on an original effect, Bruce came down to the Castle library and dropped off a related item of his from the notebooks. Apart from being typically excellent, it was fully and clearly explained, with helpful illustrations.

I think people will be very surprised and excited by the both the strength of material and the level of detail in these books. And certainly Linda Cervon will produce nothing less than the first-class presentation Bruce would have wanted.
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Postby Guest » 11/24/07 09:30 PM

I tend to agree with Gordon. Bruce always put out a top notch effort and the quality simply escaped the needs or recognition of most magic consumers. I think the notebooks would be of interest to historians and those of the Magic Castle 'school of magic' - i.e. Vernon, Cervon, Jennings etc... the ones that centered themselves in 'the Mecca'. When I watched Bruce one could just tell he had far more 'A' material than he could put into one show.

Postby Guest » 11/29/07 11:26 AM

First off, Jon, lacuna, what a great word. One of the reasons I like reading what you write is because of the large lexicon that you have, I always know I'm going to learn a new word or two(something that I love to do). Can't wait to read more.

Second, Richard, it may have been touched on above but you said that all of Jennings material is on audio cassette. You made some comment that you could have just transfered the material to a CD and put it out like that. While I appreciate the fact that you have taken your time to write the material correctly and I will be buying a copy, what I would like to say is that if you haven't already considered putting the tapes on CD and making that available to the magic community I think that it would be a great idea. I would love to listen to Jennings describing his own material, I think it might give people like me, those that weren't fortunate enough to have met him, a little more insight into who he really was. Anyways just a thought, I know I'd buy a copy.



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