Exclusive to Genii Forum: Librarium Magicum #6

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Guest » 02/24/07 02:14 PM

Dear Genii Forum readers:

Below is the latest installment of my Magicol column, Librarium Magicum. As with the others (see links below), I hope you enjoy it. If you are not a member of the Magic Collectors Association, then you cant get Magicol, in which case IMHO you are missing out on a bargain for the money. For your annual dues of $25 ($30 for overseas members), you get 4 nicely produced issues of Magicol. Thats about 140 pages per year of great magic history covering all fields of collecting and history, many of which are in full color. All issues are profusely illustrated and only MCA members can attend the annual MCA weekend, held in the early Spring. You can join by sending your annual dues to: Magic Collectors Association LLC, P.O. Box 511, Glenwood, IL 60425-0511.

Here are the Librarium Magicum articles previously posted on GF:

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 489#000000

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 578#000000

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 619#000000

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 659#000000

http://geniimagazine.com/forum/cgi-bin/ ... 744#000000

The hope in posting these articles is that folks will offer their thoughts on the subject matter. So, if the spirit moves you, interact!

Librarium Magicum
by Clay H. Shevlin

[continued from Magicol No. 161]

Another important characteristic of a good bibliography is its structural and organizational utility. Put another way, a good bibliography is easy for the reader to use. The compiler has provided the reader with a roadmap for understanding the structure of his bibliography and entries, and the formatting of each entry is readable, logical and consistent. Locating titles is straightforward because there is an index by author and/or title, and cross-references are used in the body of the bibliography wherever necessary to account for, among other things, (i) pseudonymous and (where the author is known or in cases of common attribution) anonymous publications and (ii) the same works published under different titles. As much as one might appreciate readable and clear entries, it is difficult to underestimate the value of bibliographies that make it quick and easy to find an author or title (or conversely, to confirm the absence thereof), for one of the most frustrating experiences is wasting precious search time in a bibliography. Since not all readers and researchers think alike, the thoughtful and thorough bibliographer will try to anticipate the various names and titles under which a book may be sought.

The final but certainly not least important noteworthy characteristic is a bibliographys purpose. A good bibliography is compiled with one or more specific purposes in mind, and such purposes are clearly communicated to the reader. In a sense, determining the purpose of a bibliography is equal in importance to accuracy or completeness, because a bibliographys raison dtre will largely determine its format and the nature and extent of the information in its entries. Thus, if a bibliographys stated purpose and the substance of its entries are at odds, the compilers efforts are likely for naught. To illustrate such a disastrous result, we borrow from an example discussed in part 1 of this essay: if the stated intent of a conjuring bibliography is to provide the reader with information sufficient to distinguish between editions, issues and states of the titles included within its scope, then no matter how skilled and knowledgeable the compiler may be, a short-title checklist of such titles will not suffice.

While all good bibliographies share certain core characteristics, they can be as diverse in format and purpose as the researchers and collectors who consult them. In the world of English-language conjuring, precious few bibliographies attempt to provide detailed bibliographical information such as full title page transcriptions, collational formulas and precise page measurements. Toole Stotts bibliography is by far the best known of these, although probably the most detailed conjuring bibliography yet published is David Meyers Howard Thurston's Card Tricks (Glenwood, Illinois: David Meyer Magic Books, 1991). The vast majority of English-language conjuring bibliographies are, in essence, short-title alphabetical checklists which present basic bibliographical information for the titles within their stated scope. [FN 1] Some recently-published examples of such works include Brian McCullaghs Under the Southern Cross: Australian Published Magic Books 1858-2000 (Sydney: Magical Heritage Publications, 2001), and Ray Ricards A Short Title History and Checklist of Wee Books 1800-2005 (Pawtucket, Rhode Island: Ray Ricard, 2005). A small number of bibliographical works are created by a more subjective process, whereby the compiler selects and provides commentary on the texts he wants the reader to learn about, and often organizes his selections by theme (close-up, illusion, mentalism, history etc.). Earle Colemans Magic: A Reference Guide (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987) is a good example of this kind of bibliography.

So far as subject matter goes, even in the relatively tiny niche occupied by conjuring bibliography, there is a wide variety of material to supplement the general bibliographies which are familiar to us. For example, there are author bibliographies, such as Max Abrams The Complete J. G. Thompson Jr. Bibliography (Los Angeles: Max Abrams, 1976), J. Randolph Coxs Man of Magic and Mystery: A Guide to the Work of Walter B. Gibson (Metuchen, New Jersey & London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1988), and Ed and Pat Hills Si Stebbins Booklets: A Checklist (np: Ed & Pat Hill, 2002). There are country of origin bibliographies, such as Brian McCullaghs work on Australian imprints (described above) and J. B. Findlays Bibliography of Books, Pamphlets, Magazines, etc. Bearing a Scottish Imprint (Shanklin, I.O.W.: J. B. Findlay, 1951). And there are bibliographies of specific libraries or collections, such as E. G. Browns A Catalogue of Books in the Library of the Magic Circle (London: The Magic Circle, 1940), John J. Crimmins The Collection of Saram R. Ellison, M.D. (New York: Parent Assembly of the Society of American Magicians, nd) and Roland Winders Checklist of the Older Books on Conjuring in the Library of Roland Winder (Leeds, England: Roland Winder, 1966).

FN1 Usually, checklist entries include author, primary title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication and number of pages. Sometimes, very brief descriptions of a books binding, format (quarto, octavo, etc.) and/or illustration are also noted.

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