ERDNASE

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Postby Bill Mullins » 02/26/03 11:18 PM

Has anyone tried to look up the copyright registrations for either the book or the illustrations at the Library of Congress? Might be some interesting information there (these forms were, for example, the first hard evidence that "Richard Bachman" was in fact Stephen King.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/27/03 12:40 AM

Originally posted by Lance Pierce:
[QB]Regarding Erdnase, Richard Hatch pointed out to me once that many of the illustrations in the book carry Erdnase's copyright statement right beneath the drawing, but many of them don't. There doesn't seem to be a discernable pattern as to why some do and some don't, but all the drawings appear to be pretty close in style.

Coupling this with the information gleaned from the interview with the person who did the artwork for the book and how he expressed his surprise because he didn't remember drawing so many, does anyone have any theories to explain this? Did the artist draw all the pictures that don't bear the copyright statement, and was Erdnase also an excellent mimic with the pen who drew the remaining pictures and put his copyright claim on them?

Lance

____________________________

My article covers this in one of the footnotes. All of the illustrations were traced from photographs, a job that would have taken a day or so. Otherwise, Marshall Smith (the artist) would have been with Erdnase for at least two weeks if he actually drew from life...assuming that Erdnase had all 101 poses planned out and that there were no errors or corrections. Otherwise, it would have taken longer... Smith remembered one meeting on a particularly cold day which I managed to pinpoint in December, 1901.

The cost of printing over 100 photographs was prohibitive and would have required a more expensive paper. The use of "cuts" or line drawings facilitated a much cheaper production.
My wife, a professional artist, agrees with this assement as does Jim Steranko who has a bit of experience in the art business.

By the way, I've enlarged the drawings and discovered the cards to be both of poker and bridge-sized.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/27/03 12:44 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
[QB]Has anyone tried to look up the copyright registrations for either the book or the illustrations at the Library of Congress? Might be some interesting information there (these forms were, for example, the first hard evidence that "Richard Bachman" was in fact Stephen King.[/QB-----------------

The copyright has been published and the pseudonym was used. The illustrations were not separately copyrighted.

The entire copyright business is significant for a number of reasons which I may reveal in a follow-up article once a bit more research has been completed.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/27/03 08:38 AM

Last March I spent several days at the Copyright Office in Washington researching this and other related things. It took more than a month after that and about $80 or so in fees to finally get a copy of all four pages of the original copyright application. The Whaley/Busby book only reproduces half of one page. Nothing earthshattering in the other pages, but you never know till you look! The front page identifies the author as being of "American" nationality and gives his address care of James McKinney, as does the page Busby reproduced. McKinney was a Chicago printer, so presumably did the printing for the author (this is an assumption. I happen to think it is pretty good one, however!). The copyright was filled out on February 15, 1902 and reached the copyright office just two days later on the 17th (they had good postal service in those days!). Since the application included a printed copy of the titlepage (this is the third page of the application), the book was clearly "in production" in mid-February. Two deposit copies (not one as stated by Whaley, who chides John Booth for saying there were two) were received at the copyright office on March 8th, so the book was coming back from the bindery by March 6th. "S. W. Erdnase" is not identified as a pseudonym on the application, nor in the copyright offices files. One mystery to me is how the author sold the book initially. He obviously had copies to sell in early March and his stated purpose in writing the book was that he "needed the money" (David Alexander believes this is purely literary irony. I don't read it that way.) The earliest known advertisement for it is in the Sphinx in November 1902. (It is briefly mentioned in the September issue.) What was he doing with copies in the meantime? The first edition copy in the Houdini collection at the Library of Congress had been Adrian Plate's copy, and written in Plate's handwriting (at least I believe it to be Plate's handwriting!) at the bottom of the titlepage it says "Sold by James McKinney and Company" and gives their Chicago address. How did Plate, in New York, know this? I assume he might have seen an advertisement for it in the non-magical press. I'm looking for such an ad. If anyone spots it, please let me know!
Incidentally, Jim Steranko does agree that the illustrations "could" have been traced from photos, but has not put all his "eggs" in that basket. He also sees evidence in the illustrations that they "could" have been the work of two different artists (or one who got better!). So I'd say the field is still open on that issue... The titlepage states that the illustrations were "drawn from life" by M. D. Smith, and Smith recalled doing so. That he was surprised that there were so many illustrations (101) is intriguing (he'd have guessed he did 20 or 30). But Gardner was interviewing him more than 40 years after the fact and it was clearly not an important job from his point of view. His grand-niece and nephew are going to be digging a box of his stuff out of storage this week to see what "Erdnase" materials he still had when he died. My guess is that he had the letters Martin Gardner wrote him and not much else, if that. But again, you don't know till you check, so I'm looking forward to their report...
I did check to see if there had been a seperate copyright application on the illustrations (about half bear a copyright statement, half don't), but there was none...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/27/03 08:54 AM

Having drawn many thousands of illustrations by "tracing" from photographs, I can say that it would have been nearly impossible for Smith to have done 110 drawings in one day.
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Postby Guest » 02/27/03 09:10 AM

I love the Erdnase info coming out. I hope this thread stays alive.
This may be an odd thought, but...
Maybe Erdnase took some of Smith's illustrations, traced them, and combined them with some of Smith's other illustrations, and voila(!) had a new illustration for the book that he didn't have to pay for.
I think RK may have mentioned that Frank Garcia did something like this in his day, or was that A.I. Cragknarf?
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Postby David Alexander » 02/27/03 09:26 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
He obviously had copies to sell in early March and his stated purpose in writing the book was that he "needed the money" (David Alexander believes this is purely literary irony. I don't read it that way.) The earliest known advertisement for it is in the Sphinx in November 1902. (It is briefly mentioned in the September issue.) What was he doing with copies in the meantime? The first edition copy in the Houdini collection at the Library of Congress had been Adrian Plate's copy, and written in Plate's handwriting (at least I believe it to be Plate's handwriting!) at the bottom of the titlepage it says "Sold by James McKinney and Company" and gives their Chicago address. How did Plate, in New York, know this? I assume he might have seen an advertisement for it in the non-magical press. I'm looking for such an ad. If anyone spots it, please let me know!
Incidentally, Jim Steranko does agree that the illustrations "could" have been traced from photos, but has not put all his "eggs" in that basket. He also sees evidence in the illustrations that they "could" have been the work of two different artists (or one who got better!). So I'd say the field is still open on that issue... The titlepage states that the illustrations were "drawn from life" by M. D. Smith, and Smith recalled doing so. That he was surprised that there were so many illustrations (101) is intriguing (he'd have guessed he did 20 or 30). But Gardner was interviewing him more than 40 years after the fact and it was clearly not an important job from his point of view. ...[/QB][/QUOTE
____________________

The printing end of project took several months, in the middle of winter, beginning early in December and concluding when the books were available to sell, apparently late February or early March. Since McKinney was not the publisher, his printing services were bought and paid for which meant the bill was paid in full before Erdnase took possession of the first run.

A three-month process to obtain a product that must then be advertised (possibly), sold and distributed, that must be paid for by the author is not a project someone undertakes because "they need the money." Publishing books, especially those with a niche market, is not a quick way to make money.

Erdnse, presumably with the requisite skills, could have found a game and made money. His comment is ironic, as in keeping with the persona evident in the Artifice section.

Plate could have found out about the book a number of ways, other than a magazine ad. People traveled, people talked to one another, etc. The book was not a secret, but was probably sold and distributed quietly before it was advertised to magicians.

The tracing of photos, at 5 minutes each, would have taken over 8 hours of continuous work. Given that Smith would have done these at his studio near McKinney's plant, the project could have done these over two or three days, with Smith delivering them either to Erdnase at his hotel (for approval) to McKinney's office where the work was approved. Smith did not remember prolonged contact with Erdnase, which drawing "from life" would have required.

What he remembered was meeting Erdnase in an unheated hotel room, "auditioning" for him by making some quick sketches. The photos were not "drawn from life," unless you stretch the definition to include photographs taken from life. That he got a bit better at the process as he progressed through the 101 illustrations should be readily apparent.
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Postby Lance Pierce » 02/27/03 09:37 AM

It is all very intriguing, isn't it, John? And many thanks to Richard and David for adding their work here.

If Erdnase could replicate Marshall Smith's drawing style, then perhaps he did add his own illustrations to Smith's, and claim copyright only on those. On the other hand, as David stated, it's possible that Smith was able to quickly trace all the requisite drawings. If so, though, then why only attach a copyright statement to some and not others? Hmmm

Does anyone know how many copies of the book Erdnase ran in the first printing and perhaps subsequent others? Are there printer's records that would reveal this?

I don't have my copy of Expert with me at this moment, but I distinctly remember the copyright statement originating from Canada (The Department of Agriculture, to be exact, in London, Ontario). Does this precede or succeed the copyright filed in the U.S.? What do the Canadian records reveal?

Cheers,

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Postby David Alexander » 02/27/03 10:52 AM

The copyright statement is misleading and somewhat nonsensical. The claim of copyright is made by "S.W. Erdnase," and then "Enterted at Stationers' Hall, London."

At least one British researcher has looked and found nothing there.

Then, "Entered according to the Act of the Parliament of Congress.....in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture." It says nothing about "London, Ontario."

"Parliament of Congress" is nonsense. It is either "Act of Parliament," which would be in keeping with a British copyright, or "Act of Congress," which would be appropriate to an US copyright. What it says doesn't mean anything.

This suggests either someone who didn't know what they were doing - an amateur publisher as Erdnase was - an incompetent at McKinney who typeset this after Erdnase had left and wasn't available to proof it (which also explains the technical errors in the text) - or someone trying to confuse the issue.

The book was copyrighted in the US, as Hatch and others have clearly shown...but the copyright page does not announce that. Since the US copyright forms were filled out using the pseudonym, there was no need for additional obfuscation.

As I have said before, had anyone tracked "Erdnase" back to McKinney, all they would have found, had McKinney talked at all, was their belief that it was a man named Andrews (an additional pseudonym I believe my candidate would have used) wrote the book. Sorry, we don't have a forwarding address for him.

It should also be pointed out that the Preface contradicts what Erdnase supposedly told Smith...that he was a "reformed gambler who had decided to go straight."

In his Preface Erdnase writes, "The hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers, or whining, mealy-mouthed pretensions of piety, are not foisted as a justification for imparting the knowledge it contains." His "justification" for writing the book, his "primary motive" as he describes it, is "he needs the money."

This is highly unlikely as anyone who had ever been involved in the publishing business well knows. The book took years to research and write and the actual publishing process took several months, with all publishing services paid for in advance by Erdnase, to be followed by distribution and sales (details currently unknown) before any money would be realized. A minimum of four months if he had customers ready and waiting. Longer if he had to develop the market after the book was available. Hardly the actions of a someone who "needed the money."

There is no evidence that I am aware of that gives the number of copies printed in the first print run, or if the first run was the only print run. The plates were at McKinney and available for addition print runs, should the demand be there.

Common printing/publishing custom suggests for economy and a reasonable cost per unit, the first run was probably 250 to 500, but we don't know with any certainty. It could have been more...or less. Then there are the six or seven months between when the book was available to Erdnase and when it was made known publicly in the magic press of the day, another two before an ad appeared.

It may be that Erdnase sold/distributed the books he had planned on, that the book served whatever purpose he had in mind and that what was left could be sold to magicians. Part of the purpose of the magic section - written without the persona seen in the Artifice section - was camouflage, disguising the book's true purpose as a primer for cheating with cards. Indeed, years later, print run was seized by a vigorous sheriff for exactly that reason. In Erdnase's day, the First Amendment was not interpreted as it is today and a pure primer on card cheating would be seen as an offense to public morals. Possibly the book was sold "under the counter" for a period of time before people saw that it was not going to attract much heat.

The book was equivalent to a $40 or $50 book today, so it wasn't cheap....and we do not know if Erdnase sold them at list price or for more.
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Postby Lance Pierce » 02/27/03 11:43 AM

I knew I shouldn't have opened my trap until I went home and pulled down my copy. Thanks, David. At the risk of abusing the wonderful resource that is yourself, one more question for now...

Vernon told the story several times of how he first came to know of the book. He stated that his father, who worked in the patent & copyright office in Canada, came home one day and told him that they'd received a book on gambling (the Erdnase book), but that he felt Dai was too young to read such as yet. Vernon said that he badgered his father about the book to no avail, but that shortly after, he saw the book on display in a local store and acquired it.

I hope I've remembered this with some accuracy; I'm going back some years here from when I heard the story. It does imply that the book was indeed submitted for copyright in Canada and that it wasn't so much "sold under the counter" (at least not where Vernon found it), but that it was carried rather openly.

In trying to piece together the mosaic of the book's history, where does this information fit in?

Thanks,

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/27/03 12:17 PM

David, I don't believe the illustrations could have been drawn/traced in the brief time you've mentioned of five minutes each. Considering the detail and careful adherence to the anatomy of the hand, I would say at least 20 to 45 minutes each. And we're assuming that he simply put ink to paper, rather than using pencil first and inking afterward. Or having to REdraw as many as 20% (or more!) because Smith wasn't a magician and didn't understand the importance of the exact position of every muscle, etc.
Earle Oakes also "traces" from photographs. He only produces five drawings a day!
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Postby Lance Pierce » 02/27/03 12:28 PM

I do have to say that in looking at the illustrations, they don't appear as if they were traced, but have the look more of a freehand style...although Smith may have done his work freehand from photographs. Just conjecture, though...

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Postby CHRIS » 02/27/03 12:28 PM

David,

there is one wrong reasoning in your post. If we assume that Erdnase was unexperienced in publishing, if it was his first book, then why is that inconsistent with his statement of "doing it for the money"?

To me it makes perfect sense. There are many who think that they can get rich writing a book. And then they find out that is far more difficult. So I can fully believe that Erdnase thought he could make a good amount of money doing the book, particularly if he had no prior experience in the publishing world.

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Postby Chris Aguilar » 02/27/03 12:31 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
He only produces five drawings a day![/QB]
Richard,

Out of curiosity, how many Illustrations can you pump out a day?

When you're in "the zone" of course. :)
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/27/03 12:44 PM

Originally posted by David Alexander:

The copyright statement is misleading and somewhat nonsensical. The claim of copyright is made by "S.W. Erdnase," and then "Enterted at Stationers' Hall, London."

At least one British researcher has looked and found nothing there.

Then, "Entered according to the Act of the Parliament of Congress.....in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture." It says nothing about "London, Ontario."

"Parliament of Congress" is nonsense. It is either "Act of Parliament," which would be in keeping with a British copyright, or "Act of Congress," which would be appropriate to an US copyright. What it says doesn't mean anything.

This suggests either someone who didn't know what they were doing - an amateur publisher as Erdnase was - an incompetent at McKinney who typeset this after Erdnase had left and wasn't available to proof it (which also explains the technical errors in the text) - or someone trying to confuse the issue.
I hate to admit that Busby is right about something on this topic, but he was right when he pointed out that the copyright statement in the first edition of Erdnase is an unusual triple copyright statement. The first line says:
"Copyright, 1902, by S. W. Erdnase."
This is, in fact, the US Copyright statement.
Under this is a seperating line and then the statement:
"Entered at Stationer's Hall, London."
This is the British copyright statement. Under this is another seperating line, then it says:
"Entered According to the Act of Parliament of Canada in the Year One Hundred Thousand and Two, by S. W. Erdnase, in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture."
This is the Canadian Copyright statement. Even in the first edition, the word Canada is in broken type. Sometime, much, much later (possibly not till the 1930s), Frederick J. Drake and Company replaced the broken type for "Canada" with the word "Congress". This was not a mistake the author made. Whoever he was, he knew quite a bit about copyright law, as all three statements are correctly formatted. I know of no other book from the period, magic or otherwise, with this feature. He did follow through with the US Copyright (why?). He apparently did not follow through with the Canadian or British Copyrights (why not?). I think these facts tell us some important things about the author, though it is not clear exactly what.
The exact nature of the author's relationship with the printer McKinney is not known. McKinney was an alcoholic and one of his partners was a known gambler. To me it is not impossible to imagine that they undertook the project without requiring up front financing from a struggling author for a project they may have believed in themselves. We know now that they were selling copies themselves. Was this at the author's request, or to pay off his debt? We just don't know at this point. The fact that the author bothered to follow through with the US Copyright application, to me weakens his conjectured need for absolute anonymity, as does his use of the artist's true name ("M. D. Smith") on the title page. Anyone with sufficient interest in 1902 could have gotten the copyright information, tracked down McKinney, tracked down Smith, and learned a great deal that is now lost to us. Certainly we would have learned exactly what he looked like, when and how often he met the artist (he had vivid recollection only of their initial meeting, but agreed that they must have met more than once. Indeed, he claimed that after making the sketches "from life" he would go to his studio to ink them in, returning them to the author for his approval...). How much Smith was paid, what bank was used for the check, what hotel they met in, what name he was registered under there, how many illustrations he did (and how), the exact nature of the author's "relationship" to Louis Dalrymple, the political cartoonist, etc. etc. Enough I would think, for a clever detective quickly to pinpoint the author, even if the latter was dealing with McKinney and Smith under a second pseudonym (I don't happen to believe he was, but I admit I don't really know!). I really don't understand why someone demanding (as conjectured by David Alexander) total anonymity would bother with the copyright application or place Smith's true name on the title page. I happen to think the author likely did not require that high a degree of anonymity, and that a simple reversal of his true name sufficed for his purposes. Indeed, he may have been disappointed not only with poor sales on the first edition (I am guessing about 1,000 were done as they are much more common that the two hardback edition Drake put out in 1905 and were available from Chicago magic shops as late as 1911 at half the original price (which was still double Drake's hardback price, triple the Sear's catalog price!), but with the fact that no one tracked him down. I really think we won't understand all the known facts until we know for sure who the author was...

Incidentally, for those interested, the facsimile of the first edition offered by bookseller Michael Canick is finally out and is quite lovely. At $52 it is also rather expensive, but I'm happy to have one (limited to 750 copies). Copies of the 1975 Powner edition, which retains all the typographical features of the first edition, except for the title page, are still widely available for under $10 at most dealers...
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Postby Guest » 02/27/03 12:44 PM

One of the aspects about the illustrations that always concerned me is the fact that Smith's recollections were offered many years after he did the work. It seems too many suppositions & conclusions are based on these recollections, which could be entirely erroneous. Consider this: the memory scientist & psychologist Jean Piaget had vivid recollections of being kidnapped when he was 2. It turns out that this never happened & was a story fabricated by his nurse. Even after Piaget learned the truth, he still had distinct images of the supposed event.
This thread was started by someone asking about how to study Erdnase. While I'll post a commercial message elsewhere, I'd like to encourage serious students to purchase the facsimile edition that I'm distributing, if for no other reason than that the type & illustrations were painstakingly restored & everything is 100% legible.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/27/03 03:04 PM

I have just received the facsimile first edition of Expert at the Card Table which is being distributed by Michael Canick and it is THE edition to have if you love this book. I do have a first edition and it looks virtually identical.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/27/03 04:52 PM

I stand corrected on the first page...the copy I was looking at I thought to be a replication of the first edition, but it wasn't.

About McKinney "publishing" the book. There is no evidence for that. The book was "Published by the Author," which means to me that it was bought and paid for by Erdnase. Otherwise, McKinney's name would be on it for re-orders, credit, etc.

I've addressed the other questions in other locations and don't need to take up bandwidth covering old ground again.

It makes no sense to posit that Smith did some of the illustrations and Erdnase did others. If Erdnase had the ability, why bring Smith into the picture at all? Why didn't he do all the illustrations himself?

On speed, some artists are painstakingly slow while others aren't. We have a friend who is a highly successful wildlife artist. He won the national duck stamp contest a few years ago. He was trained as an anatomical artist and is incredibly slow. My wife isn't. See www.thealexanderstuido.com for my examples of her work. Click on the painting at the opening screen to see examples. The large oil painting of the pretty girl, which is not completely illustrated, is 36" x 72" and was completed in 40 hours of painting. The dress is velvet and looks like velvet in the painting.

The male head and shoulders was done in two 6 hour days, in time for his funeral. This is all freehand work. Pastels are faster..a few hours each.

Using a light table and a good photograph should take a a lot less time, a few minutes each.

My wife did the illustrations of James Randi's public magic book. The line drawings did not take long at all, especially given good photographic reference, and the pencil portraits (poorly reproduced by the publisher) took about 45 minutes each, but they were done freehand, not traced.

If Smith had produced 5 drawings a day, he would have been on the project for 20 days...hardly a financially viable assignment to accept.
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Postby Guest » 02/27/03 04:52 PM

Thank you Richard Kaufman & Dick Hatch for your kind words about the Erdnase facsimile I'm distributing. One word about the price: since the books were so carefully crafted & indeed had to be returned & rebound (for additional cost) and since both the publisher & myself have put large resources into the project (both time & money), it is doubtful that either of us will make a profit even if the complete print run of 750 copies sells out.

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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/27/03 09:17 PM

One other aspect of the illustrations might be worth mentioning here. According to Mike Perovich, Vernon felt that the number of illustrations, 101, was not accidental. It was a popular way to advertise things (101 ways to clean house, 101 Dalmations, etc) and in fact, the author uses it on his title page to allow him to say "With over 100 drawings from life by M. D. Smith". Yeah, there are more than one hundred: one more! So Vernon's thinking was that the author needed to get to that magic number for marketing reasons. It would be more likely he would get there by adding illustrations than by deleting them. If he went to Chicago with his manuscript and some of the illustrations, he would only need Smith to add the "20 or 30" he later recalled to get to the magic 101. Smith recalled that the author was not concerned with the drawing's artistic merits, just their accuracy. One way of interpreting this 40 year old memory would be the author telling Smith: "Make your illustrations match these." Of the 101 illustrations, 50 have a copyright statement as a caption. Roughly 2/3 of those in the card table artifice section are so captioned, only 11 of the 35 in the legerdemain section are. If one believe the copyright captions differentiate between two artists and those bearing it are the earlier ones, this makes sense if -- as many have speculated -- the legerdemain section was expanded later to facilitate marketing the book. All of this is merely conjecture at this point, of course. The author told Smith that he was somehow "related" to Louis Dalrymple, a famous political cartoonist of the day. My current favorite two artist theory has Dalrymple doing the "copyrighted" illustrations, but bailing out on the job before finishing it (he was wanted on spousal support charges. His first wife had not only divorced him with alimony, but he was not allowed to remarry or leave NY. He both left and remarried, so was pretty much on the run until his death apparently from venereal disease related delirium a few years later (1905). Anyway, it turns out Dalrymple was in Chicago at about the same time the book was nearing completion, though I haven't pinned down the dates, so this is not as outrageous a theory as it might first seem. But it does beggar the question of why Smith's name (which had no commercial value) and not Dalrymple's (in this scenario) was on the title page. Which brings us back to the degree that the author needed anonymity... Why not just make up an artist's name on the titlepage?

On the size of the job for Smith: We don't know how much he was paid, but it was enough for the author to have paid him by check, rather than cash, and for Smith to be hesitant about accepting the check from a relative stranger. Especially since it was the first (or one of the first) checks on the account (consistent with the author having only recently arrived in Chicago). But he did take the check, it did clear, and he never saw the author again. To my way of thinking, the use of a check implies a fairly sizeable job...
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Postby Nathan » 02/27/03 10:23 PM

Thanks to all you experts for some very interesting Erdnase discussion. I've become increasingly obsessed with this book over the past year. I have two comments that I hope you'll find intriguing.

First of all, here is some evidence that I've never seen mentioned before that the number of illustrations is somehow important. In the discussion of the second deal Erdnase says, "He need not bother about acquiring skill at blind shuffling, cutting stocking, or any of the other hundred and one ruses known to the profession." This is certainly a bit of irony.

Second, with regard to the comment that the author needs the money: Has anyone considered the possibility that Erdnase expected to receive money from a source other than the sales of the book? Perhaps Erdnase made a bet that he could pull of the greatest book publishing scam in magic history. He was certainly arrogant enough to believe he could pull something like this off. Furthermore, if he really was a gambler at heart then the bet itself would have been much more exciting than any actual money he made which explains why Erdnase wouldn't just go find a game if he needed money. Consider this line from the intoduction: "He knows little of the real value of money, and as a rule is generous, careless and improvident. He loves the hazard rather than the stakes." When Erdnase says he needed the money, he might mean that he couldn't resist such a preposterous wager.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/28/03 09:05 AM

I'm afraid this discussion is becoming rife with fantasy. Now Dalrymple is being brought in as a possible artistic contributor. This is in the same vein as the suggestion that Mark Twain was the ghost writer.

Best to remember Occam's Razor and adhere to it.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/28/03 10:15 AM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
On the size of the job for Smith: We don't know how much he was paid, but it was enough for the author to have paid him by check, rather than cash, and for Smith to be hesitant about accepting the check from a relative stranger. Especially since it was the first (or one of the first) checks on the account (consistent with the author having only recently arrived in Chicago). But he did take the check, it did clear, and he never saw the author again. To my way of thinking, the use of a check implies a fairly sizeable job...
-------------------------

The use of a check indicates the publisher (Erdnase) wanted proof of title, clear ownership of the material he was paying for. Establishing clear title is important for what happened later and a check is the best evidence.

It is also indirect evidence that McKinney had nothing to do with "publishing" the book since, as an established printer, they could have ordered the illustrations and paid for them directly. McKinney would have been known to Smith.

As it was, McKinney probably recommended Smith and Smith accepted the job on that referral. That it was a short job is also implied because Smith would not have accepted a long job, from a stranger, without some sort of downpayment. Who is going to work for a couple of weeks for a stranger - a reformed gambler who was met in a cheap hotel - without a deposit? Please....

The job took a day or so - tracing the photos - the material was delivered and approved - the job paid for by a check which could be verified quickly by Smith by walking over to the bank and cashing it. If there was a problem, it could be resolved quickly since the book was in the early stages of production and the author/publisher was still around.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 02/28/03 10:20 AM

If the book wasn't published for money, then why was it published?

Not for vanity or to establish a name for the author, the pseudonym precludes that.

Not as a public service to protect the sheep from being fleeced -- it isn't written from that perspective, nor does it seem to have been marketed that way.

Perhaps Erdnase lost a bet to McKinney, and the manuscript was payment?

Any other ideas?

Also, Hatch says above that copyright wasn't followed up in Canada -- has someone researched the Canadian copyright records? Are there significant early editions in other languages (and other countries whose copyright records should be checked)?

As far as Dalrymple doing some of the drawings -- can anyone say whether or not the style of Dalrymple is similar to that in the book? Samples of Dalrymple artwork:

http://www.relativelyyours.com/dalrympl ... rymple.htm

http://bugpowder.com/andy/e.dalrymple.html

http://www.graphicwitness.org/group/pksail.jpg
http://www.graphicwitness.org/group/pktower.jpg
http://www.bu.edu/ah/ah208/lecture4/1-40.jpg
http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trm44.html

I don't think their styles are so similar that a claim that Dalrymple was a co-illustrator of EATCT makes sense.
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Postby Guest » 02/28/03 10:31 AM

I think it is a bit unfair to lump the Louis Dalrymple theory with the Mark Twain theory. The illustrator, Marshall D. Smith, recalls the author telling him that he (the author) was related to Dalrymple. I thought the Mark Twain theory came from Martin Gardner as it related to Milton Franklin Andrews. Gardner speculated that M.F. Andrews and Twain were friends for several reasons including the fact that they both lived in Hartford at the same time. According to Busby, even Gardner thought his own Mark Twain theory to be extremely unlikely.

If Marshall Smith is to be believed, then I don't think discussing Dalrymple's possible involvement with the book is rife with fantasy.

This is a very interesting thread, and I greatly enjoy reading the observations of Richard Hatch and David Alexander.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/28/03 10:35 AM

I agree with David's comment that the Dalrymple as second artist is as fantastic (and unlikely) an hypothesis as Martin Gardner's "Mark Twain as ghostwriter" theory (and I flattered to be in Gardner's company!).
I suspect I'm having as much fun exploring it as Gardner did with the Twain theory. These things are fun to fantasize about, and one never knows where they might lead.
I also agree wholeheartedly that Occam's razor is a useful guide. As I apply it, Occam's razor would lead us to look first for an "E. S. Andrews" about 40 years old, possibly related to Louis Dalrymple, slight in stature, who had lived in Chicago in the 1890s, went back to Chicago in the late fall of 1901 (to have the book published), and left not much later (likely about when the book dropped from $2 to $1 in February 1903: the explanation being that he dumped copies when he moved). Such a candidate exists:
Edwin Sumner Andrews, born 1859, lived in Chicago from 1888 to 1895, moved back (from Denver, another gambling center) in October 1901, departed (for San Francisco, yet another gambling center)in February 1903, the very month that the Atlas Novelty Company at 295 Austin Ave dropped the price from $2 to $1 (only the second time the book was advertised in the Sphinx). E. S. Andrews' address in Chicago (actually Oak Park): 195 Austin Ave, 8 blocks due south. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I think not. He wife's maiden name was Seely, the same maiden name as Dalrymple's mother. Coincidence? Perhaps. His nearest neighber growing up in rural Minnesota was an Irish immigrant farmer named Patrick McKinney who had a son named James. The book's printer was a James McKinney, the son of immigrant Irish whose older brother (whom he employed) was named Patrick. Coincidence? Almost certainly, but intriguing enough for me to want to explore further. Edwin Sumner Andrews as a "travelling agent" for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which would have given him ample opportunity to observe (and participate in, if so inclined) card play. The one photo I have of him shows him to be the proper height range (judged relative to those around him...). Can I place a deck of cards in his hands. No. But he makes a heck of a circumstantial case, in my opinion...
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/28/03 10:48 AM

Dalrymple's style does not look anything like the illustrations in Erdnase, but I have five other books illustrated by Marshall D. Smith that don't look anything like the technical drawings he did for Erdnase either, so I don't discount the Dalrymple theory on those grounds. But I don't take it too seriously myself, either, just trying not to miss any possible clues by ignoring him entirely...
The Canadian copyright has been exhaustively researched, most recently by David Ben. The copyright was not applied for (it would have left a record even if the application was rejected, on moral grounds, for example). The British copyright has also been researched without bearing fruit. Possibly the author intended to file these applications, but never followed though. British copyright at that time required 5 deposit copies (for each of the national libraries). As far as I can tell, none of them currently has a first edition (most can be searched online), making it extremely unlikely he followed through with that application (owing perhaps to lack of funds). Possibly the triple copyright statement was just a bluff to scare off pirates, but then why bother even with the US Copyright?
Frederick J. Drake began selling first edition copies in 1903 and continued to sell them until he reprinted the book beginning in 1905 and continuing at least as late as 1934 (possibly 1937, when the plates were transfered to Frost Publishing Company). I have done extensive research on Drake and he appears extremely scrupulous in following the letter of the law. He had almost all his publication, regardless of subject matter or author, copyrighted in the name of "Frederick J. Drake and Company". I have examined the records of some of these in the copyright offices in Washington. He clearly knew and apparently followed the letter of the law. Erdnase is one of the few books (the are others, but not many, especially from this period) that he published without obtaining a transfer of the copyright. To me, that implies that he had made a financial arrangement with the author, either buying the book outright (then why not obtain the copyright, as was his practice?) or paying royalties. And it as Drake who first broke the news that the "S. W. Erdnase" read in reverse yields the author's name. In my application of Occam's razor, that carries some weight..
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Postby Randy DiMarco » 02/28/03 11:10 AM

If a copyright was never applied for in Canada, then the Vernon story about his father telling him that the book had been received at the copyright office would have to be false.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/28/03 11:13 AM

The Vernon story is a "false memory". David Ben has been able to identify the book his father brought home. It was not Erdnase, but another book on gambling from the period and is illustrated with photos. We may have to wait for David's Vernon biography to learn the details...
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Postby David Alexander » 02/28/03 12:09 PM

There are plenty of people who "remember" the annoucement of the attack on Pearl Harbor coming in the middle of a baseball game when the season was over months earlier.
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Postby David Alexander » 02/28/03 12:59 PM

The evidence shows the book was author published. That's what it says in the front of the book. Author published means everything done to produce the book would have been bought and paid for by the author prior to the book appearing in printed form. McKinney was not a publisher. McKinney was a printer and binder. (Even Martin Gardner was confused on this point.)

The illustrations were paid for with a check, which suggests the printing and binding were also paid the same way. This is important if the author/publisher is traveling and needs copies sent here or there as instructions and a check could be mailed to McKinney and the orders fulfilled with minimal fuss. Checks also provided a paper trail for ownership should the need arise, which I believe it did.

My thoughts on this, which Ive previously shared with Dick Hatch, follow:

McKinney was going down the drain, but continued to have the responsibility for Erdnases printing plates and excess stock, material they couldnt legally dispose of. They had no way of contacting Erdnase, so what to do with his property as the business was deteriorating?

Without a shred of supporting evidence, Busby claims that in 1903 William J. Hilliar brokered a deal between M.F. Andrews and Frederick J. Drake, a Chicago publisher, for the rights, plates and unsold stock. However, if the real Erdnase was involved in the deal, as Busby claims, then Drake, like any prudent publisher, would have purchased or had the copyright transferred to his name. That didnt happen, which in and of itself is not a problem as royalties could have been paid by contract, but the actions by Drake subsequent to obtaining the Erdnase material suggest Drake had a less than benign motive, for, once in possession of the plates, he then advertised an edited version of Expert of 204 pages and 45 illustrations by Samuel Robert Erdnase in the United States Catalog: Books in America. Clearly, he did not own or have legal rights to the copyright because he listed the book under another authors name. He would not have done this if he owned the copyrights or had legal entitlement to the material. However, this book never was released. The conclusion one must make is that some how Erdnase learned of Drakes plan and forestalled it.

My conjecture is that the real Erdnase may have contacted McKinney for more books or somehow learned that the company was failing and that his material had been transferred to Drakes care, with Drake continuing to sell Erdnases book.

Erdnase hired a lawyer, to whom he presented the various cancelled checks, copyright forms, original manuscript, etc., easily proving his bona fides as the author and owner of the copyright.

A letter from the lawyer to Drake stops the whole Samuel Robert Erdnase business in its tracks. Drake was in possession of and selling material that wasnt his. This could lead to trouble, but the whole thing is put off as a misunderstandinga favor to McKinneymisrepresentation by Hilliar, whatever, and the matter settled out of court. A lease agreement to use the plates and a royalty contract was signed with Drake paying monies to Erdnase/Andrews, probably through the same Chicago bank account set up to pay for the book.

Drake had dozens of titles and Expert would have been one of many, not worth any legal hassle especially when he was in violation of several state and federal statutes, with no way to win. Settling was the only solution.

Drake reprints the book with the copyright remaining in the name of Erdnase, royalties are paid and life goes on.

Then one day, the royalty checks are returned by the bankaccount closedno forwarding address. It isnt Drakes responsibility to chase authors and pay them royalties, so he just keeps tabs on what he owes and waits to hear from the author. He never does.

The year 1930 rolls around, important because that is the year the copyright comes up for renewal. No one renews it. Drake cant because he doesnt own it or have legal rights to it, otherwise he would have. Erdnase doesnt, because my candidate has, years earlier, dropped any interest he has in the project. It has served his psychological purposes and he has moved on with his lifeand to renew the copyright may risk exposure. There is no benefit for him to resurface.

So, in 1930, the book passes into public domainand, apparently, no one notices or cares because the market is handled by Drake and the production of another edition probably isnt financially viable, should anyone have taken notice of the books now public status.

Drake continues to sell the book until 1937, a period of time when Drake could argue that their author is legally dead seven years being the standard back then. Drake, for whatever reasons, sells the plates to Frost who probably assumed responsibility for paying the author or his heirs back royalties. Certainly it would have been prudent for Drake to have Frost assume liability.

This is, of course, conjecture, but it does explain the facts as we know them without complication.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/01/03 11:12 AM

For anyone interested, here's an original Marshall D. Smith painting you can pick up for just $20,000:
http://showcase.goantiques.com/search/i ... p?id=92899
Personally, I don't think it looks anymore like the work of the artist of Erdnase than the Darlymple cartoons posted earlier. My feeling (as a non-artist) is that the technical illustrations required by the artist could easily have been rendered to his satisfaction by any competent artist. Smith specifically recalled that the author was not interested in "artistic" qualities, just accuracy, leaving little room for artistic expression.
David Alexander, in his excellent post says:
"The evidence shows the book was author published. That's what it says in the front of the book."
True enough, and I agree with it, but it does raise the question of how much of what the mysterious author tells us we should take at face value. For example, on that same title page he tells us his name is "S. W. Erdnase" which we now know not to be true (it was, however, not obvious to readers at the time of publication). He also tells us that the illustration were drawn "from life" while Alexander claims they were traced from photographs. The copyright page claims copyright in Canada and the UK. Not true. The preface claims he wrote the book because he "needs the money". Alexander tells us this is simply irony, and that he was a man of independent means. My understanding is the Alexander's candidate's motive for writing the book was to exact private revenge on the gambling fraternity that had cheated him in his youth, but the author tells us he has "neither greivance against the fraternity nor sympathy for so called 'victims'" (p. 10). I'm sure other examples of such contradictions could be found. In fact, some people feel his statements that he both betrays "no confidences" yet proffers "the sum of our present knowledge" (p. 14) are inherently contradictory. I'm not so sure. My feeling is we should believe the author and other "witnesses" until forced by facts to do otherwise. I see no compelling reason not to believe that "S. W. Erdnase" is a lightly disguised version of his real name, that he was the publisher of his own book (I'm not sure anyone on the forum has challenged this claim, but since we don't know who the author was, it doesn't tell us a great deal about him. He gave his address on the copyright application c/o McKinney who, it turns out, was selling copies of the book, so the thought that McKinney himself might have authored the book is not entirely outrageous...), that the illustrations were drawn from life by M. D. Smith, and that he needed the money. Perhaps this post will be useful it points out that what we don't yet know about the author and his book greatly outweighs what we do know.

We don't know when, where and under what circumstances the book was written. Some believe it to have been written many years before it was finally published. I'm not among those, but it is possible. We don't know when the book was illustrated by Smith (Alexander's pinpointing of the date by comparing weather records with Smith's recollection that he met the author on a bitter cold day is an ingenious approach, but it does assume that Smith met the author shortly before publication, i.e., in the winter of 1901. While that assumption is reasonable and one that I share, it is an assumption. Smith told Gardner he was about 25 when he did the job. He turned 29 in the winter of 1901.). We don't know exactly where they met or how long the illustrating took or how much Smith was paid. We don't know the nature of the author/publisher's relation with McKinney, whom we assume printed the book (a reasonable assumption, but an assumption, nonetheless), so we don't know the terms they worked out. Nor do we know the nature of the relationship between the author and Frederick J. Drake, who began selling first editions at half price in 1903 and printing the book himself in 1905. We don't know how many first editions were printed or how they were distributed. We therefore don't know how well it sold and whether is satisfied the author's need for money or not. We don't know why the price was dropped from $2 to $1 in February 1903, less than a year after the book came of the presses. We don't know why the copyright was not transfered to Drake nor why it was not renewed in 1930. Finally, we don't know who wrote the book. Likely many of these questions will not be answerable until we do.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/01/03 11:31 AM

I'm afraid I must disagree with statements regarding the illustrations in "Expert at the Card Table" made by both my friends David and Richard.
First, the drawings are extremely exacting, and almost perfectly reproduce the anatomy of the hand. These drawings simply could not have been done as quickly as David assumes. Each one looks as if it would have taken a minimum of 15 to 30 minutes. That's a minimum, and frankly I think and underestimate.
Second, Richard states that any competant artist could have done the work. I must strongly dispute this: Even great artists often fail miserably when it comes to the hands. Here, we are not even talking about great art, and it has nothing to do with whether the artist is "reputable" or not. It has to do with someone who understands the anatomy of the hands and how it relates to the objects they hold. The illustrations in Erdnase are among the clearest ever drawn in our field. VERY FEW artists are capable of that.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/01/03 12:41 PM

Richard, thanks for pointing this out.
On the question of whether the illustrations were drawn "from life" or traced from photos, let me throw in the following, for others to correct me on as well:
The final illustration, Fig. 101, shows the face of the Ace of Spades from a Bee brand deck. Thinking that this might help date the illustrations (since the designs change over time), I obtained a photocopy of the Bee design from that period (which turns out to have been stable over that period, so only set a lower bound on the illustrations). The actual design is significantly different from the one shown in the illustration, suggesting to me that this illustration, at least (or that portion of it) was not traced, but rendered free hand...
Fig. 16 (page 47) shows two edges of the square board that Smith recalled the author demonstrated the moves on. The front edge of the deck runs parallel to the front of the board, so a traced photo should show the end of the deck parallel to the side of the board. It does not, again suggesting this was drawn freehand, and rather quickly at that. I asked Steranko to take a close look at the illustrations, to see if he could determine whether they showed evidence of having been traced from photos, rendered by two or more artists, and whether the author's hands were large or small. His conclusions to all three issues were ambiguous. In the case of the size of the hand, some (fig. 79 for example) make the hand appear small while others (fig. 61) make it appear huge. I don't believe these discrepencies could be explained merely by saying that some poses used bridge sized cards and others poker size. It could be explained if they were drawn from life as stated on the titlepage by the author and later recalled by the illustrator. I don't know anything about the history of photography, so hope someone who does might see fit to comment on this, but my naive belief is that it would have been both much more expensive and much more time consuming to pose for the photographs (to get 101 usuable ones would likely have required a fair number of more shots). Many of the poses would be awkward to hold for the cameras of the period (shots from below, above, etc. which required setting up a tripod, etc. etc.) If the author took the time and expense to have the photos taken and (as Alexander contents) was not concerned about turning a profit from the project, why not use them for the book, rather than spending additional time and expense to turn them into illustrations? Lang Neil's photo illustrated book came out later in 1902 at the same price as Erdnase (of course, it was not self-published either!). Any experts on turn of the century photography care to enlighten us?
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Postby Bob Coyne » 03/01/03 02:40 PM

The sleeves in the illustrations seem stylized rather than realistic. For example, many of them have a little curved line with a gap to indicate the connection between the length of the sleeve and the end of the sleeve (hard to explain verbally). Plus, the shirt extended out from the coat sleeve seems more uniform than it would be in real life. So my guess is that Smith either drew the sleeves from life in a quick stylized way, or alternatively, he fabricated them after the fact in the process of finishing/refining the illustrations.

Either way, that seems to me to be an argument against tracing. If he traced the pictures, I'd expect to see less stylized, more varied sleeves. And a similar argument for the hands themselves. I'd expect to see more profile of knuckles, for example, if it was traced (e.g., left hand in fig. 85).

Though I guess he could draw from pictures rather than tracing them which would account better for the reduction/simplification.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/01/03 04:02 PM

As something to look at when considering a "two artist" or "one artist who got better" theory, Steranko pointed out discepencies in the rendition of the fingernails. Some are ovals and others are more realistically squared off. Naturally, one must compare the same fingers on the same hands for this to be relevant. Again, this seems like the kind of discrepency more likely to occur if being drawn from life than traced from photos. Of course, it could also be explained by two different people posing for the illustrations, or one who got a serious manicure between sessions...

For a fascinating example of photos that were turned into illustrations, several incredible photos of Robert-Houdin performing cups and balls, card sleights, etc. are in the fantastic new books by Christian Fechner. Robert-Houdin had these taken and then turned into illustrations for his seminal text, Secrets of Conjuring and Magic. This was in the late 1860s, so perhaps the mysterious Erdnase did the same some 30 odd years later...
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/02/03 10:45 AM

Originally posted by Nathan Becker:

First of all, here is some evidence that I've never seen mentioned before that the number of illustrations is somehow important. In the discussion of the second deal Erdnase says, "He need not bother about acquiring skill at blind shuffling, cutting stocking, or any of the other hundred and one ruses known to the profession." This is certainly a bit of irony.
Nathan is correct is citing the above reference to the term "one hundred and one" in the text as never having been mentioned in print prior to his posting. I had done a text search on a number of key words some months ago, using Chris Wasshuber's eBook version. My search on the word "hundred" turned up one other use of the phrase. In his discussion of ways to present the pre-arranged deck (p. 181) he says: "There are a hundred and one variations..." I think these two examples show the author's fondness for the phrase and strengthen Vernon's contention that the number of illustrations (101) was not accidental.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/02/03 06:42 PM

I had the opportunity of spending a good deal of the day in my car with Earle Oakes, and we discussed the issue of the drawings in Erdnase. His contention is similar to mine: they must have taken a minimum of at least 20 minutes each to draw, if not much longer.
I have several other observations to make:
1) The illustrations almost uniformly depict someone with small chubby hands. Unless someone can find evidence that Smith always drew peoples' hands looking small and chubby, we MUST assume Erdnase's hands were small and chubby. (Note that Vernon had a smaller than average size hand; Steve Freeman has small hands; Howard Schwarzman has small hands: all three men could/can do virtually every sleight in the book.)
2) These illustrations could not have been sketched from life. It seems impossible to me that this degree of anatomical accuracy could have reproduced from quick sketches made from looking at Erdnase's hands. My own experience forces me to assume that they have been traced from photographs.
3) The fact that there are two different "groups" of illustrations does not indicate to me that there are two different artists involved. It more strongly suggests that Smith did the drawings in two different batches, at least six months apart but as long as several years apart. I say this from experience: I illustrated "The Card Classics of Ken Krenzel" over a period of a year. The first batch of drawings differs substantially from the second batch, for which the photographs were taken about six months later. Very simple: my style changed. The style of every artist changes over time, even over just a few months, depending upon what is influencing his or her work. With a book that has as many extremely complex drawings as this ("complex" in the sense that the positions of the fingers and cards are vital), it would not be at all surprising if Smith did it in two batches.
4) The fact that "The Modern Conjuror" was one of the few (though not the only) books to use photographs during that period would suggest not just that it was more expensive to use photographs, but the prevailing opinion (which persists to this day) that illustrations are simply a BETTER way to explain this type of material. Besides, Erdnase may have felt that actual photographs of his hands might betray his identity. Either way, just because photos do not appear in the book is no reason to presume that the illustrations were not drawn from photographs.
5) The points about the sleeves and cuffs and table edges having nothing to do with anything. When making a drawing like this, frequently the edges of the table and the sleeves are not in view, or only partially in view, in the photograph. They can, and frequently are, "made up" by the artist. And you can see the difference in the line work when something has been traced from a photo and when it hasn't--frankly, the fact that the cuffs or sleeves sometimes look spontaneously drawn strengthens, NOT weakens, the arguement that the illustrations were traced from photographs.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/02/03 08:32 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
1) The illustrations almost uniformly depict someone with small chubby hands. Unless someone can find evidence that Smith always drew peoples' hands looking small and chubby, we MUST assume Erdnase's hands were small and chubby.
Smith recalled the author as having small, soft hands (softer than a woman's), consistent with the above. This is important in the identity search, since Milton Franklin Andrews was known to have large hands. And, of course, he was 6' 1.5" in his stocking feet, taller than Smith, who recalled looking down on the author, whom he recalled as being 5'6", perhaps smaller, not taller than 5'7" (Smith himself appears to be about 6' from a photo of him standing beside Paul Rosini and Martin Gardner which can be see in Chuck Romano's Paul Rosini book, HOUSE OF CARDS. Gardner was about 5'7" at that time. In fact, Smith told Gardner he was about the same size as Erdnase when Gardner first interviewed him. Gardner was unable to convince Smith that he might have met Milton Franklin Andrews, due to the height discrepency.)
Erdnase himself refers to the sizes of hands in several places. For example, after describing the difficult one-handed Erdnase shift (p. 101), he says: "We presume that the larger or longer the hand, the easier it will be for a beginner to accomplish this shift, but a very small hand can perform the action when the knack is once acquired." He seems to "know" about small hands, but must "presume" when it comes to large hands, suggesting his own hands are small, though this is open to interpretation. Vernon in REVELATIONS says of Erdnase's description of the classic pass (p. 96): "Erdnase's method for the two-handed shift is the only one in which tip of thumb is held at side of pack and it is decidedly more efficient especially if operator's hand is small." Suggesting again that Erdnase likely had small hands...
Thanks to David Alexander for pointing these passages and their significance out to me.
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Postby Guest » 03/02/03 09:23 PM

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread, the contributions have been varied and well thought-through/informed. Fascinating stuff.

Thanks.
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