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Postby Guest » 03/02/03 10:14 PM

I'd like to echo Eric's words. I started by asking on the proper way of studying Erdnase and got a whole lot more. Although the emphasis of this thread has been somewhat diluted, in reading these wonderful responses, I have found them to be inspirational and very interesting to say the least. Thanks everyone and keep 'em coming!

Roberto
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Postby Pete Biro » 03/03/03 11:25 AM

Does ANYONE have proof that Expert at the Card Table was NOT written by Walter B. Gibson? <GRD>
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/03/03 11:53 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Does ANYONE have proof that Expert at the Card Table was NOT written by Walter B. Gibson? <GRD>
It's very hard to prove a negative! That what gives Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Milton Franklin Andrews such staying power... ;)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/03/03 12:13 PM

How old was Gibson when Expert came out? Two?
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Postby Guest » 03/03/03 12:20 PM

Erdnase was actually Charlier.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/03/03 12:23 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
How old was Gibson when Expert came out? Two?
Hey, according to the new Fechner biography, Robert-Houdin was baptised several days before he was born (not a typo in Fechner's text, he points it out himself in an endnote), so I wouldn't eliminate Gibson from the growing candidate list on age alone (though you'd think Smith would remember needing to change diapers between sketches!). Actually, Gibson was seven at the time. Probably not quite 5'6", though his hands likely would have been "small and soft". And he was from the East Coast. Oh wait, it was Gibson who told Gardner in 1947 to contact Edgar Pratt, which led to the Milton Franklin Andrews theory. And Gibson, ghost-writing for Radner, who gave the author's true name as "James Andrews". Clever smokescreens to hide his own involvement?
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/03/03 12:45 PM

Originally posted by Hen Kvetch:
Erdnase was actually Charlier.
Ironically, Charlier is the only magician mentioned by name in Erdnase, and his name is misspelled at that: "This is known to conjurers as the "Charlies [sic] pass" and we presume was invented by the famous magician of that name." (p. 128). The move is used in a later trick and spelled properly, so this is just a typo, but could be used both to argue that Erdnase was not an active member of the magic fraternity (the whole legerdemain section has him standing outside it: Why do conjurers always use the pass instead of blind shuffles? He is clearly well read on magic and probably came up with some of his great moves because he was not fraternising with magicians...) and that the book did not have an editor (who would have caught the discrepency) as David Alexander argues persuasively. I also don't think the book had an editor, but I think it not so much due to his need for anonymity, but due to his need for money: he couldn't afford one. This is consistent with the cheap paper and binding, and the cheap hotel in which he met the artist.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/03/03 03:04 PM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
...not so much due to his need for anonymity, but due to his need for money: he couldn't afford one. This is consistent with the cheap paper and binding, and the cheap hotel in which he met the artist.
Hi Rich,

I'm trying to read this thread and glean the back story as you and some others collect evidence. The money issue itself begs some questions.

Is E@CT to be interpreted like Nicolo Machavelli's work as intended to regain favor at some court or clique?

Did the author claim to be reformed? If so, why not get a church involved? If the work had a different tone and focus it might be framed as a 'how to save your money from evil people' type work.

If not, then there is money to be taken from the card table and not much motivation to write a compromising book. Even if one had students one might wish to protect the material by coding the text and limiting the illustrations to just what the student might have forgotten from the lessons given.

More puzzled than usual

-Jon
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Postby Guest » 03/03/03 03:15 PM

The publisher of the Erdnase facsimile I'm distributing asked me to post his theory here concerning the illustrations in Erdnase. BTW, because the illustrations are so clear in this facsimile, the point he makes is more easily seen.

His theory is basically this: there were at least 3 artists illustrating Erdnase. Possibly Erdnase (to save money) or Smith (to save time) had a colleague or student do some of the work. The publisher cites 3 illustrations for his theory: On page 29, Fig. 1, the hands look anatomically correct and professionally rendered. On page 132, Fig. 68, the hands look awkward & amateurishly rendered (compare especially how the base of the fingers meet the hand). Finally, on the facing page (p. 133, Fig. 69), the hands & cuffs seem quite different again. Also, a heart can clearly be seen drawn on the back of the lower hand! This apparently is a device that students use to get the proportions & shape of the hand correct. It is the only illustration in the whole book that has this heart shape visible.

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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/03/03 03:25 PM

Originally posted by Michael Canick:
Finally, on the facing page (p. 133, Fig. 69), the hands & cuffs seem quite different again. Also, a heart can clearly be seen drawn on the back of the lower hand! This apparently is a device that students use to get the proportions & shape of the hand correct. It is the only illustration in the whole book that has this heart shape visible.
Gazzo seems to think the heart shape (which is edited out of some later reprints) is a significant clue to the author's identity. He also thinks the fact that it occurs in Fig. 69 might be of importance. I don't know how to interpret any of this. Gazzo also thinks that the final words of the book "no hocus pocus" are important. He first suggested to me the idea of using the Bee Ace design to try to date the book, but as noted earlier, it only put a lower bound of 1892 (when Bee brand was introduced, I believe, working from memory here) on that particular illustration. He thinks the book could have been written decades before being published and that the relative popularity of the games mentioned could also be used to date it...
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Postby Guest » 03/04/03 01:46 AM

The really great thing about this thread is that I'm READING Erdnase again. Believe it or not, there are many among us who haven't even read it! As Darwin Ortiz mentioned, "The work of art is always more important than the artist" (I'm quoting by memory, but its a good point.) It would be nice to see a discussion on the book itself, but really, what else could be said, other than: READ IT! It is a wonderful experience.
Anyway, can't John Edward find out who he was? Ha ha.
Seriously, if I was in a position to do so, I would gladly see to it that Richard Hatch and David Alexander receive a grant to continue their research. We're getting close and clsoer it seems. Remember years ago (in The Phoenix?), it was mentioned triumphantly "They mystery of Erdnase has been solved!" If they only knew...
And if Erdnase himself only knew the lasting influence he'd have!
Go forth now and read the book, if you haven't done so, you'll thank me.
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Postby Charlie Chang » 03/04/03 03:24 AM

I just caught up on this thread and have just spent an hour going through it. Wow. I hope someone is recording a lot of this - it's one of the best Internet threads I have ever seen on a magic site.

I am not qualified to offer a theory on Erdnase's identity. I happen to subscribe to Richard Hatch's excellent candidate but have been fascinated by all the potential Erdnase suspects put forward by David Alexander and Mr Hatch. I think we are very fortunate to have two passionate historians researching this mystery from different perspectives.

I have a theory that may answer a lot of questions about the drawings in Erdnase.

First of all, I think it would be important to learn the details of obtaining 101 photographs in the late 19th century. I assume it would be extremely expensive and quite difficult in itself. Not like buying a roll of film and dropping it at the one hour photo booth.

Assuming that obtaining 101 photographs would not prove to be prohibitive we should also consider the idea of someone going to such an expense only to have the photographs converted into drawings. At this stage in the life span of photography such an idea might seem extremely fanciful if not downright stupid.

Experts in the history of photography might be able to clarify this.

Now, if I was Mr Smith and I was required to draw from life, I find it quite unlikely that I would sit with my subject and complete each illustration in front of him.

It would be much smarter to perform quick sketches, outlining the position and size of the hands and cards. Such sketches can be completed in a matter of SECONDS.

Before you dismiss this, consider that such preliminary sketches were an accepted tool of the pre-photography artist.

Now look at the drawings in Erdnase. These are not real hands. Yes, they may accurately reflect the size and shape of the subject BUT these hands are fanciful - they are drawn, in my opinion, from the illustrator's mind.

I think Smith sat with Erdnase and made dozens of quick sketches. Then, later, he used those sketches to create the illustrations, applying his understanding of the human hand to the positions shown in his initial drawings.

He could then return them to his employer by mail.

While I do not have Richard or Earl Oaks' experience, I have illustrated several small books and studied anatomy and life drawing at the Glasgow School Of Art.

I think that both Richard and Earl are approaching the problem from their position as excellent draughtsmen.

I believe Smith approached the task as an artist.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/04/03 07:43 AM

Originally posted by R P Wilson:
It would be much smarter to perform quick sketches, outlining the position and size of the hands and cards. Such sketches can be completed in a matter of SECONDS.

Before you dismiss this, consider that such preliminary sketches were an accepted tool of the pre-photography artist....

I think Smith sat with Erdnase and made dozens of quick sketches. Then, later, he used those sketches to create the illustrations, applying his understanding of the human hand to the positions shown in his initial drawings.
In fact, this is EXACTLY the process described by Smith when interviewed by Martin Gardner in December 1946, some 45 years after the fact. He told Gardner he made sketches which the author approved. He then left the hotel room in which they met to return to his studio to ink them in. He did not recall tracing them from photographs, which I think he would have remembered. He was trained at the Chicago Art institute and doing extensive illustrating at this time (he later gave up this line of work in favor or oil painting, which paid him better). He recalled that his work at the time was for "cheap magazines", indicating that he likely did not command a high price for his services, consistent with the book's author having a profit motive (i.e., "needing the money"). What is strange about his recollection is that he was both surprised by the large number of illustrations (he'd have guessed he did 20-30 not 101) and that he did not recognize them. He claimed he did recognize the handwriting beneath them, i.e., "Fig. 1", "Fig. 2" etc. I find that very strange. Apparently Vernon was so disappointed with the artist's recollection (when interviewed in May 1947 at the SAM convention in Chicago some months after Gardner found him) that he expressed some doubt as to whether Smith had actually illustrated the book at all...
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Postby Charlie Chang » 03/04/03 08:13 AM

This method for producing the illustrations could feasibly explain many things.

If Smith were working from sketches the quality of each drawing is bound to vary. Lets say he did five drawings in each session. It is entirely likely that the quality of the drawings will not be constant. This could also be explained by the quality of his preliminary sketches.

There is is also no way to determine the order in which he did the drawings. He may have started with illustration 69 - then 25 then 101 and so on.

It is also possible that the illustrations were not numbered by Smith at all. As an illustrator, I think it best to mark an illustration at the lower left corner of the paper. The drawing can then be labelled later when the book is being laid out. I seriously doubt that the illustrations were numbered by Smith the way they are in the book. This ma be the work of McKinney or even Erdnase himself.

As to Smith's surprise that he did so many drawings - I think we can consider this as a minor issue. How many times have you mis-remembered an event or even a period from your past? This was no-doubt a novel job for Smith but by no means the highlight of his career. Why should he recall every detail 45 years later?

Maybe he was surprised that he had done so many drawings. This does not mean he did not do them.
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Postby Bob Coyne » 03/04/03 08:43 AM

I think the point relayed by Michael Canick, that there might have been multiple artists is plausible. Looking through them, a few groups jump out (to my eye). Specifically, I think figures 84, 85, 86, 87, and especially 88 seem of inferior quality. And 92, 93, 94, 97 also. Others look very well drawn with correct proportions.

Multiple artists would fit with Smith's recollection that there were many more than he remembered. It would also fit with Erdnase needing money. Perhaps he could only afford to have a limited number professionally illustrated (by Smith). For others he found less competent (and cheaper) help.
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Postby diagonalpalmshift » 03/04/03 04:40 PM

I know very little about drawing, and, honestly, when I looked at the illustrations I thought they were all better than I could do, and therefore thought all of them were good. However, maybe Mr. Erdnase only had Mr. Smith do the drawings he could not do himself because they were too difficult, or he wanted them to be very accurate. Perhaps he had worked on them prior to meeting or hiring Smith. Are the more difficult drawings consistently the better ones?

Also, I think Erdnase would have mentioned if he had additional artists work on the book, unless he put Mr. Smith's name in the book for purposes other than giving credit. Further, in the book he seems like a man who wanted to at least appear modest, since, after he named the S.W.E. Shift, he kind of downplays the use of his name in the title. This, in my mind, makes it possible that he might have worked on some of the illustrations himself without mentioning it. What would the price difference be if you had all the drawings done or just the ones that have been perceived as not as exceptional?

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Postby Pete McCabe » 03/04/03 05:03 PM

Sorry if I missed this in this long and wonderful thread, but do some of our resident experts have any thoughts on the significance of the name of the S.W.E. Shift?

I'm thinking, for example, that if S.W. Erdnase were really E.S. Andrews, he might have chosen a different title that would reflect his real name better.

Just a thought. Thanks to everyone for posting the results of their labor here for all to share.

Pete
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Postby Bob Coyne » 03/04/03 08:49 PM

Pete McCabe asks: Sorry if I missed this in this long and wonderful thread, but do some of our resident experts have any thoughts on the significance of the name of the S.W.E. Shift?
David Alexander's fascinating and tantalizing theory (printed in Genii or Magic a couple years ago) is that S.W. Erdnase is really an anagram of real person named W.E. Sanders. Regarding the S.W.E. shift, "W.E.S." (Sander's initials) is what you get when you perform a shift on "S.W.E" (Erdnase's initials). The "S" packet gets shifted from the top (beginning) to the bottom (end).

David also points out that Erdnase means "Earth nose" in German. Sanders was a mining engineer. Maybe a coincidence, or maybe a clever pseudonym that functions both as an anagram and a description. Anyway, it's been a while since I read it, but there were various other things that would link Sanders and Erdnase, but nothing conclusive I think. Apparently there are also diaries of Sanders in existence, but I don't know if anything in them supports the theory or not.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 03/04/03 11:27 PM

Thanks Bob, and by extension, David. And everybody else on this thread. This is just another of those things that would have been utterly impossible just 11 years ago, before the World Wide Web was invented.
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Postby Todd Karr » 03/04/03 11:39 PM

Hi, everyone

First of all, stay tuned for Martin Breese's upcoming CD-ROM release of the entire file of The Magic Wand. The very first issue (1910) begins a series by Professor Hoffmann analyzing moves in Erdnase (the Fleming/Gambler's Book CLub edition has this material, too).

Richard Hatch and I have been discussing Erdnase in-depth recently and he suggested I share a few thoughts. I do NOT want to get into an endless debate and quibble about details...I'm just sharing some ideas.

I also do think it's important to check out as many avenues as possible, so Richard and everyone else should continue their leads and see what turns up.

One of my first comments to Richard, whose historical wisdom I greatly respect, was that my background is in investigative journalism and in historical research (plus 12 years as a full-time magician). A few rules I follow: 1. Use common sense and get the facts correct. 2. Without proof, theories are just speculation. 3. People's memories are not facts (just look how people inaccurately recall your magic feats to their friends).

The artwork: Erdnase most likely made many of the changes himself to Smith's artwork, altering some and perhaps composing others by tracing Smith's drawings and making necessary changes when he saw Smith got certain details wrong. Erdnase probably didn't have the money to have Smith redo them: he states up front he was publishing the book for the money and Smith said he met the guy in a cheap hotel room. If he did hire a second artist, it does look like the work of an amateur as pointed out.

Copyright notices: It looks like Erdnase inserted the notices mainly where he had room to do so. It appears that the layout was typeset, after which a paranoid Erdnase decided to insert copyright notices under the artwork, perhaps thinking the drawings weren't covered by the copyright at the beginning of the book. (This makes me think this man did not know much about the law.)

Erdnase's character: I would say this was a very bright fellow, a good, detailed writer. I believe he used a pseudonym because he feared retribution by crooked gamblers. (This was probably a rough time to mess with the livelihood of card sharps. Look how peeved the magic community was with the Masked Magician and multiply exponentially.) I think this paranoia is reflected in the overkill with the book's copyrights.

Magician or gambler: The book feels like it was written by a magician. I believe this person was an incredibly skillful and knowledgeable gambler but I think his knowledge of magic is just too great for a non-magician. Secondly, I feel that the text is TOO careful to point out shortcomings of "those conjurers"...it really feels to me like the author was taking great pains to pose as a gambler. His prose also feels like someone trying hard to give the impression of being erudite but amusing.

Publishing: I checked the first ad in The Sphinx, 1902 (as Richard Hatch points out below, it's mainly the text from the book's forward, ending with the author saying he's in it for the money...not a great way to lure buyers). My feeling is that sales were awful for the first few months, so he decided to sell some other way (as Richard indicates, through Vernelo, then Atlas).

Residence: I don't think it's easy to pinpoint anything about where this man lived. These were not the pioneer days of horse-pulled wagons. Look at the traveling schedules of performers in those days (Germain did 45 shows in 45 cities in 46 days): people were mobile and New York to Chicago trips were not impossible. The fact that he met Smith in a hotel room was probably not just for privacy, but because he was in fact from out of town.

The pseudonym: Erdnase was clever, but I don't think the name was too far from whatever name he started with. Andrew or Andrews was probably part of it. (I keep wondering about E.S. Burns, who owned Atlas...that E.S. is spooky.)

Smith's memory: I think it's not a good idea to put too much weight on Smith's recollections. This is very flimsy proof, and without an exact record of his conversations with Erdnase, I feel one must be very careful chasing leads or making assumptions based mainly on what Smith said.

Where to look: I would check anyone in magic who was a card expert at that time, as well as anything written about gambling. The only smoking gun I think we will find at this point are more writings by this person, who was an excellent writer and probably wrote more somewhere. A careful comparison of texts with the same phrasing and words would be a very convincing development.

Now, who's going to help me find out who Elbiquet was? If you read his book Supplementary Magic, you'll see that his presentational theories had a huge influence on Al Baker. (And he is probably not Louis Branson, who had a totally different writing style and an opposite outlook on magic, and was much, much less insightful.)
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Postby Bill Palmer » 03/04/03 11:54 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
mrmagik, don't waste your time with all of the oddball passes in the book. I have never seen a single person do an invisible SWE Shift or Open Shift. Never.
I have the advantage of Mr. Kaufman, then, for I have actually SEEN Harry Riser do an invisible SWE shift. It was a long time ago. I saw him do it about a half dozen times. I didn't believe he had actually done anything.
Bill Palmer, MIMC
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/05/03 12:36 AM

Originally posted by Todd Karr:
Publishing: I checked the first ad in The Sphinx, 1902, and the author did not write very good copy, not focusing on the work's value to magicians, trying to be very florally about its contents, and then concluding by saying he's in it for the money...not a great way to lure buyers. My feeling is that sales were awful for the first few months, so he decided to sell through dealers, first Vernelo, then Atlas.
The first advertisement in THE SPHINX was in the November 1902 issue. It was simply the preface to the book, minus his statement about "needing the money". I agree that the advertisement was not a good one, but would blame that on the Vernelos, who were doing advertising, not the author of the book they were selling.
I read the evidence very differently than Todd, but perhaps that is what makes the book a classic: we each see what we want to see in it!
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Postby Todd Karr » 03/05/03 12:42 AM

The November 1902 ad ends with:

"But whatever the result may be, if it sells it will accomplish the primary motive of the author."
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/05/03 02:19 AM

The original last sentence of his preface to the book is:

"But it will not make the innocent vicious, or transform the pastime player into a professional; or make the fool wise, or curtail the annual crop of suckers; but whatever the result may be, if it sells it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money."

The Vernelo ad in the Sphinx is just his preface, minus the last phrase. I don't think the author intended his preface to be used as a stand-alone ad for the book, as the Vernelos used it. He would probably have used something along the lines of his titlepage summary of the contents which may be viewed as his ad for the book:

"Embracing the whole calendar of slights [sic] that are employed by the gambler and conjurer, describing with detail and illustration every known expedient, manoevre and strategem [sic] of the expert card handler, with over one hundred drawings from life by M. D. Smith. Price $2.00"

I also happen to think the preface is a truly fine piece of writing.
And I think the author "needed the money"!
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Postby Nathan » 03/06/03 12:16 AM

Since the discussion has somewhat turned to the writing style in the book, here are some comments I have. Has anyone else considering these before?

The only blatant grammatically incorrect sentence I've found is in the Cull Shuffling section: "Lightning don't strike in the same place often..." This sentence sounds so out of place that everytime I read it I wonder if Erdnase really wrote it.

I have heard about people comparing writing samples from diaries of suspected authors in a search for a match. Has anyone looked into the phrase "quick as a flash." It seems that Erdnase likes to use it to the point where it is almost overused. It may just be a common expression of the period, but given the elegance of Erdnase's style I find it somewhat hard to believe that he would succumb to overuse of a catch-phrase of the day. Perhaps it could be a clue to his hometown (or region) dialect?
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/06/03 03:13 AM

I had hoped to get Shakespearean scholar Don Foster interested in the Erdnase problem. He's the fellow who unmasked Joe Klein as the anonymous author of PRIMARY COLORS. I sent him an email several years ago, never heard back. Then I read his terrific book, AUTHOR UNKNOWN: IN SEARCH OF ANONYMOUS and learned he gets hundreds of such requests each week... I had also falsely assumed (as many do) that he had some kind of computer program to compare styles and you could just dump in two samples and check for a match. But that is not what he does. I do recommend his book as it is highly entertaining and parallels the Erdnase identity search in many ways. Foster's reputation suffered a slight setback recently as his early reputation was based on convincing scholars that an obscure 16th century funeral elegy by "W.S." was a previously unattributed work of William Shakespeare. Recent scholarhip has shown someone else wrote it...

Bart Whaley when researching THE MAN WHO WAS ERDNASE took some kind of style matching software and compared the "style" of Erdnase to that of Milton Franklin Andrews' confession/alibi letters and found a "match". He also compared the style of Erdnase to that of William Hilliar, their candidate as Milton's ghostwriter, and also found a match. To my way of thinking, that shows Hilliar could have "ghosted" the confession/alibi letters, which is patently ridiculous, and so the excercise proves nothing. In fairness to Whaley, this was done when such programs were light years removed from what they would be today. So he deserves credit for having made the attempt.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 03/06/03 11:36 AM

I have nothing to add to this conversation, except to say that it is fascinating! Thank you!
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Postby Guest » 03/06/03 03:46 PM

Regarding Nathan Becker's observation of an obviously ungrammatical phrase in Erdnase, I feel that this might have been an intentionally used colloquialism.

Regarding Dick Hatch's discussion of style-matching computer software, my understanding is that these programs are quite sophisticated. They look for grammatical patterns (e.g., how often does an author use adverbs? Where in a sentence do adverbs tend to occur? How many words apart (in range) are the adverb from the verb? Etc.) and compare these patterns in two or more writing samples.

Many years ago, I had a professor who used such a program to confirm his suspicion that Hemingway wrote one of his books earlier in his career than he claimed.

Is there someone on the Genii Forum who has access to such a program?

Michael Canick
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Postby Guest » 03/07/03 10:42 PM

Hi Michael Canick,
Are you suppling dealers with this edition of Erdnase? Just curious. And do you accept Paypal? It sounds like a nice thing to own, even for a minimalist like me.
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Postby Guest » 03/08/03 09:22 AM

Hi John (and any other interested party):

My agreement with the publisher prohibits me from selling discounted copies to dealers (although they may buy as many as they want for retail <g>) or from offering discounts to anyone. Sorry.

We accept any type of payment (except shells) including major credit cards & PayPal, which can be sent to my e-mail addy below.

The price again is $52 + $5 P&H for domestic orders. For multiple copies & international orders, please contact me privately. In fact, I think it would be respectiful to this topic discussion if any commercial inquiries be directed to me privately at my contact info below. You can find out more info on the book at our site or on the Genii Collector's Forum.

Best,
Michael

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Postby Guest » 03/08/03 09:32 AM

Hi John (and any other interested party):

My agreement with the publisher prohibits me from selling discounted copies to dealers (although they may buy as many as they want for retail <g>) or from offering discounts to anyone. Sorry.

We accept any type of payment (except shells) including major credit cards & PayPal, which can be sent to my e-mail addy below.

The price again is $52 + $5 P&H for domestic orders. For multiple copies & international orders, please contact me privately. In fact, I think it would be respectiful to this topic discussion if any commercial inquiries be directed to me privately at my contact info below. You can find out more info on the book at our site or on the Genii Collector's Forum.

Best,
Michael

****************************************
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* Michael Canick Booksellers, L.L.C.
* 200 East 82nd Street, #3B
* New York, NY 10028
* Phone: (212) 585-2990
* Fax: (212) 585-2986
* E-Mail: canick@panix.com
* Website: http://www.canick.com
* By Appointment.
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Postby NCMarsh » 03/08/03 02:57 PM

I'd like to first talk a bit about the question of the extent to which Erdnase was genuinely interested in magic, then the question of using computers to pinpoint authorship....

some comments on Erdnase:

Magician v. Gambler:
Some Observations:

  • Erdnase cares about how magicians perform. He has thought, carefully, about how magic should be performed and passionately exhorts the learner to adopt certain practices.
  • The sleights in his "Legerdemain" section are just as carefully and thoughtfully conceived as those designed primarily for the card table.
  • He is familiar with the practices and methods of contemporary conjurers.
  • The Exclusive Coterie is an highly entertaining presentation for an assembly. When delivered by someone who interprets the words well, it is an extremely entertaining piece for contemporary audiences (as Ricky Jay very convincingly proved in his first off-broadway show). I have seen very many magicians (including myself at one time) who have put little thought into the presentation of an assembly; Erdnase presents a polished and interesting script carefully coordinated to the performer's actions.
If he were merely tacking on a section on conjuring to increase the sales of his work, why put more thought into the content than many conjurers would? Why spend the time developing and finessing such powerful, groundbreaking sleights when they are utterly useless to one who's exclusive interest is in card artifice at the gaming table?
Was Erdnase a Magician? I think that Erdnase was, primarily, a lover of artistic card handling. I believe that he began as a gambler, but that a love for his tools outpaced in him the love of wager; he began to thouroughly explore the manipulation of playing cards...and this led him to experiment with the sleights and methods of conjurers and, perhaps, to begin to perform himself.

I think Erdnase was a sort of inverse Dai Vernon. Vernon was a magician whose love of deceptive and artistic card handling led him to explore and think about the methods of gamblers. Erdnase, to my mind, was a gambler whose love of deceptive and artistic card handling led him to explore and think about the methods of magicians... What think the experts?

some comments about attempts to quantify style:

The use of computer software to determine authorship seems highly suspect to me. Any such software depends upon postulates that are neither self-evident nor demonstrable, namely that:
  • published works by the same author, in the same period, will always feature the same characteristics
  • multiple authors will not have the same stylistic profile.
if the second postulate is false, and we can't prove it's not, then a mere stylistic match proves nothing. In a case like that of Primary Colors further verification is possible because the writer is a contemporary. With Erdnase, because no one is alive to admit authorship and the evidence of the act of writing the work are largely buried by time, we are dealing with a much more difficult proposition. In order to verify the results of any philological analysis we would need some new evidence external to the text; of course if we had such new evidence, then philological work would be moot...either way we see that without some new evidence external to the text itself, we will never be able to definitively assert that any candidate was Erdnase...we are engaging in an endeavor that will probably always remain speculative -- and I, for one, really love mystery...
best,

nate.
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Postby Guest » 03/09/03 11:33 PM

I remember Jon Racherbaumer writing something, somewhere (Magic Magazine?) about an annotated Erdnase by Marlo. He was emphatic about saying that the book DID NOT exist. Would have been nice though. And BIG. Anyway, who among us today, would be qualified for the job of a third annotated Erdnase? Is there any such project in the works?
Another thing...Erdnase is a great book, and Vernon was a great magician. The book, all by itself is indeed wonderful. But for Vernon, it really spoke to him. He worked at getting it, and he just GOT it. We all have books that speak to us, better than others. For me, CLOSE-UP CARD MAGIC, is one such. Perhaps if any of us took the time to be as THOROUGH with our "speaking volumes" (Sorry David!), as Vernon was with his, we'd each have a better understanding of magic, as we see it, as what it is to us individually. Yeah, I know: as it happened Vernon "got" a really good one! Does this makes sense? Or is it a non point? I had good intentions when I started!
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Postby Guest » 03/10/03 06:22 PM

Actually, the book was "Revelations". It was given to Marlo,he wrote comments in the book, then the book was given to Vernon,where he too wrote comments. The person who was suppose to have the book passed away many years ago. The search for the holy grail continues..............
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/10/03 07:34 PM

Here's the story: a guy by the name of Chuck (think his last name was Stanfield--a nice guy) worked at Magic Inc. and had a huge collection of signed first editions. He bought a copy of "Revelations" when it was published and gave it to Marlo so he could write some comments in it, based upon Vernon's annotations. Marlo did this, belittling Vernon's additions. Chuck then gave the book to Vernon to sign, and to get his reaction to Marlo's jealous scribblings. Vernon wrote, "Ed, keep striving," or something along those lines.
Chuck died of AIDS years ago and Jay Marshall inherited his library. So, Jay Marshall now has the book.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/10/03 09:20 PM

Originally posted by John Blaze:
Anyway, who among us today, would be qualified for the job of a third annotated Erdnase?
Off the top of my head I can think of four men who are eminently qualified. However, another quality these men share in common is that they would never, ever, consider it.

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Postby Max Maven » 03/10/03 09:33 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Here's the story: a guy by the name of Chuck (think his last name was Stanfield--a nice guy) worked at Magic Inc. and had a huge collection of signed first editions. He bought a copy of "Revelations" when it was published and gave it to Marlo so he could write some comments in it, based upon Vernon's annotations. Marlo did this, belittling Vernon's additions. Chuck then gave the book to Vernon to sign, and to get his reaction to Marlo's jealous scribblings. Vernon wrote, "Ed, keep striving," or something along those lines.
Chuck died of AIDS years ago and Jay Marshall inherited his library. So, Jay Marshall now has the book.
Chuck's last name was indeed Stanfield.

Vernon wrote addenda to several of Marlo's comments. I believe the punchline was closer to, "Ed, keep up the good work."

The Standfield collection was sold, most of it piecemeal, so the owner of that double-annotated copy of Revelations is not necessarily Jay.
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 03/11/03 12:31 AM

I have a COPY of the Marlo comments re REVELATIONS, comments which were not really annotations but short, negative remarks more accurately resembling snide marginalia.

REVELATIONS of course is better than the knee-jerk demeaning reactions that circulated when the book appeared. They more accurately reflected an almost unanimous disappointment of the book they imagined rather than sage or informed appraisals of the book that actually exists. This often happens when expectations are too unrealistically high in the first place.

I DO have a scattered collection of Marlo's true annotations, which would now make an interesting and very personal book. Right now it is not in book form, though.

EXPERT AT THE CARD TABLE, to me, is a curious book and the current interest in this work and its mysterious author or authors is even more curious. I also find it interesting that nobody talks about McDougal's "take" or his Erdnasian book anymore?

Comments?
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Postby El Mystico » 03/11/03 12:17 PM

Wonderful thread!
One point not touched on is Erdnase as teacher. Certainly the whole book demonstrates his ability in this area - but specifically in describing the Three Card Stock within Card Table Artifice, he says "Certain players whom we have instructed, can execute the stock with the greatest facility". And the three card stock has far more purpose for gambling than for magic. Whereas I can see no equivalent indication of teaching in the legerdemain section. So - he gave lessons in gambling technique, it would seem.
Does this lend weight to the argument he was a gambler? In the introduction to the artifice section, he says "some techniques will remain private property as long as the originators are so disposed" - highlighting that some gamblers were sharing their private techniques with him. Yet in the introduction to the Legerdemain section, he says "...as far as we can learn from the exhibitions and literature of conjurers, not one of them knows of" (a substitute for the pass), suggesting, if, he is reliant on literature, he is not so well aquainted with magicians - but then,later, when talking about the diagonal palm shift, he does refer to a move as being "well known to most conjurers" - which could indicate a familiarity with our breed...
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Postby Dave Egleston » 03/14/03 09:31 PM

To all contributers:

Thank you very much - This thread is conclusive proof - Best magic board on the net

Dave

(By the way Mr Alexander, I checked out your wife's drawings - She draws real good!!)
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