Book of the Month: Greater Magic

This forum is an ongoing, and evolving, discussion. Genii Forum members discuss opinions and trade notes on current and past magic books.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/22/03 12:46 PM

Let's judge a man not by his tools
but toys,

And count him happy when his work
employs

The playthings that his secret hour
Enjoys.

Then though he sport with Money or
with Name,

With Sword and Glory or with Pen and
Fame,

What does it matter, if he plays the
Game?

--Gelett Burgis
Tribute to Hilliard
On his way home from his new school (only a two mile walk, all down hill, no snow, ever, and he always had shoes) the boy stepped into the public library of the town to which he and his family had just moved. The library was very small--probably less than 1,200 square feet. Of course the town was small, so a tiny library seemed natural. The lad was a bit despondent, having just been moved away from friends and familiarity to an area where surfing was the primary activity. The boy didn't even like to swim in the ocean so there was little question about whether or not he would ever attempt to balance on a stick in the crashing waves of "Trestles," "Hole in the Fence" or any of the other local surf beaches. No, and right now the boy had a library to investigate.

He was able to quickly find the books that were his desire, having their library code committed to memory: 793.8: the magic books. The section was small (of course), and located on the bottom shelf in a darkened corner of the small cramped isles. The boy recognized the books as being the same as those that were at his old hometown library, except for two of them. There was one on the history of magic, which looked interesting, but one in particular caught his eye. It was huge; thicker than just about any book he'd ever seen, let alone any magic book. It was the image of the cups and balls on its faded red binding that he noticed before the title registered in his mind. But the power of that image and the enormity of the book told his instincts that he had just found something special--very special.

* * *

Just before the end of the 19th century, a promising journalist met a promising Vaudeville magician and their ensuing friendship would last the rest of their lives. Some years later John Northern Hilliard (1872-1935) would go to work as the press agent and advance man for his friend and illusionist Howard Thurston (1869-1936). Performing his duties for Thurston was his job, but his passion was in the task that took up his nights: Countless nights in nameless hotels in every major city across the country. The task he had happily taken unto himself was to write the greatest magic book yet published--a book that would bring magic "up to date." His day job gave him the immeasurable opportunity to meet with virtually every great magician of the period, many of whom were already his friends. Those who were not soon became friendly with him. Hilliard's personality made it near impossible not to like him. These giants of the craft happily shared their knowledge and creations with their friend, who would then spend hour upon hour typing or handwriting the pieces, making additional handwritten notes and corrections and keeping it all in three-ring binders.

In 1931 Carl W. Jones (d. 1957), a Minneapolis newspaperman and magic enthusiast, learned of Hilliard's manuscript while lunching with Thurston. The illusionist informed Jones that Hilliard was reluctant to move forward with the project due to the Depression. Jones became enthusiastic about the idea and urged Thurston to talk his friend into continuing the project and allowing Thurston and Jones to be the publishers of this dream of a book (the book would be Jones' first of many important magical publications). Hilliard accepted Jones' proposal--and advance money--and went to work collecting and writing. Jones was in no hurry: He'd hoped that by the following spring the country would be in a "better frame of mind and the book will be better received." It was in 1932 that Jones came up with the title: Greater Magic. Hilliard was immediately thrilled by the title, telling Jones that, "It is THE title" and recommended that they get it copyrighted right away.

Over the next three years Hilliard would report to Jones that the manuscript was near completion several times. In late 1932 Hilliard reported that he'd "like to get in done in three months" and that he had "about finished gathering material." In 1933, in a letter to S. Leo Horowtiz, Hilliard wrote that he was "near the end." He also reported to Jones that it would be ready by the fall of 1933. In April of 1934 Hilliard felt that the book would be ready by the coming summer. In late 1934 Jones read in an issue of The Sphinx that Hilliard said that the book would be published in January of 1935. Jones became concerned that Hilliard had found another publisher, but Hilliard reassured Jones that he was only "plugging the book" and nobody but Jones "will publish the book, not even if they offered a million dollars."

* * *

The boy never found the time to do his homework. That afternoon and well into the night the only book he opened was the treasure he had found. He had already made up his mind that he would purchase the book from the library. Something easily done if the borrower "lost" the book (or had it "stolen" from him while at school, as this one was--or so he told the librarian). He justified his lie--something he was not fond of doing--to himself by trusting his instinct that told him someone else would ultimately steal the book. At least he paid for it at its replacement cost, as listed on the card catalog entry for the book: $6 (it would be about three years later when he would discover its actual cash value; at the time about $35). Greater Magic by John Northern Hilliard was now (and would remain) the centerpiece of his magic library.

A look at the table of contents revealed 32 chapters along with several opening pieces, an end piece and an index. The first 14 chapters, he noticed, were dedicated to playing cards. 580 of the book's 1,025 (xxi plus 1,004 numbered) pages devoted to cards. The boy was in heaven! He was too young to yet appreciate the splendid expansiveness of the opening compositions, "In the Beginning," "Pageant" and "Prolegomenon." However, part of Howard Thurston's "Introduction" caught his eye: "Whatever your specialty in magic may be, you will find scores of astounding effects. Finally, when you have studied it, you will be conscious of owning the greatest book ever written on magic."

* * *

"I think the greatest tragedy in life would be to die and suddenly wake up and realize you had never lived. I have lived."

--John Northern Hilliard to Doc Brumfield less than one week before Hilliard's death.

John Northern Hilliard's sudden death in 1935--alone in an Indianapolis hotel room--left the future of Greater Magic uncertain. Only about a third of the book was complete and there was still a huge amount of material residing in Hilliard's notebooks. Carl Jones retrieved the material from Thurston and Hilliard's family. Hilliard's daughter Helen ("Bob") transcribed the many handwritten pages and notes into typewritten pages for Jones, who then took up the daunting task of organizing the material. He began to correspond with many of the contributors asking for their help in going over their own material. The work was slow and was further delayed by continuous labor difficulties in Jones' business. Jones' estimation of how much work Hilliard had completed himself depended upon who Jones was communicating with and ranged from three-quarters, one-half, one-quarter to only 20%.

Offers of help, in both editing and illustrating, came in. Ted Annemann offered to complete the book in 60 days (he clearly was expecting the book to be "normal" in size). He expected a fee of $25 a week, but was willing to forgo any credit. Young Nelson Hahne offered to illustrate the book, however Jones had been considering Harlan Tarbell as early as 1933 (Hahne would later illustrate one of Jones' most important magical publications: Bobo's Modern Coin Magic). In the fall of 1937 it would be Jean Hugard who Jones would select to take up the task of completing a journey that had begun as a dream nearly a decade before. Hugard's initial proposal included a fee of $100, but this was certainly before he fully comprehended the task ahead of him. Ensuing correspondence between Jones and Hugard make it evident that the final agreement was for more. Accompanying Hugard's editing would be over 1,000 of Tarbell's illustrations. From his death in March of 1935, it would take over three years to complete Hilliard's dream. In December 1938 Carl Waring Jones released John Northern Hilliard's Greater Magic: A Practical Treatise on Modern Magic amid high expectations. So high were these expectations that Ted Annemann in The Jinx listed the then untitled book among those belonging on his "five-foot shelf of magic." This was three years before its publication. Ultimately the reviews and brisk sales would prove that the book had met or exceeded those expectations.

Dedicated to Angelo Lewis (Professor Hoffmann), author of Modern Magic (described by Annemann as a "bulwark against magical mediocrity"), it would be Greater Magic that would displace Modern Magic as the greatest book on magic ever written, forever sending it to its rightful place as a classic text of magic. But now modern magicians had a new "bible." 715 effects contributed by over 100 magicians, including the greatest names of the day and some past masters. From complete effects, credits within effects, to single mentions of tips and finesse and even complete chapters, a partial list of contributors reads like a "who's who" of magic: Max Holden, Percy Abbott, J. N. Hofzinser, Theodore Annemann, Horace Goldin, Al Baker, Ade Duval, Karl Germain, David and Theo Bamberg, Dr. James Elliott, Joe Berg, Jardine Ellis, Sam Berland, T. Nelson Downs, Harry Blackstone (Sr.), David Devant, Floyd Thayer, Carl Brema, Cardini, Buatier DeKolta, Milbourne Christopher, Chung Ling Soo, S.H. Sharpe, Dr. Jack Daley, Paul Curry, Stanley Collins, Harlan Tarbell, S. Leo Horowitz, Houdini, Selbit, Edwin Sachs, Jean Hugard, John Scarne, Burling Hull, Stewart James, Paul Rosini, Joseffy, Stewart Judah, John Ramsay, Billy O'Connor, Harry Kellar, Lester Lake, Mora, Jack Merlin, William W. Larsen (Sr.), Paul LePaul, John Nevil Maskelyne, Max Malini, Nate Leipzig, Eugene Laurant, Sid Lorraine, Audley Walsh, Robert Stull, Howard Thurston, William H. McCaffery and Dai Vernon.

* * *

Rarely one to read a magic book from the beginning, the boy first turned to chapter XIX, "Card Stars of the U.S.A." In this chapter he found material from the men the author considered the greatest in the country at the time: Ted Annemann, Al Baker, Cardini, S. Leo Horowitz, Stewart Judah, Nate Leipzig, William H. McCaffery, Paul Rosini, John Scarne and Dai Vernon. In it he discovered "The Princess Trick" (Annemann), which he still uses on occasion, and "Everywhere and Nowhere" (Rosini) which was to him an amazing revelation of the concepts of timing and misdirection.

It was in this chapter that he became appreciative of the overall style of the book. The clear, detailed instructions and illustrations many of which were supplemented by "THE BARE BONES OF THE TRICK." These sections were particularly helpful to him as they were easily referenced while actually working through the trick. When he'd get stuck, he would be able to quickly get back on track without having to go back through the complete text.

He wandered through the book, reading the chapters not in order, but in an order that interested him. Most of the other chapters on cards (including an entire chapter on the rising cards effect), then the chapter on coins, balls (specifically the short piece on the cups and balls), the linking rings and the one on rope magic. Some of the material was not new to him. It was then that he realized that several of the beginner's books he had grown up with had borrowed heavily from this book. Not only did this revelation tell him that he had been learning the "right stuff," but it also served to further impress upon him the importance, the sheer greatness this book held in the world of magic.

* * *

Carl Jones limited the original print run to 1,000 books and priced the book at $12.50 post paid: A fortune in a world snarled in economic and political turmoil. Hilliard and Jones had been convinced early on by Howard Thurston that they could expect to sell about 500 copies. 378 copies were sold before the first book left the printer. Every magic dealer of note was advertising the book a month before its release. After its publication a marketing war was on. Holden's offered copies signed by Hugard. With every copy of Greater Magic sold, Thayer offered a free copy of Leaves From My Notebook by Hilliard (published by Thayer; regular price $1). Kanter's offered to sell Greater Magic on an installment plan: $1 would hold the book and the buyer could finishing paying for it at his convenience and with no extra charge.

Its financial and critical success secured, over the next decade Greater Magic would go through nine impressions with a revised edition being released at the fourth printing in 1942 (the revision being chapter XXX; "Old and New Apparatus"--a chapter on some of the items in the collection of Charles H. Larson--was replaced by "Magicana," a chapter on historic books, periodicals and prominent collections and libraries).

The continued success of Greater Magic would, of course, lead to some controversy. Who really wrote the bulk of this, the greatest magic book ever published: Hilliard or Hugard? Accolades such as "the greatest book ever published" were bound to boost the egos of those involved to the point of overstating their contributions while downplaying that of others--including those of the publisher. Of course, Hilliard and Thurston were no longer available to comment, leaving only Jones to bear witness in Hilliard's and his own defense against those who would credit Hugard with the lion's share of the work.

There is no question that Hugard's contribution was monumental. Those who claim he wrote everything beyond Chapter IX cite the individual styles of Hilliard vs. Hugard. Little of Hilliard's expansive style appears after that chapter, while instead the more concise style of Hugard dominates. Another clue (noticed by your current scribe) may be in the number of footnotes that appear within chapters II through VIII. Within those chapters--chapters undeniably completed by Hilliard--appear numerous footnotes. However, for the remainder of this gigantic book there appears only one footnote and it appears in a chapter that Hilliard had all but completed. That footnote, however, refers to a T.J. Crawford effect later in the chapter and it was Hugard who added the Crawford material to what Hilliard had already completed. But too, it must be noted, that the Crawford material came from Hilliard's voluminous notes--as did the vast majority of the material in the book. There is little question that Hugard had to expand on some of Hilliard's original notes, but there is also little question that he did not have to expand on all of what appeared after chapter IX. What Hugard did supply was the connective language that appears between these individual pieces. It is here that the disparity of the two writing styles is noticeable and it is why some credit Hugard with writing all of the material that appears after Chapter IX.

In his analysis (in More Greater Magic: Kaufman and Greenberg; 1994) of the book itself, the Hilliard manuscripts and the correspondence between the principals, Richard Kaufman states that, in his opinion, Hilliard and Hugard were each responsible for an equal and majority share of the final product. He also states that "Greater Magic is the result of the writing of at least a dozen individuals" including Ralph Hull ("The Tuned Deck"), Royal Heath ("Magic Squares"), Leo Rullman ("Magicana" in the revised edition) and David Bamberg ("Stage Presentation"). Kaufman further states that Hilliard and Hugard "together with Jones produced a tremendous book."

After nearly a decade and nine successful printings, A.S. Barnes and Company (in association with Carl Jones) would release it as a five volume set titled The Greater Magic Library (1956). In 1994 Kaufman and Greenberg released, to great critical acclaim, a revised 1,400-page edition (both a regular and a two-volume deluxe edition that included the aforementioned More Greater Magic). This revised edition includes 300+ pages of tricks and correspondence between the men involved (and those desirous for involvement) in the publication of the book. Of the Kaufman/Greenberg edition, one reviewer simply chose to quote John Mulholland's original review of Greater Magic from The Sphinx: "It is so superlative that no review can do it justice."

* * *

Completing the book would take the boy into his early adulthood. Chapters that didn't interest him in his youth would hold a new fascination to him, such as the first chapter in the book: "The Master of the Playing Cards," a short (but no less fascinating) history of the playing card. Much later in his life the mellifluous "Pageant" and "Prolegomenon" would hold new meaning for him. It seems to him that the diversity of this great book is in harmony with the diversity of life. Such is the thing of greatness.

The land of Conjury may be a land of Cockaigne, a demesne of sham and glamour, a country of pinchback and cardboard, but to us oldsters it has been beyond all desire beautiful--the enchanted garden of our youth. Some of us have not quite lost our belief in it even now. To so many of us it has been our only commerce with dreams. And tonight, before the fire, with wind and snow outside and the "Liebestraum" in the next room, I have been living, for an hour, with my dreams.

--John Northern Hilliard
From "Good Sirs and Gentlemen, I Give You Dreams" -- The Sphinx January 1935
I'd like to pass on my thanks to Gordon Bean for his usual assistance and input in these matters, and my profound gratitude to Richard Kaufman for his invaluable input and generosity. Like its subject, this dissertation was a collaborative effort.

Dustin
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Postby Michael Kamen » 02/22/03 01:47 PM

Thank you for the beautifully written and thoroughly delightful backgrounder, Dustin -- I will be re-reading it over the weeks to come. The poetry of Greater Magic alone is worth its price. I have never stopped being moved by "IN THE BEGINNING --" that precedes the Pageant, and its sister poem, "AND AT THE END--" that follows the curtain. I grew up with my youthful transcriptions of these on my bedroom wall, and to me, these highlight a passion and integrity that rightly identified art in the center of magic for the 20th century.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/22/03 06:35 PM

"Greater Magic" is truly the greatest single volume in the literature of our art.
A little tip: Gene Maze used to kill people with Ralph Hull's "The Tuned Deck."
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 02/22/03 06:42 PM

Kudos to Dustin, as well.
Greater Magic was my Bible from 1952-62. Therein I first found wonderful words I had never seen before...
...including "hierophantian."

Tuned deck.
Avandon-Black a.k.a. David Avadon used to fry college audiences with the Tuned Deck.

Blow the dust off, laddies (and lassies)...

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 02/22/03 06:45 PM

I agree with you, Richard.
Ever since you republished it I have always thought that the magic community owes you a huge debt. I do not think the book would ever have seen the light of day again if you had not done this wonderful thing.
In some ways I think this is your greatest achievement in magic.
I hope you get some kind of recognition for it. I am not sure if people appreciate what you did. I certainly do.
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Postby sleightly » 02/23/03 02:55 AM

It is perhaps the greatest testament to the value of Greater Magic that, in spite of its numerous printing impressions, I have never seen a copy in a lay used book store (despite 15 years of searching)...

Thanks to Dustin not only for this evocative feature but for all his hard work in this direction. He places his love out there for all of us to share.

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Postby Guest » 02/23/03 03:50 AM

Is this book available or is it still out of print? I have been looking for it for a long time and could never find it. Any help?
Thanks.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/23/03 09:19 AM

The book is out of print.
U.S. Toy Company just discovered a case and has a few for sale.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 02/23/03 09:57 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
U.S. Toy Company just discovered a case and has a few for sale.
Ooh! Ooh! How do I buy one?

I just searched on their web site and came up with nothing.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/23/03 10:05 AM

Phone them and ask for Phil Klein.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 02/23/03 10:19 AM

Originally posted by Giorgio GetJet Tarchini:
Is this book available or is it still out of print? I have been looking for it for a long time and could never find it. Any help?
Thanks.
I got my current copy from bn. com used books search. There were a number of copies available in their listing.
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Postby Ted Leon » 02/23/03 09:06 PM

My copy of "Greater Magic", red cover, copyright 1947?....I feel as if I need to wash my hands before I take off the shelf!
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/23/03 09:39 PM

I still have that pristine 9th edition in its original shipping box for sale :) !
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Postby Guest » 02/23/03 10:12 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I still have that pristine 9th edition in its original shipping box for sale :) !
Richard, email me with a price.

Thanks,

Geoff
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Postby David Alexander » 02/24/03 01:34 AM

I was 15 and had taken the bus up from Long Beach to Joe Berg's Magic Shop on Hollywood Blvd. Joe liked me and one afternoon told me he "had that book I wanted." I had no idea what he was talking about.

He asked how much I had and I told him $15...a lot for a kid without a father who earned money mowing lawns. He took the money from me, almost reaching into my pocket for it, and handed me a copy of Greater Magic. I felt as though I had become an Initiate and had been handed my Grymoire.

It is still my favorite book and seems inexhaustible.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 02/24/03 10:51 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
The book is out of print.
U.S. Toy Company just discovered a case and has a few for sale.
Alas, that appears no longer to be the case.

I phoned US Toy this morning. Phil Klein was not in, but the guy with whom I spoke checked and could not find any copies of Greater Magic.

I went onto bn.com and bought a used copy for a whole heck of a lot of money.... There were still a couple available, for a heck of a lot of money.
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Postby Guest » 02/24/03 10:54 AM

I had been desiring this book ever since I read Henry Hay's bibliography listing in in the back of "Amateur Magician's Handbook" way back in 1972 (halfway through university then).

Then, a few years ago, I found out that Richard (Kaufman) had reprinted it and added some 300 pages of additional material and historical research. I was ecstatic! I contacted him on email and found that it was almost out of print again, and that he only had a few copies left. I hungrily sent him the $75 list price (hey, shipping was free on that massive volume!) and secured my copy.

Coincidentally, I was reading in it again just yesterday. In the several years that I have studied it, I believe that it seems inexhaustable. Having dug up used copies of other magical classics in last decade (Hoffman trilogy, Sach's "Sleight of Hand", Neil's "Modern Conjuror", Downs'/Hilliard's "Art Of Magic", Hugard's "Modern Magic Manual",and many others) I was thrilled to find this monumental book back in print again. I have never regretted its purchase, and I thank Richard for all of his research and hard work in the new edition. There is so much fine material slumbering in here that deserves to be awakened and performed again!

In fact, my only complaint is that Richard didn't autograph my copy, since it came directly from him... :^(

***************

Dustin, thanks for your usual superb essay to introduce the book. May I suggest "Our Magic" by Maskelyne and Devant, currently back in print from Lee Jacobs publishing, for a future discussion in this forum?

Jon
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Postby troublewit » 02/24/03 03:23 PM

A word of warning....don't put your copy on a shelf if you have small pets in the house. I thought our corgi went to that great gig in the sky when my tome fell to the floor right in her favorite resting place. Fortunately, she was not around at the time. My 8 year old daughter tried in vain to pick up the book for me from the floor. I have the Kaufman reprint in all its glory with the additional material. A mine of gold, silver, and precious stones. :genii:
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Postby CHRIS » 02/24/03 03:48 PM

Originally posted by Horace:
I do not think the book would ever have seen the light of day again if you had not done this wonderful thing.
Don't say that. I might have turned it into an ebook.

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Postby Guest » 02/24/03 08:37 PM

Oh please don't. I beg of you.
Sacrilege.
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Postby John LeBlanc » 02/25/03 09:00 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
"Greater Magic" is truly the greatest single volume in the literature of our art.
A little tip: Gene Maze used to kill people with Ralph Hull's "The Tuned Deck."
This is my favorite book in my magic library. I love this book. Mike Rogers and I probably compared more notes about this book than we talked about anything else. (It was a favorite of his, too.)

I managed to acquire the first edition copy from David Price's Egyptian Hall Museum and it's the only magic book I keep behind the glass.

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Postby Matthew Field » 02/26/03 07:29 AM

It took me about 5 years of searching to locate my copy of "Greater Magic," and I was only able to get it because of Richard Kaufman's help. What a treasure trove! What great writing from Hilliard!

Richard allowed me to help edit the "More Greater Magic" section of the reprint, and that is the book I'm proudest to have my name in.

My "desert island" two book library would include "Greater Magic" and "Richard's Almanac," although if there were room I'd also pack Erdnase and Hofzinser. (Any room for "Stars of Magic" and collected "Jinx" on my raft?)

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Postby Dave Shepherd » 02/26/03 08:08 AM

All right, now the full story can be told.

I called US Toy on Monday and had no luck, as I previously reported. So I went to bn.com and did a used book search. There were three copies available (of older editions, like the 8th and/or 9th editions, from the 1930s and 40s). I ordered the least expensive one of these, which was really not a humongous amount more than the retail price for the reprint.

Then yesterday I got an e-mail from US Toy confirming that they had some of the Kaufman & Greenberg reprint. I cancelled by bn.com order and just ordered the reprint edition from US Toy.

This means US Toy now has, I believe, nine copies left of the reprint. And of course you can get a couple used older editions through bn.com.

You'll have to do a little bit of figuring out how to find them specifically, but this will get you going, if, like me, you have been previously bereft of this book.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 02/26/03 08:38 AM

Abe.com currently lists 31 copies for sale (if you have deep pockets).
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Postby CHRIS » 02/26/03 09:33 AM

Originally posted by Horace:
Oh please don't. I beg of you.
Sacrilege.
Why is this a sacrilege? For my personal use I have it already in e-form. Makes studying it and referring to it a wonderful experience.

Chris....
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Postby Guest » 02/27/03 06:59 PM

I beg to differ Chris. There is a distinct pleasure to be able to page through a book, hard print and not electronic. Far easier to rediscover forgotten effects by merely flipping the pages, something I do on a regular basis with Greater Magic. (A good test of the books longevity and quality in fact - how many of the books on your shelf do you repeatedly go back to and continually find new material for you to use?)

Greater Magic is a MUST have on every magic enthusiasts shelf (be it professional or hobbiest). There is enough material in that one book to justify never having another "trick" book again and before you jump on me for saying that, it sits next to SACHS on the shelf (another classic) and just down the row from Illustrated Magic. I guess what I am really trying to say is that with all the fluff out there today, there is a reason that some of thse books still endure.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/28/03 10:03 AM

All right: I do NOT want this thread to turn into yet another debate regarding e-books. And I am done, frankly, listing to Chris Wasshuber blather on about how lovely e-books are! Cut it out!
I do not want to see another post in this thread referring to e-books.
Discuss "Greater Magic" please!
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 02/28/03 12:16 PM

It's likely that the debate between real books and e-books will simmer for months and months to come; however, I agree that the section should focus on the content of the books in question--the tricks, literary style, ideas, spin-offs, and so on.

Meanwhile, the debate will engage those who currently spend time in its center. Rest assured, the debate will soon rage and economics and facility will rule the day. There are those who love vinyl records and beta-max movies. Books made of paper will always be with us...and ORIGINAL copies of Greater Magic, now 65 years into its entropic state will outlast the gazzilions of stored bits currently on CD-ROM, which will be gone in 15-20 years...

I now have lots of media and data that is stored, but I cannot retrieve.

Onward...
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/28/03 10:20 PM

Now that we (hopefully) have that behind us, I have a question for some of the geniuses on this here forum:

I spent the better part of an hour today trying to find information on the relative value of a dollar in today's economy vs. during the Great Depression. The reason I ask is that I heard someone say that $20 then was the equivalent of $1,000 today! I found that a little far-fetched. If that is the case, then Greater Magic was selling for a whopping $625 while the average magic book cost the equivalent of $50 to $100! I know that $12.50 in 1938 was a lot of money (I even called it a "fortune"), but this is staggering. Can this be correct?

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Postby Craig Matsuoka » 03/01/03 12:04 AM

The Bureau of Labor Statistics website has a nifty little calculator based on the Consumer Price Index:

Go to this page:
http://stats.bls.gov/cpi/

Then scroll down and click the "Inflation Calculator" link on that page.

Direct Link to Calculator:
http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/01/03 12:44 AM

Craig, you are the man. That's exactly what I was looking for but failed to find. Thanks a million (in 1938 dollars, of course)!

The results: $12.50 in 1938 had the buying power of $161 today.

Thanks again Craig!
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Postby John LeBlanc » 03/01/03 12:16 PM

Originally posted by Jon Racherbaumer:
I now have lots of media and data that is stored, but I cannot retrieve.
Jon, the older I get, the more I, too, suffer from that problem. <g>

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Postby John LeBlanc » 03/01/03 12:27 PM

Originally posted by Dustin Stinett:
After nearly a decade and nine successful printings, A.S. Barnes and Company (in association with Carl Jones) would release it as a five volume set titled The Greater Magic Library (1956).
I'm not sure what conclusion I can draw from the fact that The Greater Magic Library five volume set is not found mentioned very much (at least, not that I can find.)

My set, formerly owned by Mr. Richard DuMais of Jackson Hole, is (to my mind) a nice representation of Hilliard's work.

Anyone else own a set of these books?

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Postby Guest » 03/01/03 08:35 PM

I graduated from High School in June 1957. Sometime prior to that the librarian showed me the set ( she knew I was interested in magic ) and alowed me to take them home one at a time and read them. She told me the rep that sold her books told her almost every high school ,at least in his territory. was getting a set because it gave them five magic books. Also I believe within two years they were remaindered. Twenty-five years later I bought a first edition of Greater Magic and I was surprised how much I remembered-it was and still is a very impressive book.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 03/01/03 09:43 PM

Originally posted by John W. LeBlanc:
. . .Anyone else own a set of these books?

John LeBlanc
Houston, TX[/QB]
It sounds like the separate volume sets were popular with school libraries. That is where I first encountered them, in grade school in the late 50's. The entire first several books that dealt with cards were also published as a separate volume as "Card Magic." My Dad had that, and we discovered eventually that the content was the same. Later in junior high school, a buddy who had some interest in magic found a copy of the 1938, thousand-page edition in his attic. I bought it from him for tem bucks. It had a book plate glued to the blank leaf in front, with Gallatovieh Raymonde's (spelling) name and insignia on it. I (somewhat pretentiously) glued my own magical business card below his. I treasured that book for years although events led to its loss. I would not be surprised if that book found its way into a used book shop and perhaps into the hands of someone reading this forum. I would be pleased to know that it found a good home eventually (sentimental fool that I am).
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Postby Guest » 03/04/03 11:46 AM

US Toy now has 6 left. Thanks for the tip, Dave S.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 03/04/03 12:40 PM

You're welcome.

Mine just arrived here at school from US Toy.

It is requiring all the discipline I can muster not to break open the shrink wrap. If I tear into it, I won't get any more work done.
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Postby Guest » 03/04/03 06:57 PM

Gees Dave, git yer prioritees in ordur. Whom says skool is so impotent anyways?
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Postby Rich Cowley » 03/04/03 07:04 PM

I just want to thank everyone who posted on this topic so far. I've toyed with buying a copy of GM for years, but never got the proverbial 'Round Tuit'. After reading John Carney's challenge in "Secrets" ("For every magic video you watch, read two classic books"), I felt a twinge of guilt (again) for never "GM-ing" myself...

After reading all your posts today, I (finally!) took action, and searched around for a copy, and found a source about 3 miles from my office: decent price, excellent condition.

I've just spent the past three hours cross-legged on the floor, turning page after page. I feel like a *kid* again, seeing/learning magic for the first time. (Well, *almost* like a kid; after three hours on the floor, my back is *killing* me!)

Bottom line? Thanks, everybody!
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/05/03 02:48 AM

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Research Library:

One of the things I did to begin my research for this month's selection was scan the electronic index of MAGIC magazine to see if I could find any pertinent information. One of the things that came up originally appeared in the April 1992 issue. Not owning that particular issue, I made it a point to look it up while at the Castle Library: Low and behold, there was a Michael Weber review of the Dover release of Greater Magic: 1,005 pages for a mere $16.95, complete with a new introduction by Karl Fulves, no less.

It seemed funny that I didn't recall having ever seen it, but I thought that since I owned the original I must not have been paying attention. So, figuring what the heck, I ran with it and listed it in the first draft of my essay.

Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead&#8230;

In an email to Richard Kaufman, I mentioned that I had seen this review but couldn't find the book mentioned in Dover's catalogue and wasn't that funny since here was this review of the greatest book ever published in all of magic but yet I can't find that it's actually available and what the heck is up with that???

I think Richard had to restrain himself a little, not wanting to call me a complete idiot, but pointed out that Dover never released the book because it is not yet in the public domain.

Okay, fine, but what was this review???

Richard had no idea, but it certainly wasn't a review of a Dover edition because one just does not exist, that's for sure, he said.

Now I'm on the phone to Gordon Bean: Trusted confidant, collaborator, scholar and all-around cool guy who also happens to be the Castle Librarian. He looks up the issue for me and of the review he says, "It's not there." Gordon, in his kindness, looks through a couple years worth of reviews and comes up empty: No review.

No review?!? It's a conspiracy I tell you!!!

I'm mad at myself for not making a copy of the review.

I email Dover and they get back to me, saying that they will research the situation.

Skip ahead, skip ahead, skip ahead&#8230;

I make another trip up to LaLa-Land and the Magic Castle. As it is the same night as the Houdini Sance I have to wait until the after dinner break before I can go into the library. Anyone who has been to the sance, or read Steve Bryant's description (Genii, January 2003), knows how much wine ends up down your gullet by the time dinner is over (the glass, as if by magic, is never empty--amazing). So I am feeling no pain as I walk into the library, go right over to Volume One of MAGIC, open the April 1992 issue, flip to page 59 and--BAM--there it is: the infamous review. I show it to Gordon, trying not to gloat. He's surprised and apologetic that he missed it. No problem, I'm just happy that I'm not crazy. I take a photocopy of the page with every intention of faxing it to Richard to once again prove that I am NOT crazy. I'm not, I'm not, I'm not!

The next morning I take out my prize and reread it. But this time I do something I had not yet done: read the column from the beginning. And there it is, hiding in plain sight, the comments that Mr. Weber makes pointing out that he will be reviewing a few things, and it is up to us, the reader, to guess whether or not they are actually available (the answers appear later in the column). It is, after all, the April issue and the column is subtitled "Nobody's April Fool." Of course it turns out that the Dover Greater Magic review was a phony, a fake, a canard, a prevarication: The guy lied to me! Well, sort of, I mean, imagine the gall of the man, actually expecting people to read all the necessary information! (Shortly after this, Dover's researcher got back to me to let me know that no such book ever existed: Duh!)

So, here it is, nearly eleven years later, and (as I am sure he will be happy to discover) I am the victim of a Michael Weber April Fools' joke. As my hero Daffy would say, "Hardy-har-har; so funny; it is to laugh." But somewhere, of course, Michael Weber is laughing.

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