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 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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Postby Steve Bryant » 03/05/03 06:23 AM

Heh heh. If you want to read a complete review of Melinda's CBS special (prior to its airing) or of John Gaughan losing the rights to the Hooker Rising Cards to Jay Marshall in a chess game, click on The Little Egypt Gazette April 97 . Alas, I have removed April 96 from the web. It contained a detailed review of Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants (the book). Richard Hatch received inquiries from those who wished to purchase it.

And for those who may have not passed by Little Egypt Magic this month, the REAL news out of Melinda's camp is that her baby is due September 1. (Honest.)
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Postby Guest » 03/05/03 07:45 AM

Dustin,
I hope Richard is paying you well.
I remember the Weber colum. You should have just e mailed me first.
Not to get off subject, perhaps someone will want to start a thread about it, but...I also remember Michael Weber's review of some older books: SCARNE'S MAGIC TRICKS, GARDNER'S MATHEMATICS, MAGIC AND MYSTERY, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CARD TRICKS, and the four BRUCE ELLIOTT books. (I believe it was the issue with "two contests, two winners, who are these guys?") It really makes you love the books! This is what I would love to see all the reviewers take a shot at doing. Because as important as it is to look forward, sometimes it is equally so, to look back. Just as we are doing now with GREATER MAGIC.
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Postby Guest » 03/05/03 09:48 AM

FYI: I just ordered my copy from the US Toy Co., and apparently there is only one copy left (after the one I snagged).

Zech Johnson
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Postby troublewit » 03/06/03 05:02 PM

Find a nice colored glass miniature vase in an antique shop. Give the inside a nice spray of dark paint. Cut a little round piece of cork. Snip off a length of rope. Rediscover the many ways you could mystify with these common objects in Greater Magic's Selected Tricks section, and you'll find, (as Ross Bertram would say), ..."You could do a lot with a Chinese Prayer Vase...."
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/06/03 11:35 PM

The little library (from the story) soon moved to larger quarters and a small antique shop took its place. Every once in a while the boy would stop there on his way home and look for things that could be of some magical use (and fall within his price range). The only thing he still has from those days is a set of poker chips (with rack & cover) from the 1920s. He still takes great joy in browsing antique shops--looking for something magical (in his price range)--whenever he gets the chance. I like to think that he was influenced by Greater Magic to consider looking backward on occasion. Treasure is not always hidden: we just tend to walk past it in our search for something "new."

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Postby Michael Kamen » 03/10/03 10:18 AM

I do not know if others will share my enthusiasm for the quote from Greater Magic that I share below, but I will let you decide for yourself. I like this because it speaks directly to the sleight of hand vs. self-working question that comes up from time to time. I am kind of excited to have finally found the page on which this quote is located, because it is one of those things that has been branded in my memory since youth; while I looked for it several times in my new copy of this huge book, I could not find it till now. Thought perhaps I was thinking of some other book. Anyway, that this quote comes from a hoary source like Greater Magic, and is attributed there to an even older source, for me adds something to the discussion. . .

"Many things are necessary to do magic; but make no mistake, skill of the hands is four-fifths of them. He who depends upon his hands alone is a master of his craft and needs no protection against the predatory instincts of the guild. Merchants will not barter his wares in the market-place, nor pitchmen hawk his secrets in the streets.
-- From the Journal of the Great Jaggard"

p665, first page of section entitled "Coin Magic."
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 03/11/03 01:22 AM

Michael,

That quote was in one of the drafts of my piece, but was ultimately edited out, not due to a lack of enthusiasm but a failure of contextual structure on my part. It's one of my favorite quotes in the book.

Many years ago when I was writing a magic trivia column for a magazine, I would usually toss in a quote (relevant or not) just because I enjoy them. To this day I often use relevant quotes in my work, and I always have a quote written on the dry-erase board in my office (which I change every couple of weeks), which will bring me visitors just to see what is posted there. Greater Magic and its use of quotes throughout the book is precisely what led me to this habit.

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Postby Sam Kesler » 03/12/03 10:39 AM

Imagine my surprise when my wife called yesterday and said, "Honey, a 25-pound box of magic books arrived for you today!" It was good news and bad news. The good news is that I received my "Greater Magic" book from U.S. Toy Company. The bad news for me (and four other customers who ordered this book) is that I received four extra books! Bad for me because I'm not dishonest and can't pretend I didn't get them. :D Bad for the customers to whom these copies actually belong, because this will further delay the receipt of this wonderful book. I am waiting for a pre-paid label to be sent to me so I can return the books to U.S. Toy. For those who have ordered the book and read this forum, be patient, it's definitely worth the wait.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/12/03 06:05 PM

The Great Jaggard was actually Hilliard.
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Postby Michael Kamen » 03/12/03 07:38 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
The Great Jaggard was actually Hilliard.
The man was a poet.
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