The Book of the Month: The Amateur Magician's Handbook

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/22/02 02:27 AM

The name June Barrows Mussey probably means nothing to most magicians today. That's because he is much better known by his pseudonym Henry Hay, the author of this month's selection.

June Barrows Mussey (1910 - 1985) was an author, anthologist, publisher, translator (Ottokar Fischer's Illustrated Magic is among the many books - though most non-magic in nature - he translated to English), advertising copywriter, and magician. In his youth, he performed as Hadji Baba - The Boy Magician, at one point earning a higher income than did his father. His magic career, which included a tour that, at one point, allowed him to perform on the same stage as his hero T. Nelson Downs, aided in the financing of his college education. He graduated at the young age of 19 from Columbia University.

After serving in the Marine Corps (in air intelligence) during WWII, Mussey traveled to Germany in 1950 to work as a foreign corespondent. He settled in Dusseldorf where he would spend the rest of his life. As noted by Mussey's friend Richard Hatch (of H&R Books, in his obituary of Mussey which appeared in Genii), at the time of his passing he was considered the "greatest living German language advertising copywriter."

His interests were quite diverse and he applied considerable focus in everything he did. Hatch related to me that Mussey could take on a translation project prior to knowing the language from which he was to work because he had the ability to learn a new language quickly. We know of works translated to English from German, Dutch, French, Swedish and Norwegian. Though accomplished in many endeavors (and quite well known among the aficionados of his other interests), his lasting legacy is his work as an author of magical textbooks.

As Henry Hay (Hay was a family name, though I have not yet confirmed it, I believe it to be from his mother's side) he authored Learn Magic (David McKay Co. 1947), Cyclopedia of Magic (Garden City Publishing 1949) and in 1950 came his crowning work, The Amateur Magician's Handbook.

The Amateur Magician's Handbook was first published by Thomas Y. Crowell Co., New York. Over the next 32 years the book would be expanded by Hay three more times (it is currently in its fourth edition). I discovered stated publishing dates of (with multiple printings of several of these) 1950, 1951, 1958, 1965 (second edition), 1971 (first UK edition), 1972 (with a Canadian edition in 1972 as well), 1974 (third edition), 1982 (three different publishers including Canadian; fourth edition) and 1994. It has editions in cloth covers and trade paperback. Its list of publishers is as equally staggering: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., Signet/New American Library, Faber & Faber, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd., Harper & Row, Edison/Castle Books and USA Book Sales. These companies didn't choose to print this book without a profit motive. It's important to make the distinction that this book was not in the public domain for any of these publications; Hay held the copyright and was directly involved with the new editions.

It should go without saying that, given all of these editions and printings, this is a general magic book that has sold tens of thousands, if not into the hundreds of thousands, of copies over 52 years (without a Dover reprint, mind you). Quite impressive for a book that some consider not a book for beginners. In his review of the book in Hugard's Magic Monthly (July 1950), John J. Crimmins, Jr. said, "Offhand the material...seems to this reviewer to be much too technical for a is an excellent reference book for the advanced amateur and the professional." On the other hand, in his Genii review (November 1950), Dariel Fitzkee praised the book for its value to the beginner. Regardless on which side of this argument they fall, countless magicians (from unknown to famous) have stated publicly that this book makes up the foundation of their magical knowledge. Personally, this was the first book of real sleight-of-hand that I owned (I have owned three editions over the years, giving away two to deserving young people who showed a desire to learn sleight-of-hand magic).

Originally published in five sections, there are a total* of 18 chapters, a glossary and appendix with brief descriptions of other tricks and illusions, and a combination biography and bibliography section that provides short biographies of many famous magicians and lists their books where applicable. The fourth edition (which now graces my bookshelves) boasts seven sections with 22 chapters along with the glossary and appendixes, including the updated biography section. (*This is to the best of my knowledge. I was unable to locate a first edition for review, so this information has been extrapolated from reviews at the time of the book's publication.)

In his 1985 obituary of Mussey, Richard Hatch describes the book as "Engagingly written and profusely illustrated with excellent photographs of the author's hands, the book continues to set the standard as a textbook on the fundamentals of magic." Of the four key words of this exquisite description, "fundamentals" (the other three being: "engagingly," "profusely," and "standard") stands out in my mind. This book is truly foundational in virtually every aspect of sleight-of-hand magic. The "Hand Magic" section covers sleight-of-hand with cards, coins, billiard balls, a short section on the cups and balls, thimbles and cigarettes. 188 pages of the book's 404 pages are devoted to this single section.

Within the "Hand Magic" section, the emphasis is on the chapters devoted to cards and coins, providing a solid foundation of sleight-of-hand ranging from the rudimentary to, as Crimmins alluded, advanced material. However, Hay's clear instructions and illustrations allow a motivated beginner to make the daunting transition from beginner to intermediate conjurer a little easier. For instance, it was through this book that I, while in my early teens, first learned the classic pass and side steal, which in turn inspired me to search out other reference books on card magic. It also instilled in me my initial love for coin magic and led me to acquiring Bobo's seminal work The New Modern Coin Magic. Every book I own on sleight-of-hand rests firmly on the foundation created by this single book.

More than just a book on sleight-of-hand, The Amateur Magician's Handbook also provides very good foundational material on non-sleight-of-hand magic. There are sections/chapters on key-cards, gaff decks (strippers, Svengali, etc.), stacks and other types of magic (including some non-card material) Hay refers to as "Head Magic." This is not mental magic, but magic that uses subtlety, the aforementioned gaffs & stacks and other gimmicks including a ring on wand that is lovely in its simplicity.

The section on apparatus magic include chapters on silks, more gimmicks & gaffs (the thumb tip, card index, nail writer etc.), and various magical apparatus, the most important being the linking rings. More important still are Hay's opening remarks in this section that relates his obvious disregard for garish apparatus and an admonition in the form of a set of questions the budding performer should ask him/herself before acquiring a new shiny tube or box.

Relatively short sections on Mental Magic, Intimate Magic (non-card close-up) and Children's Magic follow. Like the section on apparatus magic, Hay was not an expert in these areas, so he merely scratches their surfaces. However, without apology, he refers the reader to experts within each field. In the case of mental magic, he suggests the works of Annemann and Corinda. For close-up, he points out that at this point, the reader has quite a bit of potential material from this book, but also recommends the works of Martin Gardner and Lewis Ganson. Though other effects are briefly described, the section on the close-up performance is the most important part of this section. For the children's section (an area of magic I avoid like the plague; not because of a disdain for children, balloon doggies or the other types of material one needs to perform for them, but because I do not have the skill-set required to perform for the little darlings), Hay covers some basic magic (some taken directly from his other publications), and refers the reader to the works of David Ginn and Francis Ireland Marshall among several others.

The section on Platform Magic, described by Fitzkee in his Genii review as having, "the least value in the book," touches on the creation of routines, looks at tables and servantes, staging, publicity and other advice. Also in this section is an interesting piece, written by James Randi, on rehearsing and coaching using a video camera. Obviously this section is one of the newest in the book.

Some of the names behind the material throughout this book are astounding. To mention just a few, there are pieces by Ross Bertram, Annemann, Cardini, T. Nelson Downs, Nate Leipzig, Paul Rosini, Sid Lorraine, Stanley Collins and John Mulholland. There are several others, and all are properly credited, though there were some questions regarding permission bandied about after the book's publication, though I could find no obvious controversy around the issue. However, the dissemination of information and opinion were quite different back then than they are today. In 1950 people would speak up their sleeves, while today they can stand upon their cyber-soapboxes and shout at anyone willing to listen. Make no mistake about it; The Amateur Magician's Handbook is a compilation of high quality material and this time from the domain of both technique and effect. Similar compendiums today meet the wrath of some pundits, questioning the wisdom of such endeavors.

Unlike the purposely-ambiguous style chosen by Bruce Elliott in our first selection, the descriptions in this volume - when complete - are crystal clear and easy to read. The illustrations are clear and, as Crimmins said, viewing them "is an education in itself."

Also make no mistake about the fact that this book has touched the lives of thousands of magicians and would-be magicians. Hopefully the latter were given an appreciation of the art during their encounter with the work. The former - among whom I am counted - were not only given an appreciation of the art, but the writing of Henry Hay also fosters a deep desire to continue learning and growing within it.

I look forward to your comments.

PS: My thanks to Mike Caveney, Gordon Bean and Richard Hatch for their direction, time, and input.
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Postby Sean Piper » 09/22/02 02:50 AM

The opening essays 'The Magic State of Mind' and 'Hard Easy Tricks and Easy Hard Tricks' have without a doubt been the most read pages of my entire library.

The information contained within these few pages shaped the way I think about magic at a very early age, and I am so grateful I spent my hard-earned $20 on this book at the tender age of 12.

I'm excited, and a little anxious, about what will develop through this month's discussion, and I thank Dustin for making a well appreciated choice.


Sean Piper.
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Postby Dave Shepherd » 09/22/02 04:08 AM

This is the book that got me seriously involved with magic.

I had learned a couple of basic coin and card sleights while I was a drama student at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill in the 1970s. However, magic did not capture my imagination back then, for some reason.

About seven years ago I was in my local public library in Vienna, Virginia, and passed by a shelf where they were selling books. Paperbacks were a quarter. I saw this green-and-yellow paperback called "The Amateur Magician's Handbook" for a quarter, so I bought it.

When I brought it home I dug right into it and realized that this book was going to change my life. I learned a peek glimpse and a palm and proceeded to baffle my wife and children. The reactions I got from this material were nothing like reactions I had ever gotten from any little, lame magic tricks I had tried before.

I now have two copies of the Signet paperback edition, one from the 1970s and the other dated 1982. I have tried to find the most recent hardbound edition so that the librarians at the school where I teach can order the book for my kids.

I would like to second what Sean Piper wrote about the value of the concept of "Hard Easy Tricks and Easy Hard Tricks." That little enigmatic phrase contains, in my humble opinion, one of the most valuable ideas in the whole book.

The card work is comprehensive. Like Dustin, I got most of the work on the classic pass from this book. After working through Hay's description I was able to grasp the methods of Dingle, Krenzel, and others.

Hay's eery ability to capture the essence of a move in three or four well-worded sentences enables him to cram an awful lot of information into a relatively small volume. See, for example, his description of the top change, or of the Leipzig slow-motion coin vanish.

The name is certainly a misnomer--this is most definitely NOT magic for "dummies." But I think it might indeed be a book for beginners, in the sense that it will scare off the people who want to take an easy route, and it will grab the serious conjuring aficianado by the lapels.

Dustin, you mentioned that it is currently in print. Where can it be bought? What is the ISBN? I would really love to own it myself and, of course, have it ordered for my school's library.

One more incidental note: when I was doing regular academic research in the Library of Congress a few years ago, I occasionally allowed myself to get sidetracked by conjuring literature. One search on June Barrows Mussey revealed that he also wrote a lot of travel books, on Vermont and New England, if memory serves me well. Anybody else know anything about this?
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Postby Guest » 09/22/02 08:16 AM

Thanks you Dustin, for your carefully crafted introduction this month.
As a lot of people know, I sold about 600 of my once beloved magic books. Certain books survived. and I love them all the more now, without distraction. The Amateur Magician's Handbook is one of them.
A LONG time ago, I was at a magic auction with my friend, Steve Dusheck. Himself, a great fan of this book. The next item up for bid was a paperback copy of this book. Cool. The bidding started at $1.00. I bid. Steve had been talking to someone and turned back to me and asked what item was up. I told him. I saw his eyes light up, and his mouth start to open as he leaned forward. "No," I said. "Don't say anything, I just bid on it!" He bit his lip for a moment. Then, after none of the other losers bid on it, Steve let it out, "That is the greatest book in the WORLD!" NOW everyone was taking a second look.
Years later, I found the book, brand new in a bookstore in NYC. $10.00, published by Castle Books. This is the copy in my library now. The old paperback? Back to the guy who originally sold it!
I was touched by the dedication in fornt of the book.
As far as effects, Steve turned me onto "Everybody's Card".
What a great book.

Postby Guest » 09/22/02 08:47 AM

That was a superb essay, Dustin; thank you!

Back in 1975, a guy in my dorm at Rutgers bought a copy of Hay's book, expecting a beginner's lesson. After a couple of days, exasperated, he said it was of no use to him and gave it to me. I had already made the transition from dabbler to hobbyist; this book pointed the way to becoming a practitioner. Like Sean, I've re-read the two opening chapters countless times over the decades.

This is a book that's influenced me not just as an amateur magician but as a professional writer. I draw the same inspiration from Hay that I do from Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style." Open to any page, and you'll find instructive examples of writing that's concise, clear, good-natured, and mischievous all at once. Just one taste:

"[If magic dealers] want to stay in business they must sell what magicians will buy, not what they ought to buy.

"What magicians will buy is to me an endless source of dismay. Who in his right senses would shell out fifteen or twenty dollars, say, for a set of eight three-inch wooden disks, two garishly daubed metal covers, and a suspicious-looking tall tin can, the purpose of which is to make the disks, an orange, and some rice move around among the tinware? ... Yet I can assure you that magicians buy these contraptions, and once in a while I am afraid somebody even shows them."


Postby Sean Piper » 09/22/02 01:59 PM


I believe that the copy sitting in front of me is the most recent printing by Castle.

The ISBN is: 0-7858-0204-5

It's hardbound with a red and yellow cover. ... ct-details

Hope this helps!

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Postby Dave Shepherd » 09/23/02 03:13 AM

Thank you, Sean. I'll pass this link on to the powers-that-be at my school library.
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Postby John Pezzullo » 09/23/02 03:19 AM

David Meyer published a nine page article titled 'Burrows Mussey: Portrait of a Popularizer' in the April 2000 issue of "The Linking Ring". It's an excellent article.
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Postby Matthew Field » 09/23/02 09:28 AM

Fabulous, Dustin! I'll get my copy down off the shelves, with great pleasure.

My first magic book was Howard Thurston's "400 Tricks You Can Do," followed by "Amateur Magician's Handbook." The Handbook really opened my eyes to magic -- taught me the basic card sleights and, as several have already mentioned, set a tone for magical philosophy that has endured within me to this day.

I own several editions of the Hay masterpiece -- I bought a couple of Barnes & Noble handback reprints a few years ago so I could give them to budding magicians.

This is a great, great book.

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Postby Guest » 09/23/02 06:03 PM

I bought a paperback of this book for $3.95 at the magic counter they had at the herald square mall in NYC in 1986. I read this book over and over until it literally fell to pieces. This was the book that made me fall in love w/ magic books! When I was working as a demonstrator at Tannen's I talked Tony Spina into buying copies for every single kid there (which was no easy feat!)the last year i taught there (the same year that David blaine did also, 1993. How many of you out there tried to palm what seemed like 50 coins because of some of the pictures in this book?

Postby Guest » 09/23/02 06:04 PM

In regards to the above post. It was the Tannen's Magic Camp i was referring to.

Postby Jim Morton » 09/24/02 08:59 AM

I have two copies of this book. One is a fourth edition hardback that I read when I'm at home. The other is a 1972 Signet paperback edition that I carry around in my briefcase. Although I was personally introduced to magic by Bruce Elliott's books, I think The Amateur Magician's Handbook is actually the best introduction to magic you could have. The only other book that comes close is George Anderson's Magic Digest, IMO.

As others have already noted, the word "Amateur" in the title is misleading, but it makes sense. In the opening essays, Hay imparts the kind of wisdom that everyone should receive as early in their magic careers as possible. It is also a wealth of information on other sources. Get all the books that Hay recommends and you'll have yourself quite a library.

My personal favorite section is the coin section. It was here that I learned the DeManche change, which is an amazingly deceptive change, and too often passed over in favor of the easier (but not always right for the effect) Bobo switch.

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Postby Jeff Haas » 09/24/02 11:34 PM

This is the book I learned T. Nelson Downs' "Eureka Pass" from. Then I got a copy of Bobo and picked up a few refinements. This was in high school, where I went around constantly with four half-dollars in my pocket so I could practice the Edge Palm.

Sheesh! Years later, I can still edge palm a coin without thinking about it.

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Postby Guest » 09/24/02 11:39 PM

Edge palm, DeManche change, and coin roll are my standard daily Captain Queeg nervous tic items.

Postby Rick Schulz » 09/25/02 05:12 PM

The Amateur Magician's Handbook was the second book on magic I discovered. The first was a book titled, "Magic", by none other than Barrows Mussey. My copy appears to be a first edition, dated 1942. It covers, in 83 pages, card magic, coin magic, magic performed at the dinner table and "Miscellaneous parlour miracles". It would seem that this pre-dates The Amateur Magician's Handbook by eight years. I have noticed a few identical phrases between the two works. The magic in this book is much easier to learn, and the book covers the aforementioned topics in far less detail. :)
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Postby Guest » 09/25/02 09:19 PM about memories. I got a hardcover copy of this from a friend of my stepfather's who was no longer doing magic years ago, and haven't touched it in ages. Coincidentally enough, when I went to my family's house in NJ last month, I came across it in my basement and brought it back to Boston to re-read in the near future. Then it popped up here! Creepy... :o )

I remember how many times as a kid I delved through those pages. When I was ten, I recall reading the aforementioned DeManche Change description and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I ended up developing a Copper-Silver handling using it that somehow I had the cajones to send to Harry Lorayne for Apocalypse, and somehow he saw fit to publish it (although he did make the wise choice to swap out the DeManche move for another more suitable move) when he wrote it up :o ) So I guess I owe my first published routine, at least to some degree, to this book!


Postby Sean Piper » 09/26/02 01:37 AM

The Demanche Change has already been mentioned as being passed over in favour of an easier alternative...

What other hidden gems come to mind??

(That's right... I have my copy handy and want some stuff to look up. I know you are doing the same ;) )
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Postby Guest » 09/26/02 04:52 AM

I don't really consider the DeManche change a hidden gem of the Hay book, because I first learned it from Hugard's "Coin Magic," which was published by Tannen's. It was simply called a one-handed coin change and was listed among basic sleights. (Hugard did note that the change is "indubitably the most perfect yet devised and it should be practiced until it can be done with equal facility with either hand.")

The Hugard booklet doesn't have a publication date, but I presume it predates Hay's AMH, based on one of the lines of suggested patter for the Miser's Dream: "I came across a dollar dated 1936 -- someone forging ahead."


Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/28/02 10:28 AM

Hay borrowed heavily from Hugard, Hilliard and Buckley - a fact not missed by Hugard's Magic Monthly book reviewer Crimmins.

Richard Hatch answers Dave Shepherd's question regarding the print status of the book (my apologies for not getting back to you quicker, Dave, but Sean got to back to you in a timely manner, and he is correct). Richard believes that the Castle Books edition is "technically still in print." Given the very low retail price of $10, he deduces that this means a print run into the tens of thousands.

Speaking of Richard Hatch (the go-to guy for those hard to find volumes you need in your library - see H&R Book's site at: ), he also passed along an amusing, odd, strange (well, it's dependent upon your sense of humor) anecdote:

While on a trip to Germany, Richard was a guest at a gathering at Mussey's home. Richard performed a collection of magic taken directly from The Amateur Magician's Handbook. It went well, or so Richard thought, because just a few days later Mussey passed away. Richard fears that his performance may have killed Henry Hay. Let this serve as a warning to you authors out there who may be the subject of a Richard Hatch performance!

Thanks again, Richard! And I'll be sure to let you know when we do Expert at the Card Table here!


PS: Thanks also to everyone for the kind comments regarding my lengthy intro.
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Postby Jim Morton » 09/28/02 12:11 PM

Ralph, I think what Sean meant is gems that are hidden in plain view. :D

The DeManche change predates both Hugard and Hays by many, many years. It originally showed up in print in C. Lang Neil's The Modern Conjurer, as Hays noted in Cyclopedia of Magic.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 10/03/02 08:26 AM

I've always gotten "Amateur Magician's Handbook" and "Cyclopedia of Magic" confused. I always loved Cyclopedia and though Handbook not very interesting: mind you, this was my opinion at the age of 10. I still have my copy of Cyclopedia (a book which received a thorough drubbing from William Larsen, Sr. in Genii when it came out).
Isn't there some great item from Senor Mardo in the Handbook? I remember him (Charles Mardo) telling me about it when we used to hang around at Tannen's in the 1970s.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 10/03/02 09:11 AM

Just a note regarding the title: Mussey was stuck with the title as it was part of a series the original publisher was producing: The Amateur Ham Radio Operators Handbook, etc. At least, that's what he told me. At one point, he was working on an annotated, photo illustrated edition of Downs' Art of Magic (I believe some excerpts are in THE SPHINX) and he also conducted interviews with Leipzig, LeRoy, Mullholland and others for a book tentatively entitled "Men without Sleeves". Apparently both manuscripts were lost in a fire that destroyed his family home in Vermont...
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Postby Craig Matsuoka » 10/03/02 12:20 PM


Thanks for selecting "The Amateur Magician's Handbook". This was my first "real" book on sleight-of-hand. Even though it was many many years ago, this is one of those things I can remember as fondly as hot chocolate & graham crackers during rainy mornings in kindergarten. It was all so wonderful to me.

I kept the book next to my pillow, reading and practicing from it every night. There was so much foundational material to absorb!

Regrettably, a long time ago, I threw it out along with a huge box of other books and props in an overzealous fit of housecleaning (yes, I was certifiably insane back then).

"The Amateur Magician's Handbook" is still one of the best values in magic and one of the wisest purchases I ever made. For a few measly bucks, the dedicated tyro has access to more information than he deserves.
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Postby EdAndres » 10/03/02 03:53 PM

A hidden treasure: Cigarette Magic!

I purchased my copy from a library sale of used books in 1976. I was in the 8th grade, living in Germany. The weird part is, someone removed the whole chapter on cigarette magic! Those censors! I finally found a copy at a different library and was thrilled to learn all those cool cigarette moves. A must for any 8th grader. Very convenient that everyone in my family smoked(except me).

In that chapter on cigarette magic #6 is a real hidden treasure. (and there is even a cooler version that pre-dates this in this months GENII :genii: !!!) let the smoke rise....

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/04/02 01:12 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
I always loved Cyclopedia and though Handbook not very interesting: mind you, this was my opinion at the age of 10…(a book which received a thorough drubbing from William Larsen, Sr. in Genii when it came out). Isn't there some great item from Senor Mardo in the Handbook? I remember him (Charles Mardo) telling me about it when we used to hang around at Tannen's in the 1970s.
Cyclopedia of Magic was also "panned unmercifully" (his own words) by Dariel Fitzkee in Genii and, said Fitzkee, by almost "every other reviewer" as well. I've never seen the book, so I cannot say one way or the other.

There is no reference to Senor Mardo in the index, but that certainly does not mean that he doesn't have something in there that is not credited to him. Anyone know what Richard might be talking about?

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
Just a note regarding the title: Mussey was stuck with the title as it was part of a series the original publisher was producing...At least, that's what he told me.
I couldn't help but check into this and I was able to find four other books in the series, all published by Thomas Y. Crowell, Co. There were Amateur Handbooks for: Archeologists (1965); Astronomers ('68); Gem Mineral Collectors ('69) and Photographers ('73). Of course, this is all I found, who knows what else may be out there. I think you can safely say that what Mussey told you about the title is factual.

It's tragic about the manuscripts you mention. That is a staggering loss to the written record of magic.

Originally posted by Craig Matsuoka:
(yes, I was certifiably insane back then).
That explains back then - but what about now?!?
;) :D ;)

So have you replaced the inadvertently discarded book?

Originally posted by EdAndres:
A hidden treasure: Cigarette Magic!
These days, here in California, Cigarette magic seems to go over about as well as a fart in church, yet there are some great pieces of magic that are being missed.

Thanks guys!
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Postby Guest » 10/04/02 01:20 PM

Just wondering. Are magicians in Europe and other smokier corners of the world doing much cigarette magic these days?

Postby Guest » 10/08/02 04:50 PM

The Amateur Magicians Handbook was the first book my father bought me at Flosso's Magic Shop. In the Flosso book, I mention that Al sold this book to me instead of the Vanishing Bird Cage that I wanted instead. When I went home, I discovered that it was signed to T. Nelson Downs by Henry Hay. It says "To Mr Downs, In memory of a visit, June Mussey (Henry Hay)" It also has the Downs Library stamp in it. Then I realized that he dedicated this book to Downs (and John Mulholland)and mentions the visit in the beginning of the book!! I still have this book in my library for more than 38 years. What I find a mystery is that in the original 1950 edition he gives the method of the Mystery Clock Dial but omitted it in later editions. I met June around 1974 at Tannen's Magic Shop, when he was working for the New York Times. Senor Mardo's hands are photographed in some parts of this work and Senor always made us aware of this fact. 'Those were the good old days'

Postby Richard Hatch » 10/08/02 07:40 PM

Doug's posting is rather curious, since AMH wasn't published till 1950 and TND passed away in 1938 (his headstone may be viewed at ... &GRid=3841).
My guess is that the copy of AMH Flosso sold Doug had belonged to another Downs, perhaps Herb Downs... What does the Downs library stamp say?
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Postby Doomo » 10/09/02 02:24 AM

Richard, Senor Mardo DOES have an effect in the A M H. It is in the coin section. It has to do with passing coins out of a knotted handkerchief. I believe he calls it a "Heigh Ho Silver Cocktail" . I don't have the book in front of me as I write.
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Postby Guest » 10/09/02 03:06 AM

The book is signed to Mrs. Downs, In memory of a visit, Henry Hay." I haven't looked at that first edition book as I have it sealed in plastic. I have other copies for reference. The stamp says from the Downs library and I have no reason to doubt that Mrs. Downs stamped it later on. It also has the "Bud Tracy (Iowa) ink stamp in it also. He wrote the directory for magicians in the 1950's.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/09/02 08:29 AM

Originally posted by Doomo:
Richard, Senor Mardo DOES have an effect in the A M H. It is in the coin section. It has to do with passing coins out of a knotted handkerchief. I believe he calls it a "Heigh Ho Silver Cocktail" . I don't have the book in front of me as I write.
I do...

It's titled "The Shaker Penetration" and is a version of "an old trick that appeared in Senor Mardo's excellent pamphlet, Routined Magic." The "Hi-Yo Silver Cocktail" is a suggested patter line.

The effect is based around the handkerchief fold taught in the coin “Hand Magic” section, which I still use, quite effectively, to this day.

Thanks for the lead Doomo!

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Postby Todd Karr » 10/09/02 09:54 PM

I love The Amateur Magician's Handbook. My dogeared copy was a prize possession I picked up at age 9 at B. Dalton, 70s psychedelic cover and all. A great basic guidebook with an interesting essay on magic theory ("The Magic State of Mind") and historical info as well. I have since given a few copies away as gifts to beginners.
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Postby sleightly » 10/10/02 05:06 AM

I have used AMH as text for students for many years and have given away and sold hundreds of the Signet paperback.

Not only does it teach basic technique well (I mean basic as in core required technical skills to build on), but also provides the beginner an excellent resource for learning what all the "standard" dealer items are (and still are) thus making them more informed consumers.

A wonderful work that focuses on educating the student both as a course of study and a reference work, while setting a standard for them to strive for.

One of the few books in my library (way too many and counting) that get referred back to again and again...

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Postby Guest » 10/10/02 08:03 PM


Thanks for your lucid and enlightening essay on the background of this wonderful book, AMH. I have only been in GENII forum for a few days, and I discovered this site only today. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the section on Elliott's CLASSIC SECRETS, and I would like you to unlock the topic so that I can add my 2 cents, for whatever they might be worth to others.

As I stated elsewhere in the Genii forum (responding to a message of Kaufman's), my first magic book at age 8 was Joseph Leeming's FUN WITH MAGIC. My second was at age 10 with CLASSIC SECRETS, and it really fueled my interest (augmented with Mark Wilson's wonderful TV show, MAGIC LAND OF ALLAKAZAM).

However, I was fully hooked at age 17 when I found
the AMH Signet paperback at my college bookstore's newsstand (the green and yellow psychedelic cover; Hay undoubtedly hated it, because most of the tricks ballyhooed on the cover were apparatus magic or head magic). I wore that book out, and though I have the $10 hardback 4th edition now, I still carry that paperback in my briefcase for study and practice when I have some "down time" (I have a paperback copy of CLASSIC SECRETS that also accompanies me).

Vernon's SILVER & GOLD (a flying eagles type effect) and Down's EUREKA PASS made me into a sleight magic lover. I have read the book from cover to cover many times, and I return to it often for its clarity and powers of description. I created my signature version of Coins Up Sleeve To Glass by borrowing/combining the plots of Cards To Pocket and Coins Up Sleeve To Pocket. To this day, I get applause when each one of the five coins hits the glass, and I think wistfully of Mussey when I do. Wish I could thank him...

AMH is my "desert island" magic book. One could spend months in this book with only two decks of cards, 5 half dollars, and a handkerchief. No pipe dreams here, only solid magic to be learned and savored... (yes, sentence fragment)

The list of quality magic here is nearly endless. The Potsherd Trick and Whispering Queen, both easy of execution, deserve standing places in working repertoire, IMHO. The delightful writing arrangement of learning a sleight and then using it in a quality trick keeps one wanting to learn more. The wide array of plot types makes this book one able fuel a whole career.

My one quibble with the book is that Mussey chose to effectively dismiss the great Cups & Balls, perhaps the oldest classic magic trick and Houdini's "test of a real magician" with a throwaway chapter. It is obvious that Mussey felt that the persistent student would be able to make up his own routine based upon some hints in the all-too-terse chapter and upon the knowledge of sleight of hand so lovingly taught in earlier chapters. I find it so unfortunate that one of the finest general books in the literature contains very little information on what might be the king of all magic tricks.

On the other hand, I am so grateful that superb books like AMH (and CLASSIC SECRETS) are obtuse enough to the general reader to negate their mass-market publishing status. A good many libraries in the USA contain either one or both of these books, but the tricks remain largely "unexposed" because the writers wisely chose to TEACH magic rather than merely explain it. The books are just too much work for the casual reader.

I am thrilled that Kaufman and the huge majority of posters here feel similarly about AMH and CS. We longtimers tend to view our favorite books through rose-colored glasses, choosing to overlook their flaws in favor of their quality information and their formative value in our hobbies or careers. It is gratifying to know that others feel the same depth of experience and respect for the art of magic that these two books worked so hard to impart.

My magic book collection soared in recent years with a huge chunk of the books that Mussey recommended (his choices did change from edition to edition, and I have acquired books listed from earlier editions as well as later ones). I have rarely been disappointed by the books Mussey called classics. I would point out that the archaic prose style of the classics of C. Lang Neil, Professor Hoffman, and Jean Hugard make them and even slower study than AMH and CS, but this makes the rewards even richer (and rarer).

But I ramble on too much. Bottom line: your magic book collection has a serious hole in it if it is missing AMATEUR MAGICIAN's HANDBOOK.

Dustin, I am gonna love this section of Genii...



Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/10/02 10:08 PM

Thanks for the comments, Jon. I look forward to your participation. I have no doubt you will bring a lot to this forum. Just promise me that you will not be too critical of my grammar, punctuation and sentence structure (for those who don't know, Jon is a teacher. Add that to magician as well as musician and he is three of my favorite people).

Have fun!
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 10/11/02 02:59 PM


The next book has been selected and is ready to go (and it's a big secret - not even our esteemed leader knows what it is). So, get your last thoughts on this wonderful book together and post them before time runs out (probably the middle of next week).

(Can keep secrets - and boy am I loaded with secrets right now!)
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Postby Leonard Hevia » 10/15/02 07:43 AM

The AMH was also the first magic book I owned-circa1976-an early 70's worn paperback edition. Just about everything I want to say about it has been mentioned by other posters. I love Hay's essay about T. Nelson Downs and how Downs still dropped his coins after so many years performing, "[...] if I still drop them, what can you expect?" I found it somewhat difficult to learn some items because certain moves used only one photograph as a supplement, such as the slip force. I couldn't figure out how it was supposed to appear to the audience. The Bill Tarr books were my next discovery, but the AMH is still treasured. An early 90's paperback edition currently reposes in my bookshelf.
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Postby Philippe Noël » 09/04/03 11:57 AM

Am I the only one to be suprised that Henry Hay's descriptions of overhand shuffle techniques are explained from a left handed point of view. I imagine the suprise of a beginner in magic that may wonder why Mr Hay explains:"overhand shuffle, in which the LEFT hand holds the pack by the ends and drops a few cards at a time into the cupped right hand."
In fact, even his false dovetail to leave the whole deck in order is for me for a left handed person.
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Postby Grant McSorley » 04/28/04 07:22 PM

Just got this book and read the first few chapters. I'm jealous of htose of you who had a copy when you started out, it took me much too long to find out about it. I have the '72 edition and like Todd says, the psychedelic cover is great. The rainbow coming out of the "mindreader's" eye is classic.
This has to be one of the best written magic books I've read. While I don't think that all absolute beginners would see the value of this book, I can't see anybody who has more than a passing interest in magic not falling in love with it.

Back to reading,
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Postby Guest » 04/28/04 10:24 PM

Some of these posts sound like they could have been written by myself. For me, too, this was the first "real" book on magic that I owned, bought over 20 years ago.
And for the first 10 years or so of my magic tinkering, it was the only one I owned. I feel lucky, as this definitely falls into the category of "If you were stranded on a desert island with only one magic book..."
I'm glad my "desert island" small-town Canadian bookstore happened to have it in stock that day!
I still use many of the moves and effects to this day, particularly the cigarette magic and of course, the pass--glad I got an early start on that one.
I have a question about the false dovetail riffle shuffle explained in the book. Where did it come from? Is it Hay's? And do any of you use it?
I recently started doing it again and worked out a similar in-the-hands version--with packets riffle in-line--over the past year, as I've gotten more into memorized deck work.


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