Although I only recently joined this forum, my association with magic spans more than 50 years and includes 40+ years of performing, 30 of them full-time, both magic and (since 1991) mentalism in the greater Washington DC metro area. I have a special interest in forcing books and book tests and my article Notes on the History of Book Tests appeared in the April 2008 issue of The Linking Ring.
I started buying forcing books and book tests in the mid-1970s -- before I became interested enough in mentalism to add a mindreading show to my repertoire and incorporating a book test in the program. After stumbling upon some of the better book tests then available -- starting with Becker's original "Flashback" which, along with his later "Ultimate Flashback, is still one of the best -- I continued to acquire all of the forcing books and book tests I could find -- in a quest to find the "perfect" one (which I now know doesn't exist -- "Flashback, MOAB and a couple of others come close, but none has achieved perfection). Eventually I combined the best features of the best book tests I could find and developed the book test routine that has since become one of the prominent features in my "ESPcapades" mindreading show.
When I began seriously studying the subject I found that there was no comprehensive list of forcing books and book test or written extensively about their history and evolution extant in the magical literature. The only thing of any substance that I could find was the article by F. William Kuethe, Jr., in Vol. VIII (the Classic Magic Supplement) of Albo's Classic Magic books and I knew, based on the ones I had at the time, that Kuethe's treatise, while informative, was anything from complete. Checking with several of the most knowledgeable people I knew (Nick Ruggiero, George Daily, Richard Kauffman, Max Maven, etc.) revealed that they weren't aware of any definitive work on the subject either, so I decided to take on the challenge of filling that void and so for the past 5+ years have been devoting my spare time to compiling what I hope will be the definitive reference work on the subject (working title: Encyclopedia of Forcing Books & Book Tests).
Once I decided to undertake the project, my interest in forcing books and book tests (and the related/subsets of magazine tests, newspaper and want ad tests, dictionary tests and phone book tests) became more academic than practical, so now I am making a concerted effort to find and acquire as many as possible both for my research and to expand my personal collection. Of course when I undertook the project, like most magicians or mentalists, I had no concept of its magnitude.
Although my research goes far beyond the books and tests that I could ever hope to acquire, my personal collection now includes over 300 of the many commercially marketed forcing books and book tests published from the 1920s to 2008 and am adding more every year as I become aware of them. If I include those that, while not marketed as separate effects, have been published in the various book, magazines, newsletters, etc., in my magic library (e.g., MAGICK, Jinx, Sphinx, Mahatma, Apocalypse, Invocation, etc., etc.) I probably have close to 1,000, the oldest being a force book and its ungimmicked duplicate printed in German in 1892.
That may sound like a lot, but when you realize that the 14 volumes of Potter's Master Index of Magic in Print and its subsequent supplements list about 1,000 and only cover those printed in English up to 1971 (1964 for the basic Index with the supplements covering 1965-71) and consider the technological advances in printing and publishing since 1971 -- especially the burgeoning "self-publishing" and "publishing on demand" cottage industries -- you get some understanding of just how formidable the task I've undertaken has proven to be. I think a conservative estimate of the total number published to date in English in one form or another would be in the range of 2,000 to 2,500 with another dozen or more coming out each year -- and someone has suggested could actually be almost twice that many.
It is important to emphasize that my book will definitely not be a "how to" book, nor will it contain anything like detailed instructions for any but the very oldest and outdated effects. The intent of my project is to provide a heretofore nonexistent reference work for interested scholars. Accordingly, not only because of a moral and ethical obligation, as well as a legal imperative, to respect the work of the originators, but the fact that the sheer bulk precludes including anything even approaching a compilation of the instructions, I am limiting the content of my book to a listing -- by type and chronology -- of the various forcing books and book tests. My goal is not to teach how to do them, but to trace their history and evolution. In order to do that of course, it is essential that I include enough information about each test for it to be properly identified/defined by the general method involved (e.g., duplicated pages, duplicated word(s) or phrase(s) at various places in the book, books with different covers but identical content, tests using anagrams, impression devices, etc.), but not so much detail that someone could make the special prop or "gimmick" required for a test currently on the market instead of buying it from the originator or an authorized dealer. Where a test uses multiple principles or has multiple features they will, of course, be cross-referenced.
My present estimate is that the book will have over 30 chapters, each discussing a specific type/category of test, plus several appendices and run to well over 700 and possibly as many as 1,000 pages. I plan to include a CD-ROM with a searchable and sortable database with the book and offer annual updates to both the book and CD on a subscription basis. I am hoping to have the completed package ready for publication sometime in early 2011.
Others who have heard about my project and share my interest in the subject have been generous in bringing books, tests and historical information of interest to my attention and I am now using this forum to reach out to a larger community to elicit support in my effort. I will welcome any infomation (books, tests, history, etc.) that any of you can provide. Although I think I either have or am aware of most of what has been marketed or widely published in this genre since the 1970s (e.g., I believe I have everything put out by Magico, Becker, Earle and the Becker-Earle Mentalism Unlimited partnership) there are likely many less widely known or circulated in the underground that I may not, will want to, know about. In that regard I would much rather be told of 100 books or tests that I already have than miss one that I dont. And of course, as my resources permit, I may be interested in purchasing any force books or book tests you may be willing to part with if they arent already in my collection and will be happy to share my knowledge on the subject with other serious students of the genre.
I try to check the forum daily and can receive pms at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Thank you for wading through such a lengthy post. I will be posting a followup note shortly with a list of books/tests that I am particularly interested in acquiring or learning more about.