Romano, Chuck. The Art of Deception (Second, Enlarged Edition), Chuck Romano Magic, Aurora, IL, 2008. Hardbound with dust cover. 423 pages. $65.
This is a unique book about the art and artists of magic.
First published in 1997, the 550 copies quickly sold out. The first edition won the S.A.M.s Henry Ridgely Evans History Award in 1999. The 2008 edition has corrections and a reflections section added to the end of each chapter. Otherwise the 1997 edition text is unabridged. The reflection sections add new information about many of the artists featured in the book. This newly published 2nd edition affords many who missed out the first time around, the opportunity to acquire this remarkable text.
Growing up in rural Virginia, my window to the world of magic was a wonderful catalog from Kanters in Philadelphia. Behind that cover festooned with faces of magicians was a fantasy land of magic made wondrous by the illustrations that accompanied the descriptions of the effects. Reading the words got you interested but the illustrations sold you. Learning so many years later that the artist in those Kanters catalogs was William Hanna brings back many memories that he helped give me. As I continued in magic and began to acquire books, it was the illustrations that helped to learn and understand what the words described and new artists became familiar faceless friends known only by the signatures on their art - such names as Hahne, Tarbell, Lorraine, Martineau, and Rigney to mention a few of the great freehand illustrators of my early days in magic.
Later as close up magic became a primary interest, I found that illustrations became all the more important and found a new group of illustrators that were using new techniques to produce more realistic drawings that usually showed exactly what was the important thing to see and understand in mastering an effect. Now names like Kaufman, Schmidt, Oakes, Onosaka, and Gagnon became familiar. And so it has continued through the years as new artists appeared to help teach the magic creations. They are all in the The Art of Deception along with many, many more. Close-up magic illustration is not an easy thing. It has been said that the human hand is one of the more difficult images to draw. The magic illustrator has to not only capture the reality of the hands anatomy but also the position that is critical for the magic being done. Having done a small bit of illustrating myself, I understand and feel for those who have excelled in this specialized discipline.
It should be noted, for those who do not know, that the head Genii played a pivotal role in the evolution of magic illustration and publication of magic books. Full recognition of Richards influential place in the art of deception is described in this book.
This is not a book of tricks. Rather it is a wonderful story of the art and artists who have visited magic and captured some facet of the art thereby preserving it for others. The great magic lithographs from Scotss Discoverie of Witchcraft through the golden age of magics great showmen are here. The book also covers the early depictions of the cups and balls such as the drawings of Joseph of Ulm and Bruegel, and the painting of Hieronymus Bosch. Reading about LEscamoteur (The Conjurer) takes me back many years to the Left Bank art stall in front of Notre Dame where I chanced upon an affordable reproduction of Boschs work that still hangs in my home.
Again and again, I found reminders and welcome memories that have been encountered over the years in the art of magic - something seen but not always realized and more often taken for granted. The Art of Deception chronicles and recognizes the importance of art in our magic.
I feel that a better understanding of the many facets of our art other than just the effects is essential to a meaningful presentation of magic. The depth of knowledge shows through in the performance. This book will enhance any magician's depth of knowledge and appreciation of magic.
This is a well produced and well written book that is enjoyable and rewarding to read. It represents an outstanding piece of research that is still a unique work over a decade after it was first published. Very highly recommended.