Lost Notebooks of J.N. Hilliard

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Postby Robert Kane » 01/04/02 11:24 PM

My wonderful wife was kind enough to give me a copy of the The Lost Notebooks of John Northern Hilliard for Christmas. As a result, I happily spent much of Christmas Day and most of my Christmas vacation pouring over, scanning, studying and just plain absorbing the staggeringly huge number of fine magic effects collected in this extra special tome of long lost magic.

What I found especially enjoyable about the Lost Notebooks was the fact that Richard Kaufman elected to reprint the lost notebooks in the raw i.e. completely unedited...straight copies of the notebooks themselves. This unusual approach gave me a hauntingly cool insight and edgy feel into who was J.N. Hilliard and similarly tantalizing views of the magicians of his day. It was sort of like sneaking a peek at someones private diary or their strictly private notes on the best magic workers of their time. Candidly, this book is really that special and should not be missed.

At this point I am continuing to slowly absorb and process this book in my brain, so I have not selected any effects to use in my small kit bag of tricks, but I have a pretty good feeling that I will and soon.

As I peruse the book and write this email I am also struck by the sheer amount of material included. It is almost unreal...practically an additional half of Greater Magic. I cant believe it was or worse pilfered from Hilliards hotel room? Buy the book to learn more.

Plus, the material is from the top flight magicians of Hilliards day i.e. Vernon, Baker, Judah, Anneman, Merlin, Horowitz, et al. It is kind of frightening to try to comprehend just how creative and prolific these gentlemen were. It is equally amazing that Hilliard kept detailed notes of all of this material. Fantastic! And we are the lucky ones who get to enjoy and benefit from the fruit of their creativity and labor. What more could you want in a book?

A big thanks to Richard Kaufman and to Genii Magazine for publishing this long lost set of notebooks compiled by one of one of our finest chroniclers of magic, John Northern Hilliard. I am thankful these notebooks were found and that you and I can peer into a previously sacrosanct and highly secret world of magic that is now frozen in time.

As you can tell, I am enjoying the book thoroughly and would recommend it to any and all, especially those interested in learning wonderful effects or in getting an exclusive and rare glimpse of the development of the sophisticated and entertaining 20th century magic. It really made my Christmas Holiday grand. :)

Has anyone else been enjoying this book as much as I have? What are your thoughts? My current favorite part of this book is the big section on Poker Deals, which I love to watch and do. Too cool.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 01/05/02 07:12 PM

The nice surprise is that, unlike the Daley notebooks, is that these tricks are completely (and well) written out, ready for insertion into Greater Magic without much further editing. William Goodwin comments in his recent MAGIC article as to it being a thrill to come across some undiscovered trick by Vernon. This book is full of such discoveries. Owners would probably be happy for this book to remain a secret.
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Postby Asser Andersen » 01/14/02 02:57 PM

To Robert Kane: I enjoyed reading "The Lost Notebooks" tremendously.

Reading this magnificent book is an amazing (and also challenging) experience. Apart from containing lots of interesting tricks, it also gives a fascinating glimpse of how Hilliard was working on organising these tricks into chapters and themes.

Another fascinating aspect of reading the book is that it makes you want to know more....

F.ex.:

In the Anneman Section, Hilliard has annotated "The Dollar Cigarette Challenge" and "Remote Control Improved" as "Strange Secrets - No. 3 and 4". Does anybody know what no. 1 and 2 are ?

I'm also curious as to how the actual Notebooks are constructed.

It is evident that the "Al Baker Section" was written as one entity. However, in the Notebooks several pages from this section has been moved to other chapters (e.g. "Al Baker's Wonderful Four Cards and Four Pellets Mystery" has been moved to the "Judah Section" adjacent to Judah's Four Pellet Prediction and so on).

Is this reorganisation of material the work of J.N. Hilliard or are the Notebooks in such a state that this could have been done later ?

Many more questions come to mind - but enough for now.
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Postby sleightly » 01/14/02 05:47 PM

As for the construction and structure of the Notebooks...

Having had the wonderful opportunity of having the actual original notebooks in my possession while I prepared the fascimiles, I can inform you that the Notebooks were punched and bound into two separate volumes (indicated by the Section breaks in the new volume).

I did not receive the pages in bound form, but as I understand it from Richard, the pages were in the order presumably left by Hilliard when he last worked on the book.

One might surmise that the structure of the eventual intended book was not quite finished, what with sections originally segmented by contributor and later by topic. As one can see, there are many instances of material having been arranged in at least two different (presumably) possible permutations already mentioned.

Some may be curious about the construction of the current reproduction. This work is one of the most complex production tasks I have ever undertaken. One of the main difficulties in preparing the reproduction is the varying condition of the pages that comprised the Notebooks.

The pages were yellowed, brittle, as well as being of varying degrees of thickness, state of decay and type of paper (heavy bond, cotton rag and--yikes--transparently thin yellow onion skin that flaked apart when you looked at it). Added to this was the fact that the notations on the pages were often composed of four different impressions (typewriter ribbon, red ink, blue ink and pencil), which required multiple approaches to reproduce a single page. This doesn't include the various stains, smudges, and moisture marks that afflict the original pages.

Each page was scanned digitally at 1200dpi in B&W at differing threshold settings for each color ink then combined to a single page. Each page was compared to the preceding and following pages to make an attempt at consistency of print weight (not an easy task when you consider the differing paper stock and typewriter ribbons that wore down causing text to slowly grow lighter as Hilliard typed). These images were then cleaned meticulously to remove any imperfections on the page that were the result of scanning, imperfections of paper, smudging or other unintentional markings that were not judged to be part of the information being imparted (on many pages this consisted of hundreds of instances of degradation that required attention).

A Galley proof was then constructed and hard-copies printed. Each page was then inspected again and marked up to remove any markings that were missed in the first go-round.

All told, each individual page received an average of two hours each (and I can really only estimate at this point--likely more). The aim was to produce a document of the highest quality that reproduces the minutest details imparted by the writer, while enhancing the legibility and value to the current student of magic.

The work was long and painstakingly tedious. I'm also sure that I will likely develop cataracts as a direct result of my work on this project. I am however, very proud of the results attained, and I would like to believe that the fascimiles rival, and in many cases, exceed the quality of the originals (particularly in clarity).

It was an honor and a thrill to hold, in my hands, the unpublished pages held once by one of magic's finest writers. The Lost Notebooks of John Northern Hilliard (in fascimile) may in fact be the closest experience to holding an original manuscript from one of magic's legends in your own hands.

Thanks again to Richard for the opportunity to be a part of history.

ajp
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Postby Guest » 02/12/02 08:39 PM

This is a great project, indeed. I am curious Richard, or anyone, if you had to estimate how much of the material ended up in print before this work? Keep up the good work, and ON with the Jennings books!
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Postby Guest » 02/20/02 09:34 PM

1000 members and NO ONE knows what percentage of the material has already appeared in print? Not even Richard?
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Postby Guest » 02/22/02 01:03 PM

I haven't gotten my new issue yet, but my local shop did. I was delighted to see that the question I'm raising here also seemed to slightly perturb the esteemed Jamy Swiss. I'm in good company! Anyway, he also brings up the layout of the book. I would like to add that I personally would have preferred for you to have done the same thing you did with this project, with Ibidem. I know Minch took over that project. But I'd wager it would have sold a lot more, if you, and now Stephen, had retained the original layout. I already read your thoughts on why you did it the way you did. That still doesn't mean you made the right decision.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/22/02 03:40 PM

The problem with Ibidem is that the mimeographed reproduction of the original is so poor that it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, for many of the pages to reproduce and remain legible.
A look at the Fulves reprints will tell you exactly why we took the opposite path with Ibidem.
The dismal sales of Ibidem 1 (I can't speak for the second volume since I didn't publish it) were, I think, due to the fact that the magazine was written to appeal to a tiny group of magicians. And even after I gussied it up and redid the entire thing, the contents still appealed to a tiny group of magicians!
Onward and upward ...
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Postby Steve Hook » 02/22/02 11:15 PM

But it's one of my favorite magic possessions, Richard. Thanks!

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Postby Rennie » 03/13/02 08:09 AM

All I can say is the book is FANTASTIC, very intersting reading with the comments and corrections on each page, however the only downside is Hilliard's handwriting is not the best to translate.Love the book and everyone in this hobby/profession should have one in their library...
The effect is the important thing, how you achieve is not !!
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