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Posted: March 1st, 2020, 2:38 pm
I'm not finished the Erdnase section yet, but it's probably worth noting that if anything, detailed analysis as SF offered in the book only sharpens the interest in the search for Erdnase.
Forte has, for the first time, offered more than the typical throw away statements "I think he was a magician", or "I think he was a hustler".
Forte backs his statements up with deep and knowledgable thinking on the specific elements in EATCT that lead him to the conclusion he reaches, from specifics of the sleights in the book, to comments made by Erdnase in passing.
Worth pointing out however, is that this is only SF's personal opinion. We still have no idea who Erdnase was, so everybody involved in the search is offering what can only be described as personal opinions ... we'll have to see how willing folks are to be swayed by a detailed analysis as it's offered by a consummate professional such as Steve Forte.
It will likely take some time in order to digest how effective SF is at changing the narrative as to what Erendase was, and what he was not.
Based on my reading of the Erdnase chapter so far, it would be my initial impression that Forte will effectively sway the search for Erdnase away from a search for a hare core hustler and gambler, and focus it on what Forte describes in great detail as a "hobbyist" (which is not by definition a "magician").
Posted: March 1st, 2020, 3:40 pm
Richard Kaufman wrote:It certainly bursts the bubble, however I know some folks don't agree with parts of Steve's writings.
It's hard to give up your false god when you've invested so much time in it.
Well, that's a glib way to dismiss disagreements. Neither Erdnase or Forte are gods, and maybe the arguments against parts of what Forte concludes are valid. I think it's best to deal with the actual arguments, which in this case will take time, given the amount of new material.
In a first pass through the Erdnase section I found a lot of interesting and valuable info (and insights), but also various instances of what I thought was faulty reasoning. For example, Forte identifies several new instances of what he claims are plagiarism in Erdnase in order to buttress his claim that Erdnase was just pretending to be a cheat and largely copied from other sources. But as Richard Hatch points out (in correspondence included in the book), just describing the same or similar ideas doesn't constitute plagiarism. You have to use the same or very similar language. Hatch concisely sums it up as: "Erdnase has expressed similar ideas in superior language." But even if he did plagiarize in some instances, so what? Shakespeare appropriated from many sources (casting it into superior language as well). One wouldn't conclude that the Bard didn't understand the material or the psychology behind it just because he sometimes drew on other sources. No, instead, he used it as a starting place to express a finer or more nuanced view in superior way. Erdnase does the same.
In addition, the plagiarism charge fits into other aspects of Fortes' analysis that I find equally unconvincing. For example, unlike the instances of supposed plagiarism that Forte culls from the card table literature, there is the more obvious case of the phrase "unflinching audacity" that Erdnase likely cops from Prof Hoffmann in a magic context. Would Forte claim, as a result of this more obvious filching, that Erdnase was not a magician either? This gets to the core problem as I see it so far (admittedly on a single quick scan of this chapter), that things aren't so simple or black and white. There's lots of middle ground, where a writer can a) plagiarize phrases, b) copy ideas c) write from personal experience as a card cheat d) invent new techniques e) write beautifully and perceptively about both techniques and the psychology behind it. I think Erdnase did all of the above and was both a cheater/gambler and a magician, but not a professional in either. So to my thinking, it's not a question of *if* Erdnase cheated at the card table, but to what degree, in what venues, what types of games, how often, with whom, etc. Maybe his knowledge and experience was incomplete in certain respects but deep in others. And flaws in the book would reflect that.
Not to get off topic, but if Erdnase was WE Sanders, then he'd fit that middle ground. He was a professional mining engineer, frequently on the move, who gambled and could have cheated at a variety of places, both formal and informal (mining camps, pool rooms, trains, the Silver Bow Club, and who knows where else). Such a person might well have the sort of experience we see reflected in the pages of the book. Forte perceptively points out that Erdnase created "systems" and didn't just describe individual moves. It so happens that Sanders did the same in his writings on mining engineering, where he invented a reference scheme for mine working, among other things. He motivates it with "a simple and symmetrical yet expansive system of classification must be devised, one that is capable of being extended to cover all possible exigencies and conditions of future operations within the property."
None of the above is meant to disparage the books...they contain an astounding amount of valuable material and information. However, his theories on Erdnase must be looked at separately from the data he presents relative to Erdnase, which can be interpreted in different ways. And also separately from the rest of the book. And maybe some of his insights and data will advance thinking on the Erdnase authorship question independently from the particular conclusions he draws.
Posted: March 1st, 2020, 6:15 pm
After wading through quite a bit of Steve Forte's Erdnase section, I keep coming back to two statements near the beginning. Both reflect key themes running throughout the text. The first (page 611) implies that Steve's core finding - that SWE was not a professional card cheat - is inconsistent with the belief of most magicians. I'm not sure this is so cut-and-dried. The list of suspected authors compiled over the course of this thread alone demonstrates some doubt... but this is purely academic, and a bit petty on my part. The second (page 618) - that SWE never really got to the heart of how to cheat - is IMO his most compelling high-level proof. Mechanics alone, while critical, aren't enough to keep one out of jail or the hospital. Of course, it could just be that the author intentionally narrowed the scope of his instruction... but I'm leaning Steve's way. GREAT read.
Posted: March 2nd, 2020, 6:01 pm
Richard Kaufman wrote:In terms of The Expert at the Card Table, it's shocking to learn . . . that the original Erdnase shifts were published earlier elsewhere.
If you are referring to 52 Wonders
, I don't see this as plagiarism. I truly think it is independent invention. For one thing, the details are not copied so precisely with respect to this as they are in other cases that Forte points out. For another, there's no reason to think a "hobbyist" in Chicago would have seen the other book. 52 Wonders
was published on the other side of the continent from Expert
; even if Erdnase was Sanders, it's a leap of faith to say that Erdnase was ever exposed to Wonders
. It was obscure to start with, and by the late 1890s, it would have been essentially unknown. Other books that Forte says Erdnase used as source material -- Sharps and Flats
, Green's books, How Gamblers Win
, etc. -- were sold nationally. You can't say that about 52 Wonders
It certainly bursts the bubble, however I know some folks don't agree with parts of Steve's writings.
It's hard to give up your false god when you've invested so much time in it.
"False god"? I know I have "invested" a lot in the book, and so have others. But I think most of us are pretty clear-headed about what the book and its author represent. It is a great book for its era; it was (and remains, despite a new look at it) the single most important book on conjuring of the 20th century. Without it there would be no Vernon, and without Vernon . . . .
It was a substantial advance in how technical sleight of hand was described compared to what came before it. And the mystery of who Erdnase was still exists, and will continue to draw interest to the book.
Potter & Potter have just released a new catalog
on their next Gambling auction with some quality Erdnase lots. One lot is a 1st edition, another is a Drake HB, and a third is a group of miscellaneous later versions. It will be interesting to see if the perceived value goes up or down compared to earlier sales. (I know of one prominent collector who sold his 1st edition copy in advance of Forte's book coming out.)
(And speaking of Potter & Potter auctions, having picked up a couple of Vernon silhouettes in the last year, I was pleased to see how they
Posted: March 2nd, 2020, 7:31 pm
I have some Erdnase's for sale, if any of you "magicians" want to buy them....... Forte's book is everything Erdnase wanted to be.
I wish Vernon were alive to see Steve's book... He'd be the 1st to throw his Erdnase in the garbage (and one of you "magicians" would probably dive in to retrieve it lol)
See you guys in the 21st century!
Posted: March 6th, 2020, 1:14 pm
This thread is now back to "Erdnase" related posts. If you want to discuss something about Erdnase from Steve Forte's book, post it here. Anything else about Steve's book should go in the thread devoted to it.
Posted: March 6th, 2020, 1:53 pm
Presumption: Todd Karr likes Hilliard for Erdnase, based on several clues including Richard's silence which reminds me of the dog in The Adventure of Silver Blaze.
Having finished reading Forte's Erdnase section I could find nothing that eliminated Hilliard, in fact it sounded supportive to that possibility.
Question: Anyone read anything that would cancel him out?
Posted: March 7th, 2020, 1:22 pm
I need to read through the Erdnase chapter one more time in order to comment in detail, but my initial impression on first read through doesn't render an opinion as to whether I agree with SF's final analysis or not, rather I would say that the high quality research on the content of EATCT that Forte provides is extremely refreshing, all of it backed up by very detailed notes.
It's definitely (IMO) the finest research on the actual contents of the book to date.
It's a lot to digest, but the quality of the research is so high that questioning it (the research) becomes moot ... which is nice for a change.
I suspect my second read of the Erdnase chapter will shift my previous belief that Erdnase was a professional gambler (but may very well not have been a magician either) which is a large shift for me.
The word "hobbyist" could, moving forward, become an important piece of Erdnase puzzle.
Posted: March 11th, 2020, 1:46 pm
Ok, here is a superficial idea. Has anyone considered John Zimmer?
I think it is generally accepted now that Erdnase was not a professional gambler. Probably a magician with interest in gambling techniques. The Legerdermain section makes it clear he was familiar with magicians and magicians’ literature. But there is also evidence that he had pupils (eg that a blind shuffle can be taught in five minutes). How would someone get students? They’d need to advertise. Mahatma June 1902 has an ad for lessons in sleight of hand given to a high degree by John Zimmer. Now, I think it likely that Erdnase came from Chicago since that is where the book was published, and Zimmer was from Philadelphia. So he’s far from an ideal candidate. But I just wanted to flag the possibility.
Posted: March 11th, 2020, 2:03 pm
There would have been plenty of small printing houses in Philly for Zimmer to have used. He might have gone to Chicago just to provide some shade.
Posted: March 12th, 2020, 5:04 pm
Did anyone attend the New England Magic Collector's meeting? I'm wondering how Chris Wasshuber's talk on Erdnase was received.
Posted: March 15th, 2020, 7:39 am
Patience... The meeting is scheduled (so far) for March 29: https://nemca.com/wp/
Posted: March 19th, 2020, 10:35 pm
Another magician with a reversed name: William Mayoh performed as Asian magician Ho Yam.
Posted: March 20th, 2020, 11:24 am
Assuming Forte is correct that Erdnase wasn't a professional gambler but a magician, this to me is the most compelling reason why he didn't use his real name. His peers would have called him out as a fraud.
Posted: March 23rd, 2020, 4:28 pm
Back in Wilbur Edgerton Sanders's day, I'm thinking the world of gamblers and the world of magicians did not overlap much at all. Back when Vernon was searching for Kennedy seems to be the beginning of any overlap. Lately Ricky Jay did a lot to promote ideas about the world of gamblers but so did Micky MacDougall. Frank Garcia's Man With the Million Dollar Hands spoke about the "how to detect crooked gambling" angle. I feel Sanders probably knew some gin rummy players who knew some things, in his travels. But probably an amateur magician mainly. Where can I get the Forte book?
Posted: March 24th, 2020, 6:55 pm
I'm not sure there's much different overlap between magic and gambling now vs the past. Robert-Houdin's "The Sharper Detected and Exposed" and John Nevil Maskelyne's "Sharps and Flats" were both books on cheating at the card table written by magicians in the mid to late 1800s.
Posted: March 27th, 2020, 5:50 pm
I've always wondered about the Vernon story: his father comes home and has a copy of Erdnase. His father worked for the government department that handled copyright registrations and, apparently, the book had been filed for copyright purposes. Who made the filing and when was that done? If it was Erdnase, his signature would be on the paperwork. It also means that whomever the filer was, he or she was had a sophisticated understanding of copyright law.
Posted: March 27th, 2020, 7:45 pm
webbmaster wrote:...the world of gamblers and the world of magicians did not overlap much
It likely never did. Perhaps the short con practitioner... ? The text about showing skill beyond the common herd in Expert applies. The gambler enjoys a thrill we don't risk in magic. Imagine Doug Henning at the card table.
@Bob, was a copyright statement of that time something like: "Entered during the week ending ***, at the Department of Agriculture - Copyright and Trademark branch." as listed in the Canada Gazette from that time.https://books.google.com/books?id=FB0-A ... 02&f=false
Posted: March 28th, 2020, 12:05 am
Bob Farmer wrote:...Who made the filing and when was that done? If it was Erdnase, his signature would be on the paperwork. ...
I believe that paperwork has been searched for by multiple parties over the years, to no avail.
Posted: March 28th, 2020, 12:28 am
The David Ben biography of Vernon has the story told differently: That Vernon's father came home and told Dai about a book on cheating at cards, but wouldn't bring him a copy (and that the book in question was illustrated with photographs, not drawings, and likely was Ritter's Combined Treatise on Advantage Card Playing and Draw Poker). A few weeks later, Dai was in a bookstore, saw the early Drake paperback version of Expert, and bought it out of his own money.
Posted: March 29th, 2020, 6:29 pm
Steve Forte's book doesn't seem to have done too much to the market for early editions. Yesterday Potter & Potter sold a decent looking copy of a 1st edition for $10,625
, and a Drake hardcover
Posted: April 15th, 2020, 10:42 am
"Linguistic fingerprints" are again in the news
Posted: April 15th, 2020, 11:20 am
For some reason I'm thinking about Tony Giorgio, and wondering what he thought of Erdnase. Also, does anyone know how good Micky MacDougall was ?
Posted: April 15th, 2020, 12:26 pm
Everybody knows what Tony Giorgio thought about Erdnase! He wrote extensively about it in Genii. He thought Erdnase was a magician, not a card cheat.
Posted: April 17th, 2020, 9:03 pm
Here are some additional linguistic/thematic similarities I've recently found in Erdnase and Sanders. 1)
Both Erdnase and Sanders were innovative and "devised" systems
that provided general solutions for many "variations" and particular cases. Erdnase presents his own systems for palming, culling, etc. Steve Forte in his recent Gambling Sleight of Hand makes the same point -- that Erdnase not only invented moves but systems. Sanders does the same in the field of mine engineering, particularly in his Reference Scheme for Mine for Mine-Workings, where he describes a flexible system for annotating and documenting the various locations and components involved in mine-working.
--- the system/procedure/scheme/plan devised to be varied/extended for different situations/conditionsErdnase:
the PROCEDURE IS THE SAME for two sets, or for sets of three, or pairs, or, in fact, for the stocking of ANY NUMBER OR KIND, with SLIGHT VARIATION in the calculation. [p75]Erdnase:
The methods [SYSTEM of palming] following were originated by us, and we believe them to be the most rapid and subtle ever DEVISED. [p83]Sanders:
A simple and symmetrical yet expansive SYSTEM of classification must be DEVISED, one that is capable of being EXTENDED to COVER ALL POSSIBLE EXIGENCIES AND CONDITIONS of future operations within the property.Sanders:
the above reference SCHEME ... CAN BE APPLIED to the workings of ANY and all other classes of mineral deposits, WITH SUCH VARIATIONS IN ITS DETAILS as may be necessitated by changes in the methods of developing and operating such other deposits.Sanders:
The PLAN must be such in principle that it MAY BE MADE TO APPLY to ALL CLASSES of underground mining, and be capable of fulfilling all the requirements that FUTURE EXTENSION of the mine-workings shall demand of it.
Furthermore, both men make the same general point that it is difficult to provide a concise formula to cover all cases. So they instead go on to highlight a flexible system that can be extended as needed.
--- the general difficulty (impossibility; cumbersome) of providing a concise formula for (every; any particular) circumstanceErdnase:
It is IMPOSSIBLE to GIVE A FORMULA that will answer for EVERY SITUATION. There is no end to THE VARIETY of positions the desired cards may be in. [p80]Sanders:
To WRITE OUT IN FULL A SUFFICIENT DESCRIPTION of ANY PARTICULAR LOCALITY or working of a mine, or even to explain the locations from which a lot of samples have been taken, would be far TOO CUMBERSOME FOR PRACTICAL PURPOSES.2)
In a previous update, I gave examples where both Erdnase and Sanders invented/used unusual adverbs that were formed from other parts of speech (slantingly, protestingly
) as well as other cases where words were adapted from one part of speech to another. In this similar example, we find sequences of unusual hyphenated adjectives, sometimes formed from verb participles:Erdnase:
extravagant prices are demanded and paid, for these INNOCENT-APPEARING little SILVER-PLATED articles. [p18]Sanders:
the historian assumes that he is safe by a comfortable margin in thus furnishing a CLOSE-FITTING, PLUSH-LINED, BURGLAR-PROOF biographical sketch. [CR bio]Sanders:
one of our patent NON-COLLAPSIBLE DOUBLE-RIVETED reinforced obituaries [CR bio]3)
Here both authors use the word "summer" to modify a noun while making a comparison:Erdnase:
AS a Saratoga trunk to A SUMMER GIRL. [p185]Sanders:
AS clouds through SUMMER HAZE [CR Poem]4)
The relatively distinctive phrase "a great favorite" is used by bothErdnase:
The first shift described is executed with both hands and is A GREAT FAVORITE. [p97]Erdnase:
This is A GREAT FAVORITE for terminating certain tricks [p170]Sanders:
who had been a fellow-cadet with him at West Point and A GREAT FAVORITE there [MHS-vol2]
The full document I've compiled with many more of these linguistic and thematic parallels is found here:http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~coyne/erdnase-sanders-use-of-language.html
Posted: April 17th, 2020, 9:36 pm
Hi Bob--are these newly discovered similarities now in your PDF?
Posted: April 17th, 2020, 10:22 pm
Leonard Hevia wrote:Hi Bob--are these newly discovered similarities now in your PDF?
Hi Leo, I keep the online html webpage up-to-date. It lists the update time at the top of the page.
I used to generate a PDF, but haven't been doing that for quite a while, since it's harder to control the formatting, given that pdf exporting wants to insert page breaks (and often not where I'd want them). But ignoring that issue, it's easy enough to export to PDF. So here's a link to a pdf generated from the current version. http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~coyne/erdnase-sanders-use-of-language.pdf
Posted: April 18th, 2020, 11:55 am
Circling back to the New England Magic Collector's meeting question asked a month ago.
Can anybody report back on how Chris Wasshuber's Erdnase presentation went?
He indicated in his newsletter a couple of months ago that, depending on how the presentation went at the NEMC meeting, it might be the last public presentation he ever gives on the subject matter.
Posted: April 18th, 2020, 1:57 pm
Was NEMC canceled due to the pandemic?
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 5:02 pm
There are a few spelling anomalies in Erdnase. The most well known being Charlier vs Charlies, which can easily be attributed to a typographical or printing error. Possibly more interesting, in that it happens more frequently, is sleights, which is spelled slights three times (with about thirty occurrences of the more usual either sleight or sleights). Could slights be an alternative spelling rather than an error?
I noticed that Sanders has a similar odd spelling with the word height, which is consistently spelled hight in his 1907 Mine Timbering book article. In Sanders' other writings (including the original 1898 Mine Timbering article that got spiffed up with illustrations for the book), Sanders spells it with the more usual height. Sanders contributed two articles to the book, which contains roughly a dozen articles altogether. All the articles use the same unusual spelling, so this was clearly a choice imposed by the editor. I had always thought that Sanders edited the volume, and that seems plausible given his background, having the lead article, and his publishing experience, but I can't find anything to actually back that up now. The short Preface is just signed "Editor".
I also noticed another unusual spelling choice in that same Mine Timbering book, where align is consistently spelled aline. But his other writings spell it with the usual align.
If Sanders was the editor of Mine Timbering, then these variant spellings (align/aline, height/hight) could be signficant for the authorship question, in that his use here mimics a very similar spelling variation that we find in Erdnase (with sleights/slights). If not, it's still interesting in that apparently in that day, there was some variance in how these terms were spelled. And perhaps the slights in Erdnase was part of that accepted variation rather than being a typographical error.
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 5:15 pm
There's about two weeks worth of posts from April 18th to May 2nd 2020 missing from this thread?
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 5:17 pm
Roger M. wrote:There's about two weeks worth of posts from April 18th to May 2nd 2020 missing from this thread?
Nothing missing...there's a separate "Erdnase photographer" thread that got started in that timeframe.
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 6:01 pm
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 8:20 pm
Ahhh, my error.
Posted: May 2nd, 2020, 9:59 pm
Bob Coyne wrote: Possibly more interesting, in that it happens more frequently, is sleights, which is spelled slights three times (with about thirty occurrences of the more usual either sleight or sleights). Could slights be an alternative spelling rather than an error?
It is an alternative spelling
, but is (and was) less common.
Posted: May 12th, 2020, 4:08 pm
If you're looking for a reasonably priced copy of the Gardner-Smith correspondence, I spotted one here today:https://www.magicabra.com/product/the-gardner-smith-correspondence/
The email that led me to it indicated 20% off first orders using the coupon code WELCOME. I believe the site is run by Daniel Rhod. Probably some other interesting stuff there, too.
Posted: May 26th, 2020, 12:16 pm
R. Paul Wilson on Expert
Posted: June 28th, 2020, 7:43 pm
I just tried to go to MAM's single-page Erdnase thread, and it was gone. I hope this is a temporary glitch -- it was awfully convenient to have it formatted that way.
Posted: July 5th, 2020, 8:56 pm
Professor Seiden (best known as Malini's teacher) performed at Austin & Stone's Museum in Boston in Oct, 1889. I just ran across an account of the show that he was in:
"Handsome Andy Gaffney will show his great strength, Prof. Seiden, wonder of magic, and Sig. Nedies, in equally wonderful seances."
I submit that Sig. Nedies was Seiden, performing twice on one bill.
Posted: July 6th, 2020, 1:46 am
Nice find! Any idea what the "Sig." is derived from?