The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

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Richard Kaufman
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The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Richard Kaufman » November 11th, 2018, 8:32 pm

DeLand: Mystery and Madness reviewed in the November issue of Genii by John Lovick.
Order at http://www.richardkaufman.com

DeLand: Mystery and Madness
Richard Kaufman $150

Few of you are unaware that Richard Kaufman has been writing magic books for over 40 years. During his first two decades, he wrote books at a rate of a little more than one per year. In the last two decades he has only averaged one book every four years. This can largely be explained by the fact that in 1999 he ascended to the role of Chief Genii. Cranking out a magazine on schedule 12 times a year leaves little time for other pursuits. Of course, we can’t discount that it is also partially due to changes in the culture—because of on-demand and desktop publishing, the number of books published each year has exploded, ironically during a time when the reading habits of the population have declined. However, it has recently occurred to me that there is a third reason why Kaufman’s literary output has slowed down.

Two of his most recent publications have been massive projects that some people would have trouble completing in a lifetime. Three years ago he released Tenyoism, a monumental 1,300-page work (see my review in the February 2016 issue of this magazine) whose two volumes described and depicted virtually every item released by Tenyo over 50 years, which amounted to over 400 products. His most recent book, DeLand: Mystery and Madness, while not as massive as Tenyoism, is an even more challenging project involving much more research and detective work. This book, about the life and work of Theodore L. DeLand, has taken Kaufman over 20 years to research and write—and that’s not even a record for him.

Who was DeLand, and why does he matter? I know some of you will have never heard of him. And those who do know his name can probably only list two or three of his creations. You might think this unremarkable when you consider that his productive period was over a century ago. But when presented with a chronicle of his life’s work it becomes astonishing that he is not spoken of as often and as reverently as Vernon, Hofzinser, or Malini. Whether you’ve never heard his name, or whether you can actually identify a few of his inventions, you are familiar many of DeLand’s creations, you just don’t know it.

I’m sure you’ve heard of a trick called “Triumph.” DeLand invented the first version of that plot, “Inverto,” which was done with a gimmicked deck—something you probably refer to as a “Cheek to Cheek” deck. And who invented the “Cheek to Cheek” deck? U.F. Grant, you say? Wrong. It was DeLand.

Have you ever done a three-card monte with mis-indexed or double-ended cards (such as Mike Skinner’s “Ultimate Three-Card Monte,” Mike Rogers’ “The Unconquered Card,” or Bob Farmer’s “Bammo Monte Monster”)? Then you’ve actually used a DeLand creation—one that has been produced in greater quantities than any other card trick in the world. And speaking of montes, you familiar with “Two Card Monte”, the trick that uses one double-backer and one double-facer? Another DeLand invention.

Did you happen to buy the Quartet card that Guy Hollingworth marketed about 20 years ago along with his book of 10 effects that can be done with it? Well, the Quartet card is a DeLand gimmick.

Do you remember the Thought-of Cards Across trick called “Strange Travelers” that was marketed by Paul Harris and David Blaine and performed by Blaine on his TV special in 2008? It’s a variation of a DeLand trick.

Are you familiar with Joshua Jay’s book, Overlap that explains 19 tricks you can do with a particular gimmicked card? That card is a DeLand gimmick.

Perhaps you’ve seen David Regal use his “Disposable Deck” as the kicker to a card routine. It’s closely related to a DeLand creation (although Regal uses it for a slightly different effect).

You ever see a playing card with a color photograph of a palm printed on it so that your hand can be seen empty while holding one or more cards? You guessed it, it’s a DeLand idea. And while you’ve probably dismissed the idea as “stupid”, it has been used successfully in more than one FISM-winning act, it’s been used very deceptively on TV by a well-known magician, and Martin Lewis has used it effectively in his lectures for years.

Did you happen to see Ondrej Pšenicka perplex Penn & Teller recently with his Butterfly deck on Fool Us? Have you been caught up in the GPS deck craze? Well, DeLand got there first. Although he obviously didn’t invent the idea of edge-marked cards, he did design the Wonder Deck, the world’s first commercially available edge-marked playing cards.

And finally, you ever use a 52-on-1 card? That’s right—another DeLand invention.

Over the course of 600 pages, Kaufman makes a convincing case that DeLand changed the history of card magic and its entire development. One of DeLand’s goals was to provide hobbyists with impressive non-sleight magic tricks, and he did it without resorting to mathematical principles and counting or dealing procedures. He did it mostly through the use of ingeniously printed and die-cut gimmicked cards. He redefined the notion of self-working tricks, and arguably invented the packet trick as well as a new genre of card magic.
If this is true, why has DeLand been largely forgotten or dismissed? Explaining that is one of the major thrusts of this book. But I can tell you that it is largely because in 1911 DeLand sold the rights to all of his effects to the Mysto Manufacturing Company. This not only detached his name from his creations, Mysto’s use of cheap paper stock, dreadful printing, poor registration, and terrible die-cutting rendered the tricks undeceptive and guaranteed they couldn’t be regarded seriously. This kind of assault has been continuous since DeLand’s death by S.S. Adams and other manufacturers of magic kits. Surely you have encountered a poorly printed card that looks nothing like the fan of cards it’s supposed to represent and thought, “What moron would try to fool someone with that?” As they say, familiarity breeds contempt. Over time his creations fell into three categories: completely forgotten, misunderstood and dismissed, or widely used but not associated with him.

DeLand: Mystery and Madness is divided into nine sections (not counting the extensive appendices). Following a brief biography, the first five sections are an encyclopedic chronicle of virtually every card trick, puzzle, stunt, optical illusion, and stage illusion DeLand invented, printed, marketed, released, published, or in a few cases reinvented/stole. There are well over 100 items described in these sections. His favorite principles/methods, the ones he relied on again and again were: mis-indexed or double-ended cards, double-faced cards, double-backed cards, blank or partially blank cards, split-faced cards, split-backed cards, single cards printed to look like a fan or spread of cards, stacked decks (particularly Si Stebbins), marked decks and marked cards, stripper decks, cards that folded in various ways for various purposes, and mechanical changing cards involving sliding sections or panels. In addition to exploring seemingly every variation of these methods, he also combined them in novel and surprising ways, and the above list is not exhaustive, he also used methods such as black art, rough and smooth, and miniature cards, among others. Reading the descriptions and explanations of the dozens of card tricks gives one a true insight into how DeLand’s brain worked, but be warned, if you read the book cover to cover like a novel, as I did, the tricks will definitely blur together. I recommend you dip into these sections of the book in manageable chunks.

You’ll probably be intrigued to know that the book comes with a deck of 54 gimmicked cards (The “Mystery and Madness Deck”), so you can actually try many of the tricks described. But of the hundred-plus tricks in the book how many of them are you going to want to do? That’s hard to predict. As described, probably not a huge percentage. For example, hats as receptacles and handkerchiefs figure prominently in some of them. But there are many ways to adapt them for a modern audience, and Kaufman makes many suggestions about modernizing the tricks where appropriate. And just because DeLand eschewed sleight of hand doesn’t mean you have to. I anticipate many readers will take DeLand’s ideas and combine them with sleight of hand and other methods to create card miracles for the modern age. As you know a Card Assembly can be done with ungimmicked cards, but it’s really hard to beat “MacDonald’s Aces.”

Two of the things DeLand is most known for today are a couple of marked decks, the Dollar Deck (sometimes called the Automatic Deck or simply the DeLand Deck) which is a stacked deck whose marked backs reveal the location of every single card no matter where it’s cut. It’s a way to do Si Stebbins and memdeck-type tricks without having to do any memorizing or calculating. Unfortunately it’s been a long time since anyone has taken the deck seriously because the back design is so odd. However, the ideas there are just waiting for someone to incorporate them into a better back design.

However, his lesser-known creation could still be used effectively today, and that is his Wonder Deck, an edge-marked deck with a much more palatable back design. Surprisingly, Kaufman is somewhat dismissive of this deck and writes, “There aren’t many tricks
you can do with the Wonder
Deck’s edge-reading capabilities as evidenced by DeLand’s sparse instructions (particularly when compared to the multiple-page instruction booklet for the Dollar Deck in which half a dozen different routines are explained).” It may be true that few tricks for edge-marked decks existed in DeLand’s day, but if Kaufman still believes that then clearly he hasn’t read Pšenicka’s The Secret of the Butterflies or watched Asi Wind destroy a crowd for an hour with an edge-marked deck. Interestingly, DeLand combined the attributes of the Dollar Deck and the Wonder Deck to create what he called Automatic Trick Cards. Unfortunately, the deck was never printed during DeLand’s lifetime but Kaufman has overseen a recreation of it that will be available for sale.

While biographical information is threaded through the entire book, DeLand’s life story takes center stage during last four sections. Until now almost nothing has been known about DeLand’s life and the extensive research Kaufman has done in this area partially explains why the book took over two decades to complete. Bill Mullins did extensive online research which produced many previously unknown biographical details, and Bill Kalush is to be credited with informing Kaufman that there is a lot of information about DeLand to be found in the national archives (DeLand worked for the U.S. Mint for over 20 years).

The biographical revelations (bombshells?) are where the “madness” of the sub-title comes in. DeLand suffered from physical and mental health problems for his entire adult life. The exact nature of his mental problems are of course unclear, but it seems that he suffered at least partially from paranoia and delusions. The account of his decline, physically, financially, and mentally makes for sad but engrossing reading. One particularly sad artifact is a letter that DeLand wrote to President Warren Harding in an attempt to get reimbursed for one dollar (plus interest!) that he believed the U.S. Treasury owed him. I won’t reveal any more spoilers here, but I will tell you that the depressing episodes are occasionally balanced out by some amusing and preposterous (clearly false) anecdotes that Walter Gibson published.

The book is more than descriptions of gimmicked cards and the sad story of man’s downward spiral. DeLand also published a lot of puzzles, optical illusions, and stunts, most of which aren’t particularly interesting, but there are some nice surprises, for example it seems that he was the first to publish the sideshow stunt now known as Blockhead! Instead of a large nail, as is common today, DeLand actually used solid steel bar and concealed the mystery within a trick. (Jarrett actually wrote about this in his eponymous book.) One of the more popular events at the recent MAGIC Live convention was Blake Vogt demonstrating how to split a dollar bill (separate the layers of paper as one does with playing cards). This was a completely new concept to many of the attendees, but it’s a skill DeLand used to demonstrate over 100 years ago.

DeLand also published bombastic descriptions of a few (completely untested) stage illusions. Kaufman includes Jim Steinmeyer’s analysis of these illusions and the reasons why the methods are invariably unworkable, or at least extremely impractical. Steinmeyer’s commentaries are a highlight. Toward the end of his life, DeLand published a series of pipe dream tricks which are mostly perplexing. One—the effect of which is not entirely clear—relied on the use of the use of mercury (a dangerous poison), celluloid (a combustible substance), and an open flame. What could go wrong?

In similar fashion to Steinmeyer’s contributions, Kaufman also features a couple bits of commentary from Steve Forte regarding cheating techniques (such as marked cards) for insight into the historical context of DeLand’s ideas. Other notable contributions to the book are David Britland’s analysis and history of David Hoy’s “Tossed-Out Deck” and new handlings of DeLand tricks by Kaufman, Max Maven, and Michael Weber.

At one time it may have seemed that DeLand’s output was too unwieldy for one book, and information about his life too negligible to bother with. But perseverance has paid off. For DeLand: Mystery and Madness is more than an archive of one man’s life’s work, and revelations about his life; there is much to be learned here about how magic is created and how it evolves over time. It is no wonder Kaufman spent over 20 years on this project and at the end of his career, this book will likely be considered, historically, the most important tome in his already impressive oeuvre.

DeLand: Mystery and Madness * Richard Kaufman * 9 x 12” ; 608 pages, hardcover with slipcase, illustrated with color photographs and black and white illustrations; published by Kaufman and Pitchford; available exclusively from http://www.richardkaufman.com; $150 (includes full deck of gimmicked cards) plus $25 postage in the United States. New versions of The Wonder Deck, The Dollar Deck, and The Automatic Trick cards will also be available.
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Denis Behr
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Denis Behr » November 12th, 2018, 2:21 am

I am very much looking forward to this book!

Joe Mckay
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Joe Mckay » November 12th, 2018, 8:33 am

Me too!

You keep hitting new peaks Richard!

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chetday
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby chetday » November 12th, 2018, 1:56 pm

Excellent review. I'm sure looking forward to receiving my copy.

Syd
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Syd » November 18th, 2018, 8:34 pm

Any update on when it might ship?
Syd

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Richard Kaufman » November 18th, 2018, 9:38 pm

Books should hit the US ports this week. After customs, they get trucked to the warehouse in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
I am also waiting for the Mystery and Madness Deck from the United States Playing Card Company, which will get dropped into the box with the book.
I expect everyone to receive their books in time for the holiday.
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Syd
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Syd » November 18th, 2018, 10:22 pm

Thanks Richard.
Syd

Rob Dobson
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Rob Dobson » November 23rd, 2018, 9:13 am

"Two of the things DeLand is most known for today are a couple of marked decks, the Dollar Deck (sometimes called the Automatic Deck or simply the DeLand Deck) which is a stacked deck whose marked backs reveal the location of every single card no matter where it’s cut. It’s a way to do Si Stebbins and memdeck-type tricks without having to do any memorizing or calculating. Unfortunately it’s been a long time since anyone has taken the deck seriously because the back design is so odd. However, the ideas there are just waiting for someone to incorporate them into a better back design. "

As Luke Jermay did recently with his Marksman Deck.

Nooner
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Nooner » December 19th, 2018, 11:54 am

The Deluxe edition arrived today at my home near Philadelphia. Since it is a Christmas present, I haven't done anything other than verify the contents.

Randy Naviaux
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Randy Naviaux » December 19th, 2018, 6:16 pm

I think my copy arrived yesterday. I say "think" because all my packages are being wrapped for x-mas by my wife. So won't know for sure until then.

Randy Naviaux
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Re: The DeLand Book Reviewed by John Lovick

Postby Randy Naviaux » December 26th, 2018, 1:24 pm

Wow! I didn't realize how massive this book was going to be. Now if I can just get the visiting family members to go home so I can get some decent reading in. (got a few pages read last night.)

As I was moving my copy upstairs with the aid of a dolly I couldn't help but feel gratitude for all the work Mr. Kaufman has put into making such great books available to us. And as a result to be able to learn about such an interesting man who has had quite the impact on so many of us. It really fills in a blank in history. Must be a sign of my age that i am fascinated by the details of a persons life that lived so many years ago.

Well done!


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