Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't

There are some titles even if you had ten copies on the shelves, it would not be enough; their popularity is a given.  Sometimes these books have a larger "love life" than a shelf life; being filled with movable parts, bits and pieces.  The books of which I speak are found in the Ology series. 

The most recent title in the series is Illusionology:  The Secret Science of Magic (Candlewick Press) by Albert D. Schafer 1915, edited by Emily Hawkins. I know you can never judge a book by its cover but this one grabs you immediately.  It has the look of an ancient book of knowledge, raised embellishments, and a time piece whose center is filled with objects of magic, one, the rabbit, changes as you move the book's angle, small white bunny or metallic automaton.

The endpapers, front and back, are part of the book beginning with the title verso designed like a performance program.  In the upper left hand corner is a small purple and gold two-page diary beginning in February of 1915 by A. D. Schafer.  Mr. Schafer,  secretary of The Illusionists' Guild, has been asked to write a manual for new members which will reflect the importance of science in magic.

There are so many wonders that lie below the surface, just out of reach, and both magic and science aim to reveal these wonders.

On the right hand page is The Paradoxical Hole, one of many tricks of the eye, with instructions.  It is accompanied by the first of four publisher's notes, large orange circles, with advice for the reader.  Each of the following thirteen (Was that planned?) two-page spreads explains in layered detail types of illusion, magic, and important historical figures from the field.

Topics for perusal are:  The History Of Illusion, The Science Of Seeing, parts one and two, Secrets Of Card Magic, The Power Of Misdirection, The Art Of The Showman, The Science Of Levitation, The Science Of Disappearing, Magic And New Technologies, The Art Of Body Manipulation, The Secrets Of Harry Houdini, Exposing The Spirit Mediums and The Science Of Mind Reading.  For example, on the double page spread for Secrets of Card Magic a small booklet in the left hand corner contains a brief overview.  Beneath that is another two page flip up illustrating the basic shuffle for cards.  A large illustration of the Austrian Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser spans across the center with him holding four removable cards for tricks.

Above Hofzinser's picture is a brief history of his talents along with the importance of storytelling during a performance.  On the left side is another booklet with instructions for three card tricks.  In the lower right hand corner is a small snippet about Howard Thurston: King of Cards who was able to make cards float.

In the upper left hand corner of nearly all the spreads, when opening the introduction, readers will see a continuation of A. D. Schafer's diary.  This diary contains a magical mystery separate from the guide.  On the closing endpapers the final diary entry is dated August 3 of the same year accompanied by a miniature of a secret experimental apparatus.

Minutes will stretch into hours as Illusionology: The Secret Science of Magic is read and the tricks are tried. (Believe me I know from personal experience.)  Whether passionate about illusion's place in the field of magic or not, readers will eagerly enjoy this repeatedly.  The information (with a small bibliography for further reading in the back), colorful illustrations and layout along with A. D. Schafer's story are totally captivating.

By following the link above visit Ology World.  It's a dynamic site; another place to get lost for hours.  At the Candlewick Press website is an eight page event kit linked here.  They also have an old-style, sepia-toned movie showing how the Disappearing Dots trick is accomplished.  This video can be downloaded.

This is one of my favorite books in this series; lending itself to numerous fun educational opportunities.  It makes me want to have a magic show for the neighborhood kids.  It is the recipient of a Parents' Choice Book Award.

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