Special Collections Sampler: Magic!



Special Collections Reading Room, Floor 3U


Aug 29, 2023


2:00 EDT



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About this event

We could all use a bit more magic in our lives, right? Well, this month BPL Special Collections has you covered. Come on by the reading room this August to see some fairies, meet some old-timey magicians, and maybe even learn a magic trick or two!         

The following items will be available for the month of August to use in our reading room (Wednesday through Friday 9:30 am to 4:30 pm). No appointment necessary.        

Items available include:     

  • Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic, Mystery, and Legerdemain (New York, 1938). A book which includes a brief (fictionalized) autobiography, as well as practical guides to a variety of stage tricks, astrology, and the interpretation of dreams from Benjamin Rucker, one of the most successful African American magicians of his era. 
  • Bernard Sleigh’s, An anciente mappe of Fairyland: newly discovered and set forth (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917). Designed originally to decorate nurseries, this map features an eclectic mix of magical creatures and storybook characters from around the world mapped in an imaginary landscape.  
  • A poster advertising Gerald Heaney, and his wife Viola McCarthy, who learned the art of vaudeville and magic as assistants to the world-renowned performer, Harry Houdini! Ambidextrous, the “Great Heaney” first wowed his audiences with card tricks, then added ventriloquism, hypnotism, and large-scale illusions which required five tons of equipment per show.  
  • A selection of mysterious, undated business cards which illustrate how magicians promoted themselves as both businesspeople and entertainers, luring potential clients with their skills of illusion.   
  • And another poster entitled, Fake mediums exposed: …See how spook crooks fool their victims. As fakes and tricksters capitalized on the Spiritualism revival of the 1920s, dedicated magicians, such as Julian Proskauer (President of the Society of American Magicians) sought to debunk fraud mediums in demonstrations such as the one advertised in this poster. 

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