'Modern Magic' is a treatise in book form, detailing the apparatus, methods and tricks used by the magicians and conjurors. It was the first book in the English language to really explain how to perform magical feats. The treatise contains advice on the appearance, the dress and the staging of a magician. It then goes on to describe many tricks with playing cards, coins, watches, rings, handkerchiefs, dominoes, dice, cups, balls and hats, and concludes with a long chapter of miscellaneous tricks, including magic with strings, gloves, eggs, rice and some utility devices. The penultimate chapter describes large stage illusions, and the final chapter contains advice on routining a magic show, as well as more advice on staging.
Professor Hoffmann (real name Angelo Lewis) was considered to be one of the greatest authorities on the theory and practice of magic, despite his own limited professional experience as a magician. He imparted much of his wisdom and expertise in the art of magic through a series of four books: 'Modern Magic' (1876), 'More Magic' (1890), 'Later Magic' (1903), and 'Latest Magic' (1918), the first of which is best known.
CHAPTER II. Table of Contents
General Principles of Sleight-of-Hand applicable to Card Tricks.
Among the various branches of the conjuror's art, none will better repay the labour of the student, whether artist or amateur, than the magic of cards. It has the especial advantage of being, in a great measure, independent of time and place. The materials for half its mysteries are procurable at five minutes' notice in every home circle; and, even in the case of those tricks for which specially prepared cards, etc., are requisite, the necessary appliances cost little, and are easily portable-two virtues not too common in magical apparatus. Further, the majority of card tricks are dependent mainly on personal address and dexterity, and, as such, will always be highly esteemed by connoisseurs in the art. Before very large audiences, indeed, the spectators being at a distance from the performer, much of the effect of a card trick is lost; which is probably the reason that, of late years, tricks of this class (with a few exceptions) have been rather neglected by professors; and that many feats which in the times of Conus and Comte were numbered among the sensations of the day, are now almost entirely forgotten. We shall endeavour in the following pages, after explaining the principles of sleight-of-hand applicable to cards, and giving instructions for some of the best of the more commonplace feats, to revive the recollection-and, we hope, the practice-of some of these brilliant performances.
The Cards.-The adept in sleight-of-hand should accustom himself to the use of every description of cards, as frequently none but the ordinary full-sized playing cards may be available. Where, however, the choice is open to him, he should use in the actual performance of tricks, cards of a smaller and thinner make. The common French cards answer the purpose very well. Among cards of English make, some of the best for the purpose are the small cards of the French pattern made by De La Rue & Co. for use in France, and those known as the "Tankerville" cards, both imported by Peck & Snyder, 124 Nassau Street, New York City, which are thin, well made, and of small size, but of the English pattern. In any case, it is well to use only the piquet pack of thirty-two cards (the twos, threes, fours, fives, and sixes being removed), the complete whist pack being inconveniently bulky for sleight-of-hand purposes. Fig. 1.
To Make the Pass. (Sauter la coupe).-The effect of this sleight, which is the very backbone of card-conjuring, is to reverse the respective positions of the top and bottom halves of the pack, i.e., to make those cards which at first formed the lower half of the pack, come uppermost, when those cards which at first formed the upper half will of course be undermost. It is used by card-sharpers, immediately after the cards have been cut, to replace them in the position which they occupied before the cut, and from this circumstance derives its French name. There are various methods of producing this effect, some requiring the use of both hands, some of one hand only. These we shall describe in due order. Fig. 2. Fig. 3.
First Method. (With both hands).-Hold the pack in the left hand, lengthways, with the face downwards, as if about to deal at any game. In this position the thumb will naturally be on the left side of the pack, and the four fingers on the other. Insert the top joint of the little finger immediately above those cards which are to be brought to the top of the pack (and which are now undermost), and let the remaining three fingers close naturally on the remaining cards, which are now uppermost. (See Fig. 1.) In this position you will find that the uppermost part of the pack is held between the little finger, which is underneath, and the remaining fingers, which are upon it. Now advance the right hand, and cover the pack with it. Grasp the lower portion of the pack lengthways between the second finger at the upper and the thumb at the lower end, the left thumb lying, slightly bent, across the pack. Press the inner edge of the lower packet into the fork of the left thumb, so that the two packets will be as shown in Fig. 2. Next draw away the upper packet, by slightly extending the fingers of the left hand, at the same time lifting up the outer edge of the lower packet, till the edges of the two packets just clear each other (see Fig. 3), when by the mere act of closing the left hand they will be brought together as at first, save that they will have changed places. Do this at first very slowly, aiming only at neatness and noiselessness of execution. At the outset the task will be found somewhat difficult, but gradually the hands will be found to acquire a sort of sympathetic action; the different movements which we have above described will melt, as it were, into one, and the two packets will change places with such lightness and rapidity that they will seem to actually pass through each other. A slight momentary depression and elevation of the hands (apparently a mere careless gesture) in the act of making the pass will completely cover the transposition of the cards, which in the hands of an adept is invisible, even to the most watchful spectator.
The above is the most orthodox and the most perfect method of making the pass, and if the student be proficient in this, he need trouble himself very little about the remaining methods, which are inserted chiefly for the sake of completeness, being very inferior in all respects. Wherever in the course of this book the student is directed to make the pass, this first method will be considered to be referred to, unless otherwise specially expressed.
Before quitting the subject of this method, we should mention that it is sometimes necessary to cause the two halves of the pack to 'kiss,' i.e., to bring them face to face. This is effected by turning the original upper packet face upwards in the act of bringing the transposed packets together. When the pass in the ordinary form is fairly mastered, this slight variation will occasion no additional difficulty.
In this, as in all other branches of prestidigitation, the student will find it of the greatest possible advantage to practise before a looking-glass. By this means, better than any other, he will be enabled to judge how far his movements succeed in deceiving the eyes of a spectator. One caution may here be given with advantage: the student of legerdemain must learn to perform all necessary movements without looking at his hands, unless for some special reason he desires the spectators to look at them also. In every case, wherever the performer desires his audience to look, his own eyes must take that particular direction; and wherever he desires his audience not to look, he himself must carefully abstain from looking. Let us suppose, for instance, that a person has drawn a card, and has replaced it in the middle of the pack. The performer desires to bring it to the top, for which purpose it is necessary to introduce the little finger above the card in question, and to make the pass, as above described. When the card is replaced in the pack, the eyes of the drawer are naturally directed towards it; and if the performer were himself to look downward at the cards, it would multiply tenfold the chances of detection. He should pause for a moment, and, looking full at the person who drew the card, ask, "You are certain that you will know that card again?" or make any similar observation. As he speaks, a natural impulse will draw the eyes of the audience to his own face, and he may then make the pass without the slight necessary movement attracting the least attention. It is hard to believe, until tested by actual experience, what apparently obvious movements may be executed under the very noses of an audience, if only their attention is diverted at the right moment by a dexterous use of the eye and voice of the operator. Fig. 4.
Second Method.-(With both hands).-Holding the pack in the left hand, as directed for the first method, grasp as before the lower portion of the pack lengthways between the second finger at the upper end and the thumb at the lower end; move the left thumb, which now takes no part in the operation, a little below the pack to be out of the way. Then slide the lower half of the pack a little to the left, and the upper half to the right till they just clear each other (see Fig. 4), when you will be enabled to place what was originally the upper half undermost, and vice versâ. This is the theory of the process, but in practice the necessary motions are not nearly so distinct. As you grow more and more expert, the necessary movement from right to left should become gradually smaller and smaller, until at last it is almost imperceptible. You must study to reduce this movement to the very minimum; and in order to do this, endeavour, after you have once seen clearly what it is you have to do, to keep the hands together as much as possible. Let the edge of the palm of the right hand rest gently, but firmly, on the first three fingers of the left hand, and let the contact thus made form a kind of hinge or fulcrum for the movement of the hands. When you become expert, you will find that the mere outward movement of the two hands upon this imaginary hinge (the cards being held lightly, and allowed to accommodate themselves to the movement) is sufficient to produce the...