THE WHOLE ART OF LEGERDEMAIN, OR HOCUS POCUS LAID OPEN AND EXPLAINED, BY THOSE RENOWED [sic] MASTERS, SENA SAMA, HAMED BEN-ALLA, AND ALL THE CELEBRATED AND MYSTERIOUS PROFESSORS OF THE ART OF NATURAL MAGIC.
(New York: N. C. Nafis, 1833). 144 x 85 mm. (5 5/8 x 3 3/8"). 71 pp.
PUBLISHER'S ORIGINAL GRAY-GREEN PRINTED BOARDS, upper cover with titling and an illustration of a gentleman identified as the author, lower cover with two amusing woodcuts, "The Lawyer and his Client" (a bewigged gentleman astride an ass) and "Hocus Poke-us" (two boys fighting). In a brown cloth chemise and a (slightly rubbed) matching calf-backed slipcase. With a folding frontispiece depicting a conjurer and his assistant onstage before an amazed crowd. Toole-Stott 724. Small stains at top and bottom of spine, covers just slightly grubby, endpapers a bit browned, text with light, inoffensive foxing, but, for what it is, AN UNUSUALLY FINE COPY, the fragile binding entirely sound, and the text remarkably fresh and clean.
Given the materials it was made from and the hard use it would have been expected to suffer, this is an exceptionally well-preserved copy of a popular handbook of conjuring tricks, an early American edition of a work first compiled in 1722 by the British magician Henry Dean. Dean's work was itself based on Reginald Scot's influential "Discoverie of Witchcraft" (1584), which sought to discredit belief in "supernatural" forces by exposing the tricks by which conjurers deceived their audience. In the publications of Dean and subsequent editors, this exposé of witchcraft evolved into a guide for performing parlor tricks. Our edition is a reprint or reissue of the 1831 version published by R. Schoyer; because the word "renowned" is spelled "renowed" on both title pages, Toole-Stott speculates that Nafis bought sheets from Schoyer, suggesting that our item would have been a reissue. These insubstantial guide books typically experienced considerable uncareful use in the hands of amateur (and often juvenile) magicians; consequently, the few copies that do appear on the market are in deplorable shape. (ST12867)