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Book Review: Essential Robert-Houdin

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Book Review: Essential Robert-Houdin
I’ve been reading this weighty, 600-plus page book for weeks. While I wasn’t initially sure how much this book would appeal to those who aren’t magic historians, I found it to be a fascinating read. And what really surprised me was the fact that Robert-Houdin's writings and advice from some 150 years ago are still relevant today.

The Books

Essential Robert-Houdin, which was edited by Todd Karr, offers all the classic works of Robert-Houdin, “The Father of Modern Magic,” in a single book. Of course, French magician Robert-Houdin (1805-1871) revolutionized the art of magic with his presentations, lifelike automatons and stage mysteries.

Essential Robert-Houdin includes:

The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic
This book discusses coin sleights and effects; card techniques such as palming, false shuffles, cuts and stacked-deck work; twenty card effects; cups & balls methods and routines; stage effects including the linking rings and Robert-Houdin's performance theories and essays on gimmicks, stagecraft and psychology.

Card-Sharping Exposed
This book offers Robert-Houdin's discussion on card handling and explains dozens of card techniques and routines.

The Secrets of Stage Conjuring
Fascinating material. Here you’ll find a dozen stage pieces as well as techniques and optical theories.

The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin
Robert-Houdin's compelling autobiography that includes material that was omitted in earlier editions. Yes, you can read the work that caused all of that controversy for Houdini years later. As well as read about “Torrini”

The Priory
The secrets of Robert-Houdin's legendary, automated house with its remote-control gates and automatic timers.


The book also comes with hundreds of prints, engravings and photos, some 350 in all, and selections from Robert-Houdin's never-before-translated scientific writings, a complete bibliography and full index. All this, in a high-quality, hardbound book that would be a welcome addition to any magic library. .

As for relevance. Could something written some 150 years ago still apply to our modern day? In the second chapter of the first book, “The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic” came this gem:

“It is easy enough, no doubt, to play the conjuror without possessing either dexterity or mental ability. It is only necessary to lay in a stock of apparatus of that kind which of itself works the trick. This is what may be called the “false bottom” school of conjuring. Cleverness at this sort of work is of the same order as that of the musician who produces a tune by turning the handle of a barrel organ.”

After this quote, I was hooked.

For the Ages

I’m no magic scholar, but I can tell you that “Essential Robert-Houdin” is an astounding and compelling work that’s a fascinating read and a worthy study. I highly recommend this one, particularly if you’re interested in magic history.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

MSRP: (US) $100

Dealers can purchase from Murphy's Magic Supplies, Inc.

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