The Insider | Andi Gladwin

By Damian Jennings - Tuesday, February 5, 2019

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In this special edition of the podcast, Vanishing Inc.’s very own Andi Gladwin talks to us about Edward G. Brown.

Yeah. Me too. I’d never heard of him. But it’s not our fault. Let’s see what other’s have to say about him.

The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown

"Definitely the finest sleight of hand magician in the country." —Dai Vernon

"Vanishing, Inc.’s gorgeous new edition of the excellent and previously highly sought (read “expensive”) classic Card Magic of Edward G. Brown is special in every respect. The card magic in this book is still very worth your study. Brown was a remarkable mind whose thinking was respected by Dai Vernon and many others. This reincarnation is beautifully done in all respects, and Andi Gladwin’s accompanying notes give new and welcome insight into the material. I can’t think of a single reason not to recommend this work most highly." —Stephen Minch

"When I first began to study card magic seriously, Bob White taught me his handlings of two effects by E. G. Brown: “The Twelve Card Thought Transition” and “The Spelling Trick.” Versions of these two excellent performance pieces remain in my repertoire to this day. Now, thanks to Vanishing Inc., Brown’s material is available to another generation of students. Their reprint of The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown is not merely a collector’s piece that will look on the bookshelf; more importantly, Andi Gladwin’s insightful notes make it an example of the kind of scholarly work our magical literature deserves." —Jared Kopf

"A beautifully produced tribute to Edward G. Brown classic text. Andi has does a wonderful job bringing it back to life." —Scott Penrose, President of The Magic Circle

"The brilliant British magician Edward G. Brown has been unjustly forgotten twice. After his death in 1947, attention to his work lapsed. Then, when Trevor C. Hall published The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown in 1973, it stirred up renewed interest—which quickly faded. Now, Andi Gladwin has republished that book, accompanied by a useful new study guide that will help the reader understand just how damned good this material was and still is." —Max Maven

So, that lot should be enough to pique your interest, right? As usual, you can find the podcast on everywhere you get podcasts, or just listen to it here by pressing the play button above.

You can buy the Edward G. Brown books right here at Vanishing Inc.

Transcript of the podcast

The Insider: Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of The Insider podcast, brought to you, as ever, by Vanishing Inc. Today I'm lucky enough to have on the line Andi Gladwin, who's gonna be talking all about his new book on Edward G. Brown. No, I'd not heard of him either, but apparently we don't need to feel bad about it.

The Insider: Every show starts this way, Andi, what's your origin story? You've got 27 seconds. Go!

Andi Gladwin: That's a good one, yeah. Never had such a short time and I've never wasted it so much on the top. So, I started off as a kid who loved magic, I grew up to be a grown up who loves magic, and spends too much time reading about magic, learning about magic, performing magic, and sharing magic with Vanishing Inc.

The Insider: Okay, lovely. Right then, who was Edward G. Brown?

Andi Gladwin: Edward G. Brown was a magician who was born in 1893, but was most active in the 1930s and 40s. He was a banker by trade, he was born in London and lived in London. He served in World War I in France, and had a love for magic throughout. So, he was always an amateur magician, he never did it as a professional, but by all accounts he was an exceptional magician, and the magicians of that time very much knew who he was. They admired him, they respected him, but over the last 50 years or so, his name has pretty much been completely, unjustly forgotten.

Andi Gladwin: So when I travel around the world doing magic lectures, and talking to magicians, I don't think I've met that many people who knew much about Edward G. Brown. I always do a thing in my lecture where I say, if you know of him, raise your hand. And if I'm doing a lecture for 500 people, we're lucky if two people raise their hand.

The Insider: Oh, phew. I don't need to feel so ignorant. Who was said to be influenced by his work?

Andi Gladwin: Well, some of the best magicians of that time wrote glowing reviews of him. So, Dai Vernon said that he was definitely the finest sleight of hand magician in the country, that being the UK. But Charlie Miller had wrote great things, John Ramsay said he was probably the best sleight of hand magician in the UK, if not the world. And then other people such as Peter Warlock, who was a good friend of his, basically wrote, throughout his whole life, glowing reviews of him.

Andi Gladwin: Perhaps one was saying that he was the most natural magician ever, another one talked about how he palmed cards better than anybody who's ever palmed cards. And so basically, a who's who of magic would write glowing reviews of his work.

The Insider: So why has he been forgotten?

Andi Gladwin: It's a good question, and actually I think it comes down to the book, the book that I've just republished, The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown. So it was written quite a long time after Brown's death, so Brown died in 1947, and the book was written in 1974, or at least published then, and it was an initiative of The Magic Circle. They thought they wanted to start publishing magic books, and on the committee at that time was a magician called Trevor Hall, who was known to be a historian of magic. He said that he would write the book, because he had corresponded with Brown a number of times, in fact over the years they wrote 114 letters back and forth. And they'd met a couple of times, but only for a few hours on each meeting.

Andi Gladwin: And he decided that he would be the man to write a book about Edward G. Brown, which in one way was a great thing, because Brown had only ever published three tricks in his lifetime, and they're very hard to find, and The Sphinx is one of the places, for example. So they're all in magazines. And even the trick that was written up for The Sphinx was written up incorrectly, so it's not a true representation of how Brown did the trick.

Andi Gladwin: So it's easy to see why he'd been forgotten up until that point, but then Trevor Hall decided he would write this book, The Magic Circle published it, they printed 500 copies, and it didn't really sell that well. Actually, interesting, The Magic Circle still had copies for sale up until about maybe 10 years ago. But now it's extremely hard to get hold of the book. The original, first edition goes on Ebay or other auctions sites for $400, $500.

Andi Gladwin: But back in the day, they essentially couldn't give this book away, and that's not because of the quality of the material, it's just because I think the book was written way too late after Brown had passed away, that actually most of the magicians from his generation weren't really around anymore, and so weren't buying books. But if Brown managed to publish a book when he wanted to, in the 1940s ... he always said that he would write a book if his job didn't kill him, was a quote that he wrote. And he died of a heart attack, and probably too much stress from his job.

Andi Gladwin: So he always wanted to write a book, and he never got to, and perhaps if he had written that book, I think we would probably know more about him, because we wouldn't have had that large gap between his death, and when his book was published.

The Insider: What kind of magic did he do?

Andi Gladwin: That's why I admire Brown so much, actually, because he kind of went along the same path that I went along. So it's ... I have an affinity to his work, so he started as a close-up magician and doing kind of the small scale card tricks, and although he did perform other tricks, we can talk about those in a minute. But for the most of the tricks he created it was card magic.

Andi Gladwin: And he found himself in kind of a similar situation to me, which is that the more you perform, the more your audience grows. So he was now not just performing for a few people, he was performing, for example, at a magic club for 50, 60 people. He performed at The Magic Circle, he did other kind of public shows, specifically shows that benefited The Magic Circle. He was an adamant supporter of The Magic Circle, so he would often perform at their public shows. Which meant that by performing now for bigger crowds, he had to change his style of card magic, so a lot of the card magic he performed is essentially considered parlor magic, and the thing that really caught my attention was that some of the solutions that he found to bring magic up to that parlor audience were the same solutions that I found.

Andi Gladwin: So, for example, if you've ever seen me perform a kind of stand-up card magic show, you'll notice often I use a wine glass, which is a perfect way of holding the cards, and making it so that tricks go from being horizontal to vertical. And Brown did the same thing, so quite a few of his tricks used wine glasses so that he could display the cards better. And things like that is what really drew me to him, so he made lots of changes to perform card magic in a parlor.

Andi Gladwin: And that's not saying he only performed card magic, though, he actually performed ... when he did his Magic Circle audition, when he was quite young, he did the classic magic trick that's essentially been forgotten today, which is the vanishing wand trick. And in that trick you would wrap up a magic wand in a piece of newspaper, and then you would vanish the wand in the newspaper. And that was typically done, as it explained in Hoffman and other books, it was done with a paper shell for the wand.

The Insider: Oh, and the two wooden tips.

Andi Gladwin: Right, exactly. But not the way he did it, he was, I think, the first person that ever changed the method, and he did it pure sleight of hand. And this meant that all of the magicians at The Magic Circle were completely fooled by this version. And I said Peter Warlock wrote a lot about him, and Peter Warlock actually wrote about his audition, that not only did he fool the magicians in the audience, he left them nowhere to go.

Andi Gladwin: And that's what I love about Brown's magic, he would push the method further than it had been pushed before, even though sometimes that made for a more difficult method. Because Brown wasn't afraid of difficult sleight of hands, but the key always had to be that the effect was improved because of it. So, another example of that is the Miser's Dream.

The Insider: Okay.

Andi Gladwin: Brown would do a Miser's Dream routine, and this is such an obvious change that he made that I don't know why other people have not come up with it independently, or even adopted Brown's idea. But instead of just producing the coins and dropping them into a top hat, as was done back then, or nowadays a wine bucket. He would actually drop them into a clear glass vase. So now you actually see the coin be produced, and you hear it like normal, when it gets dropped into the vase, but now you also see the vase fill up with coins as well. It's such a small change, but it does require more work with the method, but Brown wasn't afraid of that as long as it improved the effect, as it did.

The Insider: So is everything made more difficult because, I don't know but with the Miser's Dream, in this case, if you're swapping out the traditional transparent bucket for a see-through vase, you've gotta hold out the coins, release the coins ... was everything made more difficult?

Andi Gladwin: So you know, I actually don't know his method. It was lost in time, because what we really have for Brown's era is just reviews of his performances. We don't really have those three tricks that he published in his lifetime.

Andi Gladwin: So I can't tell you whether it made it that much difficult. I can assume it did, but there are ways I could think of that you could do it. For example, DeLand had the gimmick, you know, the printing his hand?

The Insider: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andi Gladwin: And there is something that DeLand published that's kind of close to this, where you could actually have that hand in a glass vase ... I'm just thinking out loud here ... but still, you could conceal the coins behind that, behind that gimmick in the vase.

The Insider: Sanada Gimmick, maybe.

Andi Gladwin: Sanada Gimmick, yeah. Or actually, you could just hold those coins in your palm with the glass vase, and just be careful of your angles. So, yeah, I don't know how he did it, but I know it would be slightly more difficult, but still. What a much better effect.

The Insider: Yeah.

Andi Gladwin: And that's what I love about Brown's work. There's other examples, you know. One of my favorite plots in magic is actually a almost completely forgotten plot, which is Hofzinser's Everywhere and Nowhere. Which people have kind of had variations, but they lost their way over the years, it's not exactly the Hofzinser original plot, and Brown had a version of that.

Andi Gladwin: Back in the day, after Hofzinser's version was published, people would come up with variations, and they would try and improve Hofzinser's method, because to be frank it was a bit of a mess. He used loads of gimmick cards, and packet switches. So, lots of people tried to improve what Hofzinser did, but they always went the same route, which was to use gimmick cards. And Brown was the first person ever to remove gimmicks from that trick, and this is in an early time when, you know, people weren't really thinking in those ways, and Brown's version not only improves the effect, but by far improved the method as well, kind of following that same theme.

The Insider: So let's talk a bit about what his tricks were actually like. At MagiFest and at the session, you did one of his tricks, which is a thought of card across. For those who weren't lucky enough to be there, could you describe that effect please?

Andi Gladwin: Yeah, of course. It's ... I truly think the best constructed card trick of all time, method-wise, and here's what happens. You have somebody remove any 12 cards from any deck, you don't even need to touch the cards, need to choose the cards, or see them, or anything like that. And then you show one spectator six cards, and they never touch, the two packets never touch. So the six cards are seen, they think of one card in that six card packet, and then the other six cards are handed to another spectator on the other side of the room. And now the person thinks of their card, and it vanishes from their packet and appears in the other person's packet on the other side of the room.

Andi Gladwin: And it's such a great effect, it's a extremely strong effect, one that I do for laypeople and magicians. And the best part, for me, is that it plays for a walk around gig, you can do it for five or six people, right up to a theater. You saw I did it at Magi Fest, which is a thousand people, and I didn't even need to consider the use of the screens there. Luckily we have such great camerawork at Magi Fest that my hands would have been picked up entirely but I didn't even need to look or worry about that, because it plays in a whole theater without camerawork, because it's kind of your words that is making the effect seem so impossible.

Andi Gladwin: So, yeah. It's my favorite effect of his, but also one of my favorite effects in magic, because one sleight does that. One sleight makes one card transpose from one packet all the way across the room to the other packet. And to be honest, I'm not really doing it justice with that brief explanation, because there's several very, very clever subtleties that shows me that Brown is so far ahead of his time, because the things that, if you read this trick now, you'd go, oh, that's a great trick. But you're probably judging it on modern day standards.

Andi Gladwin: If you go back to when Brown created this trick, back in the 1930s, early 1940s, then actually, that's a whole different situation. He didn't have the same technologies, or understandings of psychology that us magicians do now, and that's why I love this trick so much. Because it was so far ahead of its time.

The Insider: How did you find out about him initially?

Andi Gladwin: It actually started with reading the version of Everywhere and Nowhere that I talked about. One of my kind of passions in magic is to take a trick right back to its root. So I'd read a variation of Everywhere and Nowhere, and I thought, well, that's a pretty good trick, but I wonder, you know, what it started as a hundred years ago. So I followed it back to Hofzinser, and I learned Hofzinser's version, and I thought, that is a terrible handling, and then started to look at all of the other versions that were published since then. So I kind of went back in history in a way, and then worked my way forwards.

Andi Gladwin: And I have a whole creative process that I used when I'm working on tricks. So if I know I wanna create a version of Everywhere and Nowhere, for example, I'll go right back to the original, and then I'll start to work forwards looking at all the versions I can find that were published since then. And this gives you a really interesting understanding of how tricks have been watered down, or improved over the years, and it also allows you to pick up things like, oh, there's a great presentation that this person used, or there's a great handling, or that kind of thing.

Andi Gladwin: And Edward G. Brown caught my attention when he published ... when I read his version in The Sphinx, and he just really clarified the effects. I think the trick was called Three Chances, and he really just improved the effect, again by using a wine glass, and he really took my, kind of took my attention into a different way of presenting this trick. So I ended up, over the years, changing it and working on my own version, but it really did stem from Edward G. Brown. And when I find something I like, then I wanna learn more about it, so I started to dig around, and I knew that he'd published this book, The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, or at least The Magic Circle had, but I couldn't get hold of it.

Andi Gladwin: So, I was left to try and learn more about him through the magazines and that kind of thing. And when I realized there wasn't much found, I guess I thought I should make the plunge, and I managed to pick up a copy of the original, a first edition of The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown. And I was talking to Scott Penrose, who's president of The Magic Circle, and I knew that they had the rights to The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, but over the years they'd turned down various people who wanted to republish it. But Scott was, yeah, so kind, and he was the one who suggested that we do it.

Andi Gladwin: I think he saw my love for Brown's work, and appreciated how much time I'd put into learning about Brown, so we, you know, managed to get the rights to republish this book, and make it available again.

The Insider: But it's not just the republishing of the book, is it? There's another book that ...

Andi Gladwin: Right.

The Insider: You've titled it A Study Guide, but really is a book in its own right. And tell us about that, and how that got brought into the picture.

Andi Gladwin: Yeah, so if you read The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, by yourself, you will learn a book that is full of some great magic. It's three sections, the first section is a bit of a kind of biographical style information about Brown, just several magicians writing about him and what he did for magic, and specifically for The Magic Circle. Then there's the tricks, and then there's transcripts of six lectures that Brown gave to The Magic Circle.

Andi Gladwin: And actually, this is the thing that most people will probably overlook in the book, these six lectures, but that's where the real gold is, where Brown talks about some really fascinating concepts. He basically gives an encyclopedia of every way of forcing in magic. Not just forcing in cards but forcing in magic. He gives another encyclopedic lecture on different mentalism principles, and there's some really great stuff hidden in here.

Andi Gladwin: So, if anybody has the book or is getting the book, I'd recommend actually spending some time with those essays. And I know that Juan Tamariz, and Roberto Giobbi, they also wrote about them, and we've had some great conversations about those essays. So, you know, the best in magic do really appreciate what's inside them. So anyway, I digress, but that's what's made up of the book. But actually if you just read the tricks, it's quite hard to appreciate some of the history, unless you've really kind of studied magic from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Andi Gladwin: It's difficult to appreciate what's original, and what's not original, because it turns out that Trevor Hall was a pretty good writer, but he didn't really fully understand the history of card magic. So, sadly he robs Brown of some important magic credits. So there's, for example, in this book there's the start, just the very start, of a Hamman Count. It's not exactly the Hamman Count, but the same mechanics are there. And there's also the Vernon Push-off Count, the small packet push-off count we always have attributed to Dai Vernon. I think that I can make a good case that that's actually, that count is in The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, which we knew Vernon had read.

Andi Gladwin: So, I'm not trying to rewrite magic history in any way, but I'm trying to point out that in the book, there's a lot of additional information that you really have to dig much, much deeper to find. So when we started to publish, republish, the book, The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, we thought maybe it would be fun to just essentially open up my notebooks, and share all of this historical information that I found along the way.

Andi Gladwin: Actually there's some cool stuff in there, for example, in the Study Guide, there's an unpublished Dai Vernon trick, which is a variation of an Edward G. Brown trick that I managed to find in some letters. I went back to a lot of private correspondence, and really started to try and work out the details between Brown. So, one of Brown's close friends was Francis Haxton, and he wrote a lot of letters to Stewart James, so I dug through, I figured something like 3000 pages of letters to try and find mentions to Brown. And that really allowed me to understand some more things about him.

Andi Gladwin: So, I found a Vernon trick, and also in the Study Guide is all of the kind of, the missing credits, and I point out what's important within Brown's tricks, and then also there's a variation or two of the tricks by me, just kind of ... I don't make a big deal out of them, 'cause I don't want this to be a book about me, but they are, if you read within the kind of, essay of each trick, you will get some additional tips. Including my version that I'm currently doing, of the 12 Card Thought Transposition. And I made such a small change, I just added one tiny thing that doubles the impact of the effect, and that's worth kind of digging out, if you read the Study Guide.

The Insider: A lot of magicians today are just interested in the latest new, shiny gadgety thing, which is great for you, co-owning Vanishing Inc., selling the great, new, shiny thing. This book's kind of old, no one's heard of it, it's pretty unfashionable, so what could a magician today learn from such an old book?

Andi Gladwin: Yeah, there's actually a lot you can learn. I think it's a misunderstanding that the latest magic product contains the best secrets, whether that's tricks or whether that's kind of theories, or thoughts, that kind of thing. So, we're in such a great era right now that some of the best magic books of all time have been published in the last 10, 15 years. But that's not to say that we can't learn from older books, too.

Andi Gladwin: So, you know, there's, like I said, Brown was ahead of his time, so there's some really interesting thoughts in this book. He, in one of his lectures, for example, he talks about how we should avoid the problem of learning a trick from one book, and then another book, and then another, or copying the style of performers. Because then we end up becoming, let's say, you know, our opening trick is, we act like Paul Harris, then next we move on to Eugene Berger, and then we become Joshua Jay, you know.

Andi Gladwin: So, he advises against that, for example. And that's like, that's something that we could be learning a lot more about nowadays, because that's a problem that is occurring way more now than it probably ever did in the 1940s.

The Insider: Because of video rather than book tuition.

Andi Gladwin: Exactly. And it's almost like he preempted that, because obviously there weren't magic videos back in the 1940s. So there's a lot we can learn from this book, and you know, the truth is, I'm not suggesting that if you are new to magic, you should buy this book set over some brand new products. Actually, you're probably best learning from Card College or something like that, first of all.

Andi Gladwin: But if you have a grounding in magic, and if you have a real passion for magic, then I think this might be a perfect book set for you, because I think it's different, a different style to other magic books, at least, you know, Vanishing Inc. have published now almost a hundred books, and it's at least very different to anything we've ever tried, which is that it's a combination of fantastic effects, but with really fascinating history as well.

Andi Gladwin: So that's kind of who the audience would be for this book set.

The Insider: What level of technical skill do you think you need to appreciate the book?

Andi Gladwin: You know, so, the interesting thing with Brown was that he was known for not using gimmicks. So that means that some of the effects are more difficult than others. But actually, on the whole I would say that it's about intermediate. There's actually a few self working tricks in the book, but intermediate is a good level, because I think you really need to spend some time learning these tricks, because there's a lot more than just the mechanics of these tricks. You really have to learn how to present them, because that's what Brown was about.

Andi Gladwin: He started as kind of a nervous, shy amateur performer, but by the end when he was, you know, his last show in 1947, he was very confident, authoritative performer, and I think you can see that in his work. So, I wouldn't say this is a good book for beginners, but anybody who is looking at presenting tricks, card magic particularly, to a parlor audience, then this is probably a good book. So that's the audience I think.

The Insider: Perfect. And it's available on from today, I believe. How exciting.

Andi Gladwin: Yeah, right now it launched, I'm really excited. This is, you know, we often say about books being in the works for many years, but actually this book in some ways represents my whole life of studying card magic, because you can't just knock a book like this out in a few hours. This is several years. The Study Guide alone took me several years, on and off, to write as I could've dug around and found new information and got help from various magic historians.

Andi Gladwin: So, it's out now, and I am very glad to open it up to a whole new world of people and see what they think of Edward G. Brown.

The Insider: Andi Gladwin, thank you very much indeed for your time.

Andi Gladwin: Damian Jennings, thank you very much for your time. Good-bye!

The Insider: Good-bye.

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