Adventures of 51 Magicians and a Fakir by Angel ldigora
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2005)
Angel Idigora is a professional cartoonist and amateur magician from Malaga, Spain. He has created a decidedly charming and unusual book featuring his delightful caricatures of magicians as an anchor point for his lighthearted historical accounts. The 26-page introduction features approximately 70 caricatures and other drawings, along with "a very brief history of magic," from Dedi to Norbert Ferre. Most of the magicians caricatured in this section are not repeated later in the book and therefore do not receive their own complete entry. History and art buffs will doubtless get a kick out of Sr. Idigora's redrawing of Bosch's famed painting of "The Prestidigitator."
The balance of the book fulfills the title's description, consisting as it does of 52 separate entries, each featuring a caricature and accompanied by a historical profile (most of two pages, with a very few requiring four pages). Although the "magician" label here occasionally strays to include the likes of the Fox Sisters, W.C. Fields, and Cagliostro, most of the names will be familiar to magicians the world over. The sequence is approximately chronological, beginning with Matthew Buchinger and concluding with David Copperfield, followed by a six-page coda that addresses the likes of Von Kempelen's chess-playing automaton, the Indian Rope Trick, and Uri Geller (although it's not entirely clear to me why this material wasn't simply included in the introductory section).
Historians will find plenty of minor errors and inaccuracies to quibble with in the content, but suffice it to say that this is not a definitive reference work, and I shall leave it at that. The book's appeal lies elsewhere, in the enchanting artwork, and the similarly lively and playful (if not always rigorous) prose. Most profiles include evocative descriptions of tricks and illusions for which the various subjects were famous, bringing to life not only the individual but that performer's signature style of magic. No methods are revealed, hence the book is perfect coffee-table fare, a good conversation-starter, and an appropriate gift item for non-magicians as well as for aspiring ones and veterans alike.
The book is advertised as also being capable of assisting in the performance of a number of tricks, at least of a sort the sort that I tend to find uninteresting. A separate insert explains these possibilities, the most useful of which will like-ly be the fact that every individual magician entry is associated with a playing card, and those cards are arranged in Si Stebbins order (albeit in a suit order that will be more familiar to European magi than to Americans). So it's an easy matter to force a particular name and entry, for example. The one unfortunate error in judgement is the fact that the book in-corporates tricks is plainly printed in the promotional text on the back cover! Despite this flaw; some historical errors; the lack of an alphabetical index that includes all the drawing subjects; and occasional failures of re-translation (in which Selbit's "Mighty Cheese" here becomes the "Powerful Cheese," as an example); nevertheless the book is a marvelous confection, and I find it difficult to imagine that any-one with an interest in magic won't find it a delectable treat.