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Gibeciere Summer 2006 by Various

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2007)


In the February 2006 issue of Genii, Michael Close reviewed the debut issue of Gibeciere, the journal of the Conjuring Arts Research Center. Doubtless by now most readers are aware, be it from that review or elsewhere, of the Center's library of more than 9,000 volumes at latest count, including more than 350 volumes dated prior to 1700, a substantial quantity to say the least. "Ask Alexander" is the digitized version of that library, a search-able database, including not only books but almost every known magic journal, that can be utilized by members joining at several different fee and access levels.

Membership also includes a subscription to the semi-annual journal, Gibeciere, edited by Stephen Minch. Gibeciere is truly a scholarly journal; a home for deeply researched material that may be too dense or arcane for the average magic journal (or even the above average journal now in your hands). The production and design are top shelf, with beautifully reproduced color plates on heavy paper. The moment you open it you can see that this is a carefully and superbly produced package.

The second issue, Summer of 2006, demonstrates how far-flung correspondents can productively contribute to one another's research. This issue begins with the first installment of Mitsunobu Matsayama's "Investigation into the Magic in Japan after the Opening of the Country," which the editor points out was aided by researchers in Australia, England, Japan, the U.S., and Austria.

Mr. Matsayama points out that much of the historical research into Japanese magic is outdated and inaccurate, and that there are serious gaps in the historical record concerning not only knowledge in the world outside of Japan about Japanese magicians, but also even knowledge within Japan about Japanese magicians who became famous elsewhere. The author reports on his extensive research tracking the history of the paper butterflies effect, reportedly first performed in the west—in Massachusetts, in fact—by Dr. Lynn (aka Hugh Simmons), circa 1864. Eventually Matsayama is "able to confirm Lynn's early visit to Japan, as well as his right to the claim of being the first magician to perform western magic there and the first to bring Japanese magic to the western world."

But there is far more to the story, including an exploration of the first performance of the Paper Butterflies trick in Europe which suggests that none other than Hofzinser might have been "the first western magician to perform the trick on the European continent and, indeed, within the western world, preceding Lynn's performance in Britain and the States by at least four years." This article includes, among other graphics, four pages of a beautiful facsimile reproduction of an 1865 program of Anderson, The Great Wizard of the North. The author goes on to explore the first Japanese magicians performing in the west, painstakingly tracking the various acrobat and performance troupes that first ventured beyond Japan's borders, discussing the trafficking of conjuring secrets between east and west, and also tracing the "diffusion of the Butterfly Trick through-out Europe." The piece is dense with detail, and touches on so many facets of the story—geography, culture, magicians famous and unknown, and even the methods of magic—that the story, while complex, remains fascinating throughout.

The next entry, by Albrecht Reefer, examines the authorship of the foundational volume, Recreations Mathematiques, published in France in 1624. The book contained "the first reference made to 'recreational mathematics' in the title of a book ... (and) is pivotal in the history of science and mathematics." Furthermore, "From 1629 to 1680, twenty-five more French editions followed," and there were many more to appear after that.

Toward the close of this piece, the author draws the connection between the 17th century interest in recreational mathematics and the evolution of the philosophy of science. Reefer writes, "Recreational mathematics is also founded on the evolution from the knowledge of secrets to public knowledge," drawing a connection between recreational math and Roger Bacon's argument for the scientific investigation of the natural world. The author follows this line of evolution through to developing interests in popular science and its early underpinnings in magic. He argues that Recreations Mathematiques should in fact be viewed as a work of popular science, not merely one of, well, recreation, and a significant stepping stone in the search for cause and effect, citing the book's influence on Descartes search for the explanation of the phenomenon of rainbows.

The third entry in this issue is a profile of "Del Adelphia, The Cowboy Magician," an expanded version of a talk that the author, Mike Caveney, presented in 2005 at the Los Angeles Conference on Magic History. Adelphia was a successful magician at the turn of the 20th century, whose name like many others has largely been forgot-ten. He became well known in his time for his performances of two signature ticks, the "Vanishing Bird Cage" (known at the time as the "Flying Cage") and the "Egg Bag". Del Adelphia might have been the first, or was certainly among the first magicians to use a rectangular cage, unlike the cylindrical cage used by DeKolta, and Adelphia was likely the first magician who, upon vanishing the cage, announced that he would retrieve another bird and cage to repeat the trick. He vanished the "second" cage standing on a chair in the midst of the audience, and "would then remove his coat and vest, and toss them into the audience for examination."

Mr. Caveney's article is punctuated with a quantity of graphic elements, including full-page photographs and color poster reproductions. The piece also includes a lengthy and detailed report of an Adelphia performance in 1915, written by an unidentified magician. In the same year, Adelphia performed at the 11th annual S.A.M. banquet in New York City and was praised in The Sphinx by A.M. Wilson. His health began to falter shortly thereafter, and he died in 1917. It turns out that after his death, Adelphia's son went to work as an electrician for his father's old friend and colleague, Harry Blackstone, Sr., and Jack Adelphia taught the details of his father's routine to Blackstone. "Today, the mere mention of the name Blackstone conjures up the image of a magician holding a wire birdcage between his hands," writes Caveney, "while the name Adelphia has been lost to the ages."

Gibeciere Summer 2006 • 6" x 9" perfect bound • 2006 • 198 pages • illustrated • Conjuring Arts Research Center