Gibeciere by Stephen Minch

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii March, 2010)

I have previously reviewed [Genii, September 2007] two issues of this elegant and intelligent journal, published by the Conjuring Arts Research Center, the providers of the remarkable "Ask Alexander" searchable online library of conjuring literature. I have been a subscriber since the debut issue and I imagine I will remain so until one of us vanishes. The issue at hand, as usual edited and designed by Stephen Minch, concerns itself entirely with the first instructional magic text published in Spain, namely Enganos a ojos vistas (Deceptions in plain sight), written by Pablo Minguet and first published in 1733.

Minguet was apparently not himself a magician in any performing sense (he was an engraver by profession), but he was a devoted enthusiast, one who intended to provide a practical manual of generally well-described, well-chosen magic tricks of the 16'1 and 17" centuries. (I say "generally" well-described because since he was not himself a magician, he at times made errors of description or transcription, based on his many and varied sources of the era.) Gibeciere now provides the first English translation anywhere of this significant book in the annals of conjuring literature, translated by Lori Pieper. Preceding the translation is an homage to the artistry and permanency of Minguet's work, contemplated by the Spanish maestro himself, Juan Tamariz. Sr. Tamariz points out that the first edition of Minguet (which was followed by several pirated editions along with a subsequent expanded edition by the original author) includes references to feints, misdirection, the Glide, a Chop Cup precursor, divided cards, flap cards, false pips, the magic funnel, the broken and restored thread, a two-coin transposition using a third coin, ribbons from the mouth, and extensive work on the Cups and Balls, including the production of three apples.

And that's just the first edition. The expanded edition, translated herein, also adds a quantity of additional card material, including what would become known two centuries later as the Si Stebbins system, including identifying cards that have been removed from the pack and concealed, and identifying cards by sense of touch. Following the essay by Sr. Tamariz, a lengthy contribution by Enrique Jimenez-Martinez examines the life of Minguet, as best as we can reconstruct it, along with a thorough bibliographic examination of the many editions of his work, legitimate and pirated, that have come to be known and identified.

And finally comes the translation, rendered in beautiful and evocative form in a distinctive design, one that suggests a facsimile of the original volume but of course provided in the contemporary English translation. This journal is always smartly produced, but this is a particularly beautiful edition. Reading this classic and important text is both revelatory and fun, and fans of such literature will recognize some of Minguet's sources, from Scot to Ozanam and more, but as Mr. Minch points out, "Identifying all of Minguet's sources is a task yet to be accomplished," albeit an enjoyable one to contemplate. If you haven't yet exposed yourself to the pleasures of Gibeciere, you could do yourself no better service than to start with this beautiful, informative, and accessible issue.

Gibeciere Volume 4, Number 2, 2009 • edited by Stephen Minch • 6" x 9 1/2" perfect bound paperback with foil lettering • 228 pages • illustrated with reproductions of engravings