Sports And Pastimes by Unknown
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 1999)
Readers of this column will already know that I am quite pleased with the trend toward
contemporary reproductions of antiquarian conjuring books. Steve Burton made a
notable contribution along these lines with his release of a facsimile edition of Hocus
Pocus Junior (reviewed in Genii , June 1997). Now Mr. Burton continues by producing
an edition of one of the rarest conjuring texts extant, Sports and Pastimes , originally
published circa 1676, of which only two copies are known to exist! This little volume is
notable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was not merely a rehash of
Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft , Art of Jugling , Hocus Pocus Junior , and the handful of
other texts of the era that were constantly re-circulating one another's contents.
Although it contains the usual assortment of proposition bets and practical jokes, there
is much new magic to be found here, including the origins of the "Ball and Vase,"
"Trouble Wit," the "Cut-and-Restored Handkerchief," and an early dealer reference
(preceded perhaps in this vein by Scot's Discoverie, depending on your point of view).
There are also useful non-magic tips like methods for fishing for eels and fish; the
author cautions that one of the latter might end you up on the whipping post or the
pillory if you don't first seek the pond-owner's permission.
This is a lovely edition, bound in cloth (as I encouraged in my review of Hocus Pocus ),
although given the price, the binding could perhaps be of slightly better quality,
considering, for example, the rather uneven cover lettering. The publisher provides an
informative seven-page commentary at the book's conclusion. Although space precludes
a lengthy discussion, this limited release has been well-received by magic historians and
bibliophiles, and once again, Mr. Burton deserves our compliments and gratitude.