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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.

1/2'' x 7 1/2'' hardcover; 64 pages; 1999; Edition limited to 300 copies; Steve Burton Magic