The Conservation of Magic by Leo Behnke

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 2000)

Here's the book I've been waiting for! Leo Behnke has been around magic all of his long life, having worked for Mark Wilson way back when, years later helping Ricky Jay to conserve the Mulholland library collection, and continuing on with David Copperfield after the collection changed hands, assisting in its growth and combination with other collections added to it. He shares his interests with his wife, Pat, who was supervising a book repair lab at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas when the two first met. Needless to say, he possesses substantial credentials and expertise, making him the perfect man for the task of writing this badly needed book.

As the value of magic books, memorabilia, and other related antiquities grows annually, so expand the numbers of amateur collectors. Thus it is quite likely that an ever smaller percentage of these enthusiasts know much if anything about how to conserve their rarities and latest eBay purchases. In eight chapters the author carefully attends to all the details that conservators need to know. After an opening introductory chapter (which addresses such subjects as insurance), chapter headings include: The World of Books; Delicate Ephemera; Decks: From Atomic to Zinab; Gimmicks and Props; Fruit of the Worm (i.e., silks); Keeping Track; The Final Decision. A host of detail is provided in every chapter; in the chapter concerning books, for example, areas discussed include Condition, a Glossary, Storage, Handling, Dustjackets, Place marks, Book plates, Care & Repair, Leather bindings, and much more.

The book is also very nicely produced, with a lovely binding and dustjacket, complete with protective mylar cover and even a small acid-free bookmark. The first edition is limited to only 350 copies, with the publication date intended for the 8th of November, concurrently the opening day of the Yankee Gathering VIII. This is the book I've been waiting for; if you've been waiting too, don't delay a moment in trying to obtain your copy of this superb resource.

The Conservation of Magic • Leo Behnke • 6" x 9" hardbound with dustjacket • mylar protector • acid-free bookmark • 260 pages • lightly illustrated • 2000