The Digital Pentagram by Unknown

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii September, 2003)

Once cannot think long of British magic publishing without the name of Peter Warlock coming to mind. The author of more than a dozen books, he was an integral part of 20th century conjuring periodicals in the United Kingdom, having written a column in Magigram (an arm of the Supreme Magic Co.), served as editor of The Gen, and of course having initially published and subsequently edited throughout its life The Pentagram and later The New Pentagram. The publisher of this digital collection of the original Pentagram, Martin Breese, not unreasonably suggests in his introduction that the magazine was Warlock's most important contribution to the art. The magazine was begun in 1946 and both published and edited by Warlock until May of 1949, after which Warlock continued on as editor in association with another publisher. The magazine ceased publication in December of 1959; subsequently Supreme Magic revived it as The New Pentagram, which Warlock continued to edit for many years.

While Pentagram's contents ran the gamut from close-up and card tricks to children's, cabaret, comedy and stage magic, nevertheless the journal was often perceived as an important outlet for mentalism, reflecting Warlock's particular interests. While it's true that Pentagram is particularly strong on mental magic, Warlock was a prolific creator who contributed a great deal of the magazine's contents himself, and of many different types. Although very much a British journal, the contributors are of such caliber that their names will be known to magicians on both sides of the Atlantic (including some that would later appear in Pabular), featuring the likes of Robert Harbin, Geoffrey Buckingham, Eric Lewis, Billy McComb (oh, that's right he started over there, didn't he?), Sam Sharpe, Roy Walton, Jack Avis, E.G. Brown, Alex Elmsley, Bobby Bernard, and even Stanley Collins. From this side there were multiple contributions from Ed Marlo and Stewart James, among others. And the list of mentalists is impressive, Ted Annemann and Al Koran being the most prominent. Warlock's ideas on mentalism are consistently interesting and notably up to the standards of his many contributors. While this volume lacks the invaluable category indexes that Ian Keable's efforts provided for Pabular, the 20-page title index is hypertext linked and hence readily searchable. And again, you might with to print that 20 pages of hard copy to facilitate browsing the contents.

At a mere $30 for more than 1,300 pages of material, it is wondrous to think of the value you receive for your investment. I find it remark-able to consider what fads magicians become enamored of compared with the riches they become inured to. While countless conjuring consumers will pay $30 for an over-produced DVD of a flashy but inferior variant of a standard trick, only a fraction will trouble to spend the same money on hundreds and hundreds of tricks that no one else is doing and are waiting to be rescued from obscurity. If you're tired of doing the some material as everybody else just because the advertising is pretty, the antidote lies in reach: lots and lots and lots and lots of words, cleverly encoded in ones and twos on this little circle of plastic, and ready for decoding by that pile of silicon chips on your desk. Who knows what they might think of next paper?

The Digital Pentagram; One CD-ROM Martin Breese International