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This Dover edition, first published in , is an unabridged republication of the second, greatly enlarged, edition of the work as published by L. Upcott Gill, London, It is always a matter for self-congratulation on the part of an author to be called upon to furnish a Preface to a second or subsequent edition of some "bantling of his brain. Since the publication of the first edition, conjurors have not been idle, and numerous new methods for producing magical surprises have been invented.

Such of these as are suitable or worthy—for, in their haste to be novel, many have failed to be satisfactory—the author has incorporated; and, by a thorough revision of the work, he has placed before the aspiring conjuror, written up to date, all that it is possible for him to know in the region of Sleight of Hand.

The date of the origin of conjuring, as we now understand the art, is not known, but there must have been proficients in the practice of it as early as the time of Chaucer; for that ancient writer speaks of one Coll Tregetour Tregetour signifying a juggler producing a windmill from beneath a walnut shell. There is doubtless some slight exaggeration in this statement, or else modern wizards are far behind those of early days—an hypothesis I cannot accept.

In the superstitious lands of the East, jugglery was doubtless at the bottom of the many manifestations that were mixed up with religion, and the wily priests made the best or worst uses of its influence on the uncultivated mind. When we consider the effect that is even now produced on the minds of an enlightened audience by a skilful manipulator, the wonderment of people who were but half civilised, and who were taught to believe in spirits, is scarcely a matter for surprise.

Although superstition has not died out—if, indeed, it ever will die out—there are now very few people who attribute the successes of a conjuror to any other agency than that of his own skill; always excepting that of the everlasting "confederate," who, as the reader of the following pages will discover, exists, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, only in the imagination of the spectator.

Formerly, conjurors appeared clothed in long robes and tall, pointed hats, both covered with mystic signs and symbols; Robert Houdin, whom we may consider the father of modern conjuring, being the first to perform in the now conventional evening dress. This innovation had the effect of increasing the genuineness of the performance, as it was an easy matter to conceal large articles beneath a flowing robe, such as had been previously worn; but the close-fitting dress suit affords no means of concealment—to the minds of an audience, at any rate.

Houdin was the means of elevating the art in the eyes of the public, besides investing it with nearly all that it possesses of the graceful; and, as it has undergone still more improvement since his time, it has now become a pursuit well worthy the attention of anyone inclined to follow it up, as much for the amusement of himself as of others.

Besides its power of amusing, conjuring affords an immense amount of instruction to its student, and is useful in inculcating coolness, precision, and an endless amount of resource, which will always stand one in good stead on the world's wide and ever-changing stage. It is my intention to give, in the following pages, such instruction as shall enable the merest tyro to become an adept in the art of Legerdemain, providing that a due degree of attention is given and a reasonable amount of practice undertaken.

Practice, indeed, is what is required in order to achieve success in any pursuit or amusement, whatever its nature may be, and without it the best of instruction is given in vain. For this reason, I must exhort such of my readers as may seek to amuse their friends through the medium of what [Pg 3] I shall impart to them to devote as much time as they can spare to practice at the outset, in order that they may acquire a neat method of manipulation, which is the keystone of success in a conjuror, and which, once attained, will never leave them.

If to this delicacy of manipulation is added a suavity of manner, accompanied by a never-failing cool daring, then the perfection of a conjuror is attained. Magic may safely be divided into two parts, Drawing-room Magic and Grand Magic. As it is in the family circle that every amateur conjuror mostly exhibits his attainments, I shall first treat of drawing-room magic; indeed, it is absolutely necessary to be a master of that branch, in order to undertake grand magic successfully.

The success of the conjuror who can perform only on the stage, far removed from all inquisitorial interference, will be but of short duration.

I find it has been the case with most amateurs, who rarely find opportunities for performing on a stage, that their greatest successes have been achieved in the drawing-room.

The very first thing a conjuror must procure is a conjuring-wand—an implement that is always supposed by the audience to be for show only; and for such they must always be made to think it is. It is, however, an absolutely indispensable article, both to beginner and proficient, as it serves as an auxiliary to the concealment of any article in the hand, as will be explained hereafter. For the present, all the learner has to do is to procure a round stick of ebony, about 18in.

It is best to have the wand made to suit the taste, as those sold at conjuring-shops are invariably too short. Any walking-stick manufacturer will make it. This derives its chief beauty from the fact that it is almost entirely dependent on pure sleight of hand, a fact which audiences are never slow to appreciate. The most familiar objects are dealt with, and are made to vanish and re-appear in unexpected places, as though they really were disembodied and reinstated.

The amateur will find, after a few years' experience, that the impromptu performances he may, from time to time, be called upon to give in the drawing-rooms of his acquaintances, will be much more satisfactory to both himself and his audiences than the more pretentious affairs given upon stages, which call for a great deal of management, apart from ability, to render them successes.

When once the performer has attained the credit of being better than the ordinary ruck, it will become incumbent upon him to keep up the level of skill by means of practice, as wonder must follow wonder in ever-increasing proportion.

Coins, from being so readily procurable, and from their adaptability, are deservedly favourite media, and with them I shall first deal.

For all general purposes, a well-conditioned florin will be found the best coin for the beginner; although, of course, he must, in time, be able to manipulate slippery half-crowns and pennies with equal ease. Florins, as a rule, are more readily procurable in these days, but few half-crowns being coined in comparison with them.

But as the conjuror must be provided against all emergencies, I shall give directions for the best method of treatment for each coin. The means adopted for the temporary concealment of a coin in the hand is known as Palming, and I shall commence Drawing-room Magic with a description of the various methods.

Method 1. The Palm Proper. Remove the thumb to its ordinary position of repose, and, at the same instant, let the two fingers second and third press the coin into the palm of the hand, half way down the root of the thumb, the muscles of which must be brought to bear against the edge of the coin, so [Pg 6] that it is held firmly and forms a bridge over the hollow of the hand Fig.

A backward and forward swing should be given to the hand whilst the coin is being palmed, as it not only covers the movement, but also facilitates the operation in a marked degree.

In pressing the coin home, it will be found that the third finger will be more used than the middle one. The instant the palm is effected, the hand must be made to assume the most natural position possible under the circumstances, the little finger being well thrown out, after the dainty manner ladies affect when holding a cup, so as to give the hand breadth. Some beginners think that in holding the hand perfectly flat they are effecting a very beautiful palm; but this is not the case, as can be seen at once by looking at the hand without any coin in its palm.

That is the model the conjuror must copy: any unnatural position at once betrays the fact that something unusual is going on. For this method, the florin will be found the best coin, its edge affording a better hold than that of any other piece.

Method 2. The Finger Palm. The forefinger then takes the place of the thumb, and the coin is held as in Fig. The action is simplified if the coin is held in the first instance between the thumb and middle finger, but it looks awkward and suspicious. This method will be found particularly adapted for concealing coins of the size of a shilling and less.

Larger coins should not be treated thus, except in emergencies, when anything is allowable. Method 3. The Thumb Palm. The coin is simply held between the thumb and forefinger, and then slid to the root of the latter, where it is held, as in Fig. The only objection to this palm is that it keeps the thumb a close prisoner, to the manifest [Pg 7] loss of grace, but it is exceedingly useful for large and slippery coins, such as half-crowns, pennies, and crowns.

Method 4. There is a rather unnatural disposition of the thumb about it, but the fingers are left free play. Method 5. Reverse Palm. If a coin is palmed in one of them, he must first exhibit the other open in a very ostentatious manner, and, whilst the audience is momentarily engaged in looking at it, press [Pg 8] the coin, by means of the thumb, through the fingers of the hand in which it is held, so that it protrudes at the back, and cannot be seen from the front Fig.

Some performers have brought this palm to a great state of perfection. One very telling effect is to pretend to throw the coin away. For this purpose, it is held between the tips of the first finger and thumb, whilst lying upon the side of the middle finger. As the action of throwing is imitated, the forefinger is slid over the coin, the thumb being removed, and the coin thus made to protrude at the back of the hand.

Other fanciful methods of palming exist, but they will be of no practical use to the conjuror, so I have omitted descriptions of them. The uses of the palm will make themselves manifest in every trick in which money is used as a medium, but the beginner can astonish his friends, and, at the same time, make himself perfect, by any of the following minor tricks:.

The hand in most cases it would be the left, as the majority of conjurers palm with the right; with left-handed people it would be, of course, reversed which is supposed to receive the coin must be closed smartly, so as to make a noise similar to that caused by a coin thrown into the palm. This is effected by the ends of the two middle fingers striking the fleshy part of the thumb Fig. If this is properly executed, the illusion is perfect, and all eyes will be directed to the left hand, when the coin can be quietly placed in a side or tail pocket, to which receptacle it may afterwards be made to pass from the left hand, where it is supposed to be, in a magical manner.

I would recommend the beginner to practice this movement sedulously in private, as it teaches quick and neat palming, and will prove a most useful auxiliary to many important tricks. By "passing" a coin from place to place "in a magical manner" is implied the act of pretending to do so; it being an accepted axiom amongst conjurers never to "pass" anything invisibly to any given spot until the article is already safely located there.

This practice will, of course, commend itself to all as avoiding untoward mistakes. To "pass" a coin from the hand, wave the wand over it, and say whatever you think will go down best with the particular audience you have before you.

A sharp rap on the knuckles [Pg 11] will complete the operation, but always take care to show the hand empty, otherwise the trick is spoilt. If the wand is not handy, pretend to rub the coin away between the fingers, or affect to give it to one of the audience. See Figs. Make a movement as though you placed the marked coin in the left hand, but in reality palm it. At the same time, open the left hand, and the coin that has been snugly concealed there will look as if it had just left the right hand.

By this means a change is effected which you can utilise according to [Pg 12] circumstances. By fidgeting about among the audience, you may be able to place the marked coin under one of them; the other coin being held by someone who is directed to hold it "very high, sir, very high, so that everyone can see it"—the real object being to keep him from examining it too closely. By standing the holder of the coin on a chair, an opportunity for slipping the palmed coin into his pocket presents itself, and should be taken advantage of.

The marked coin being once safely hidden, it is an easy matter to palm the unmarked one which, of course, the audience has been led to believe is the marked one and make it "pass" invisibly to wherever the other may be.

The conjuror's own coin should always be provided with a very distinct mark—a cross is invariably a safe one to employ—as it is rarely that one meets with people who can refrain from instituting an illicit investigation so soon as the conjuror's back is turned. When the holder of the coin is seen to be surreptitiously examining it for the mark, the conjuror should not prevent him, but call the attention of the audience to the fact, and ask if the mark be visible.

The holder, seeing the cross, will answer in the affirmative; he not being aware, of course, that the borrowed coin was possibly marked with a very different sign. This incident will add to the effectiveness of the trick.

In tricks a and b the wand will be found very useful. It should always be carried under the arm, after the manner in which soldiers carry their canes; and when any palm has been effected, and the coin has to remain concealed in the hand, the wand should be taken in the hand containing the coin. Beginners, especially, will find this of great assistance, as in the case of a somewhat defective palm the coin can be pressed well home by clenching the wand hard.

Besides this, the fact of carrying a wand in the hand keeps the idea of the coin being there from the minds of the audience; and the mind is what the conjuror has to deceive. Pretend to take it in the right, but let it fall into the hollow of the left hand Figs. In order to effect this daring change naturally and without detection, the thumb of the right hand must be passed through the ring formed by the thumb and forefinger of the left and the coin held between them, and the fingers closed well over the coin, which will appear to be grasped by them.

Now place the left hand under the table, the right hand remaining above. Covered by the action of bringing it on the table, execute Palm No. The right hand will then affect to rub the coin through the table, and eventually the one in the left hand, which has in reality never been out of it, will be produced.

The noise of rubbing is also made by the coin under the table, only it must not be continued too long; and care must be taken that the two hands act in perfect unison, as it will not do for the noise to continue when the action of rubbing with the right hand has ceased. This trick is not so difficult as it looks on paper, and is very effective. The whole trick consists in pretending to take the marked coin from the fingers of the left hand without doing so.

As a quantity cannot be easily palmed, they must be held in the hand with the wand.



This Dover edition, first published in , is an unabridged republication of the second, greatly enlarged, edition of the work as published by L. Upcott Gill, London, It is always a matter for self-congratulation on the part of an author to be called upon to furnish a Preface to a second or subsequent edition of some "bantling of his brain. Since the publication of the first edition, conjurors have not been idle, and numerous new methods for producing magical surprises have been invented.


Sleight of Hand

Let's say you are at a dinner party and are invited to do a trick. You have no apparatus on you, nothing prepared. In an absent manner, you place a glass of sherry to your lips, as though bracing yourself for the fray. The glass is half emptied, when a sudden movement is made as though you threw it up to the ceiling; but nothing is seen to ascend, though the glass, with the wine it, has disappeared!


Sleight of Hand by Edwin T. Sachs

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Sleight of Hand by Edwin Sachs just might be the number one best book ever written on magic. The standard textbook on how to become a magician. Sleight of hand feats and tricks with apparatus for amateur and profesional conjurers, and for both parlor and stage performance. This is the famous book that for many years has been the ultimate reference for anyone interested in magic by means of sleight of hand. All effects are performed with everyday objects or props that are easy to find: cards, coins, silks, etc. Magic of this kind can be performed anytime, anywhere. Bonus: Devant loved Sachs book so much that in the Third edition on, they included a new chapter, some of David's own sleight-of-hand to be included in this volume.

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