Friday, 14 August 2009

The Essential Dai Vernon and other things

My copy of this book arrived today; nice, new and shrink-wrapped. It is a very commendable asset to any magician or researcher in that it gathers together many of Vernon’s books into one handy volume. However, there are some disappointments as a book collector. Considering the large amount of photographs in this book, those of Vernon illustrating how sleights are done and the section of extra photographs, the paper chosen should have been of a better quality than that used. Mike Caveney’s Magic Words got it very right in the quality of paper for Revelation by Dai Vernon. Because of that, the photographs reproduced in that book have fantastic tonal quality and detail. Comparing my first edition of The Dai Vernon Book of Magic published by Harry Stanley in 1957 with its counterpart in L&L Publishing’s Essential Dai Vernon, the printed quality of photographs is better in the Harry Stanley edition simply through a better choice of paper. Oh well, we cannot have everything and the fact that The Essential Dai Vernon even exists is a boon not to be overshadowed by nitpicking.

Another worthy book that arrived today is The Notebook edited by Will Houstoun. It is a bit of a must for anyone interested in the history of magic and collecting or researching old magic books. Houstoun, a member of the Magic Circle, was shown a handwritten notebook in the Magic Circle’s library by the Executive Librarian Peter Lane. The notebook dates to the early nineteenth century. The unknown author of the notebook collects together eighty conjuring tricks, some by well known magicians of that period. Houston has provided a facsimile of the notebook with a transcription of the text, along with some helpful notes. I have read only one negative review of The Notebook and the author of that completely missed the point of the book as a social text and historical document. The book is not without flaws but no book exists that does not. If Houstoun reprints the book then, as with all books, the errors will be expunged.

On a completely different subject, my main website is still in the process of being overhauled. One hurdle not yet successfully leapt is programming a shopping cart and checkout for the site. This will make it possible for people to buy books directly on the site instead of going to one of my other three internet outlets. The advantage to this is mostly for UK customers. I have become dissatisfied with the increase in cost of postage and packaging being charged to UK customers by a company that I was going to use for mail order distribution. They want to charge customers a flat rate of £4.75 to deliver a single copy of A Briefe And Pleasaunt Treatise, Entituled, Naturall and Artificiall Conclusions by Thomas Hill anywhere in the UK. I have therefore decided that I will handle distribution in the UK and the postage and packaging for the book will be free to UK customers. While I get the checkout sorted on my main website, I have put some copies of Thomas Hill’s book for sale on my Ebay shop. The price is £10 and postage and packaging is, as stated above, free within the UK.

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