Page 1

Courtesy of the Jacques Voignier collection

Metal engraved frontispiece from the 1755 edition of Enga単os a oyos vistas

G ere ··· i b e c i` Journal of The Conjuring Arts Research Center    >    ?


The Conjuring Arts Research Center Board of Directors William Kalush Dr. David Singmaster Steve Cuiffo Philip Varricchio David Blaine

This issue sponsored by Bella Mondo Gourmet Food available from Wholefoods and fine grocers nation-wide.

Š 2009 Printed in China. ISSN 1558-8149 Gibecière is published semi-annually by The Conjuring Arts Research Center 11 West 30th, 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10001 212-594-1033

Con ten ts Pocket Notes—Stephen Minch  7 Report on a Performance—Juan Tamariz  13 Minguet and His Deceptions in Plain Sight— Enrique Jiménez-Martínez  19 Deceptions in Plain Sight—Pablo Minguet é Yrol  61 Contributors  227

Vol. 4, No. 2 • 5

••• ••• Po cket N otes

••• ••• This issue is devoted to one topic: Engaños a ojos vistas (Deceptions in plain sight), an early masterwork of conjuring literature by Pablo ­Minguet é Yrol. Engaños a ojos vistas, published in 1733, was Spain’s first book devoted to teaching conjuring secrets. Minguet, although a man of many interests and talents, does not seem to have been a performing magician. This supposition is supported by the opening statement he makes in his “Notice to the Reader” in the 1766 edition of Engaños a ojos vistas: Having seen Sleight-of-Hand Tricks performed in the public squares of different Cities, Towns and Villages by Actors or Acrobats, and in some houses by Ladies and Gentlemen, and Private individuals, and also in the Theaters, I have noticed that many of the people who are watching them think they are done by Magic, or by evil art, and of some Amateurs I have heard someone say: “I would pay a pretty penny to know how they did such and such a trick”; and another person answer: “I would pay two,” etc. [trans. Lori Pieper]

In this statement Minguet represents himself strictly as a spectator and never as a performer. When writing Engaños a ojos vistas he acted mainly as a compiler and translator, copying from various sources, as was the accepted practice of his time. The material consists of typical tricks recorded during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Minguet’s text, though, is notable for its devotion to conjuring. He avoided chemical novelties (genuine and folkloric) and included very few of the cruel practical jokes that almost invariably appeared in conjuring texts produced during this period. Minguet seems intent on offering a solid collection of the conjuring tricks.

Vol. 4, No. 2 • 7

Gibecière Since Pablo Minguet appears to have had little or no experience with the performance of magic, what is good in his book relies heavily on what was good in his sources. The converse is true as well. He often reproduces both his predecessors’ strengths and flaws, and he was capable of diminishing the former while augmenting the latter, through imprecise expression and occasional errors and omissions, some of which might be assigned to the hands of his typesetter. These lapses in writing pose numerous difficulties in the translation of Minguet’s text. When possible, errors, lapses and bewildering sentences have been corrected and clarified. In a few instances the author’s intended meaning resisted analysis, which is regretted. Engaños a ojos vistas proved to be such a publishing success that its author soon issued an expanded edition, the publication of which might have been anywhere from 1733 to 1755. In this enlarged edition he integrated (not always deftly) a large number of new tricks, most using playing cards, and a selection of puzzles and party entertainments. Gibecière offers the first English translation of Engaños a ojos vistas, ­faithfully and expertly rendered by Lori Pieper. The augmented edition of Engaños a ojos vistas repeats the entire contents of the preceding editions, although there are some alterations in sequence. It, therefore, was the logical choice for translation. For those who wish to study the differences in content, organization and composition between the two editions, those discrepancies may be found in the two tables of contents given on pages 207–216 and in the translator’s notes that follow them. Identifying all of Minguet’s sources is a task yet to be accomplished. One, though, was Jacques Ozanam’s Récréations mathématiques et

physiques. The first edition of this work, published in Paris, 1694, contained a fair number of conjuring tricks. After Ozanam’s death the entire work was extensively revised and expanded by (according to Antoine-Alexandre Barbier in his Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes Gibecière • Summer 2009


et pseudonymes) a M. Grandin, professor of philosophy at the College of Navarre. This 1723 revision contained a new section on conjuring. An examination of this text shows that some items appropriated from it by Minguet are a direct translation from French to Spanish. One sterling example is the opening section on the Cups and Balls, which suffers from a few small omissions (almost certainly accidental). Two techniques of particular historical interest in the description of the Cups and Balls are the concealment and secret transfer of balls lying between nested cups, sometimes referred to as the “post move” (p. 82); and the use of wax to retain the ball secretly inside a cup and later release it (pp. 86–7), a primitive form of the Chop Cup, recorded over two centuries before the arrival of Ajit Krishna Basu and Al Wheatley on the scene. In the revised text of Ozanam, and by extension, in Minguet, a number of passages indicate how tricks might be effectively sequenced, showing that this lesson—taught more than a century before by Horatio Galasso in his 1593 treatise Giochi di carte bellissimi di regola, e di memoria—had not been lost (see Gibecière, vol. 2, no. 2, Summer 2007). There is also evidence in Engaños a ojos vistas of advancement in methods. An example is the improved design of the gimmicked knife used for slicing into someone’s nose. The prop explained on pages 92–3 is a more deceptive and clever version than that described by Scot in his Discoverie of witchcraft (1584). While Scot’s gimmicked knife had to be switched for an ungimmicked duplicate in order to display it after the effect, the special knife described by Minguet was capable of switching blades within its handle, making the substitution easier and more subtle. In the action of passing a coin magically through a table and into a glass beneath (a trick also described by Scot and in far earlier sources), Minguet includes a subtlety that seems advanced for the time: A coin

Vol. 4, No. 2 • 9

Gibecière is secretly tapped on the undersurface of the table to enhance the illusion of the coin being tapped against the tabletop by the opposite hand (p. 99). Another advanced bit of advice is given within the description of the old trick (even in Minguet’s time) of making an egg dance: “Note that you must not keep the egg hanging, because it will be known that it is tied” (p. 103). This wisdom from nearly three centuries ago is overlooked to this day by many magicians when performing animation and levitation effects, such as the Floating Dollar Bill. The Gypsy Thread Trick was described by Prevost in 1584, and others before him. Minguet, on pages 129–30, gives an explanation of a more elaborate form of this trick, in which a length of string is first magically transformed into small pieces and then restored again to one length. An additional idea is mentioned of restoring the pieces to a length made up of short pieces knotted together, anticipating comedy versions of the Cut and Restored Rope that would be performed two hundred years later. Minguet, though, perceives this effect, not in a humorous light, but as a deeper mystery than the simple restoration. This may reflect either his lack of firsthand experience with the trick, or a difference in its presentation. Following this item is yet another historical surprise: A complex double-knot tied in a length of cord is mysteriously made to dissolve. The woodcut illustrating this vanishing knot will seem immediately familiar to those who do rope magic, as it is nearly identical to the illustrations used in Abbott’s Encyclopedia of Rope Tricks (Stewart James, p. 30) and The Tarbell Course in Magic, Volume 2 (Harlan Tarbell, p. 358), where this knot is attributed (with just a hint of caution) to Ralph Chefalo (1885– 1963). It is older, though, than Minguet. It was another item he acquired from Ozanam.

Gibecière • Summer 2009

Gibecière On pages 133–5, Minguet attempts and entirely fails (not surprisingly) to describe the construction and manipulation of a Troublewit. The fault here must be shared with his source. If the nearly identical descriptions weren’t sufficient proof, Minguet posts an unmistakable signpost when he names one of the figures formed “The New Bridge.” This, as Lori Pieper points out, was what Ozanam and his French compatriots called the Pont-Neuf; and Minguet apparently didn’t recognize the need to find a Spanish equivalent. While the augmented edition of Engaños a ojos vistas contained a large number of card tricks, the first edition explained only fourteen. Among this expanded collection there are many references to having a card thought of rather than taken from the deck, although in many cases a physical selection is nonetheless made. This may be nothing more than a loose choice of words by Minguet, who followed the example of Ozanam and others. It may, though, indicate that as early as the eighteenth century magicians had discovered something Dai Vernon was to use to devastating effect in the twentieth: having a card thought of rather than picked. Even when the card must be physically chosen, referring to it as a card merely thought of is still a sound piece of psychological manipulation, and frequently creates a more potent deception in the minds of spectators. I will stop here and leave to you the pleasure of making other discoveries in Engaños a ojos vistas. As you read it you will see why it, in its many editions, is such an important work in the history of conjuring, not only in Spain but throughout the world. To further the understanding of the place of this book and its author in history, we are honored to have two introductory articles. The first is by Juan Tamariz, who ­contemplates the permanency of much of the material found in Minguet’s book. The second is by Enrique Jimémez-Martínez, who supplies information on

Vol. 4, No. 2 • 11

Gibecière the one life (or two) of Pablo Minguet é Yrol and the many lives of his book on conjuring. Enrique also checked the English text for accuracy and explained the meanings of a number of obscure words and phrases. Through his aid and dedication, this translation is improved in its details and its entirety. Finally, we wish to acknowledge our gratitude to Ricky Jay, Volker Huber, Thomas Stauss, Jacques Voignier, Ray Ricard and The National Library of Scotland, who all provided valuable information for the checklist of Engaños a ojo vistas. These details would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to acquire elsewhere, and they filled in important gaps in the uniquely complex puzzle that is the bibliographic history of this book. Stephen Minch editor

Gibecière • Summer 2009

•Report on a Performance•

Frontispiece from the 1733 edition (checklist entry 2)


•• ••• •• •• •• • R EPORT On A PER FOR M AN CE •• ••• •• •• •• • Juan Tamariz

he: “How was the show?” He: “Fascinating! What a magician! What an artist! The most enchanting smile; he always repeated, “It’s amazing!” with a Spanish accent at the end of each trick. What we saw seemed impossible. What a shame you couldn’t come with us.” She: “Were the tricks that good?” He: “Yes, of course. You won’t believe me: Less than two feet from us, he made a coin go through a table and fall into a glass underneath it; my ring—the one you see here—he slipped it onto a stick that Arturo and Juan Antón were holding by the ends! And they never let go of it! Then he put a euro in Pepe’s hands and a dollar in Ramon’s, closed them—and zip! The coins changed places with each other...” She: “Didn’t they open their hands?” He: “In the end, only in the end to show them. I myself cut a piece of string in half with a large pair of scissors—and I swear he didn’t switch it—but it became whole when he rubbed it in his hands, and then he gave it to me! Look at it! It is whole, whole! The entire piece—really! A miracle.” She: “...!!!” He: “I can’t tell you all the wonders he performed. He lost all four Aces into the deck and, without doing anything at all, he handed it to Luis, and Luis himself found them together in the pack. If only I had the power to move cards through the deck at will...” She: “Then you would always beat me at poker.” He: “No, I would spend all day giving orders to the cards: Go up, go down, come together, separate by colors...” She: “Well, so what else?” He: “What else! Does that seem so little to you?” She: “Not a little, a lot.... So he didn’t do anything more, then?” He: “What are you saying? A thousand more miracles. A blank book filled itself with letters, then figures, then colors; he cut up a handkerchief and it became whole;

Pages from gibeci re vol 4 issue 2  
Pages from gibeci re vol 4 issue 2