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

V T CVM QVE NEW YORK MMX


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. www.bellamondo.biz

Š 2010 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 www.gibeciere.com


Con ten ts Pocket Notes—Stephen Minch  7 Dr. Elliott’s Three-Card Speller— William Kalush  11 The World’s Second-Best Spelling Trick— Martin Gardner  49 Magic in Japan After the Opening of the Country, Part VI—Mitsunobu Matsuyama  61 Antoine Castelli and His Physical Amusements— William Kalush  141 Contributors  179

Vol. 5, No. 1 • 5


••• ••• Po cket N otes

••• ••• If we were stood in order of need of the computer spell-checker, I would be very near the front row. In the few decades during which this boon has been with us, the ranks are swelling behind me. Do not think of blaming the tool, though, for the shortcomings of its users. The decline in the population’s ability to spell well was noted long before computer spell-checkers came on the scene; and with this decline grew the concern among magicians that card-spelling effects were becoming an endangered species—all this in less than a century of its birth. The fear of depending on a spectator to spell diamonds correctly may be one reason why, after an immense popularity during the first half of the 1900s (at least among conjurers), card-spelling tricks are seen performed less and less frequently. The hardest hit are those tricks requiring that someone silently spell the name of a mental selection, as there is no sure check for accuracy or error before the performer is committed to the conclusion of the effect. But things aren’t really so dark for the beloved spelling trick, since the greatest number of them allow the magician to do the spelling, or to monitor it. The card-spelling effect grew out of the old Spelling Bee card stunt. The Spelling Bee was more a puzzle than a magical effect, evoking only mild entertainment and curiosity concerning how the cards were arranged to permit their sequential spelling. The entertainment factor, if not the mystery, was stoked a bit with the variant of the MagicianCan-Spectator-Can’t premise. But it was the innovation of spelling the name of a selected card to locate it in the deck that turned a novelty into a mystery. Despite the relatively modern invention of this plot, there has always been some doubt as to who first conceived it, along with a

Vol. 5, No. 1 • 7


Gibecière practical method to achieve it. Rumor most consistently settled on the shoulders of New York’s Dr. James William Elliott, but evidence proved evasive and doubt tenacious. Our opening article, by William Kalush, holds what may be the proof needed to give Dr. Elliott his due. This article has been revised from a monograph, Dr. Elliott’s 3 Card Speller, of which Kalush produced only seventy-five copies, for the 31 Faces North gathering of magicians held in August 2007. We are pleased to present this important discovery to a larger readership. Mr. Kalush’s exploration of the birth of the card-spelling effect also introduces our second article, which spills from the prolific hand and unceasing intelligence of Martin Gardner. Martin presents his candidate for the “second-best” spelling trick ever devised, then traces its history and development. Discussion at the Conjuring Arts Research Center judges Mr. Gardner overly modest in his nomination of first- and second-best spelling tricks. Opinion here strongly favors placing the Lie Speller in first place. Vincent Dalban, in a letter to Ted Annemann (The Jinx, no. 4, January 1935, n.p. [3]), suggested a card problem based on detecting the lie of a spectator as he called out cards while dealing through the deck. It was Martin Gardner, though, who created the first Lie Speller, having devised both the effect and a practical method. (See Here’s New Magic by Joe Berg [Chicago, 1937], p. 3.) With all due respect to Gardner’s first and second choices, the Lie Speller is our pick for the best card-spelling effect ever devised. As Gardner chronicles the second-best spelling trick, one of the more inventive participants in its multi-branched history is revealed to be ­Mitsunobu Matsuyama, a familiar name to readers of Gibecière. In these pages Mr. Matsuyama is known as a superb and tireless researcher into the history of Japanese magic and its entanglement with magic and magicians from the west. The sixth installment of Matsuyama’s excellent series

Gibecière • Winter 2010


Gibecière follows the career of another of Japan’s great magicians, Ten-ichi, with side trips into the history of the Water Fountain Act, the Thumb Tie and a variety of successors and imitators who both carried on and complicated the Ten-ichi legacy. Along the way, Mr. Matsuyama once more corrects numerous errors of fact in the accepted history of Japanese and western magic. His research continues to be invaluable in setting straight magic’s records, and we are pleased to present it to English readers. Behind the scenes in the Gibecière editorial office, it has been a bit of a personal crusade for me to convince William Kalush, the founder of the Conjuring Arts Research Center and publisher of this journal, to submit more examples of the impressive research he has been doing over the years. This issue represents what must be seen as a high-water mark in that aim. Besides his opening article on Dr. Elliott’s lost spelling trick, we are closing with a bit of fresh research on another rarity preserved in the Conjuring Arts library, a small French pamphlet by an obscure conjurer, Antoine Castelli. Titled Amusemens physiques and published in 1810, only one copy of this twelve-page work seems to have survived. Mr. Kalush explores the background of the pamphlet and its author, as well as interesting historical points found in its contents. Following this study, we reproduce the entire booklet, in facsimile and color, along with a full English translation by Lori Pieper. When you have read this article and that on Dr. Elliott, you will understand the motivation behind my Kalush crusade. All that lies between you and all this fascinating material is this page. Turn it Stephen Minch editor

Vol. 5, No. 1 • 9


•Dr. Elliott’s

Three-Card Speller•


•• ••• •• •• •• • DR . ELLIOTT’S THR EE- C AR D SPELLER

•• ••• •• •• •• •

C

William Kalush

reators of magic methods have an avid interest in keeping track of who published what first. Although this is a useful measure of precedent, it isn’t the only one, nor in some cases the most telling. Many ideas are created and circulated but not published. Does the creative mind behind the idea abdicate credit due to non-publication? Consider, too, that our printed records are incomplete. We can’t ever be entirely sure of who first published something because the full record of all things printed in magic hasn’t and can’t be compiled. Pieces are missing and, as I hope to demonstrate, some of these missing pieces are important. Consider the effect of spelling to a selected card—it’s almost inconceivable that such a seemingly obvious idea wasn’t always there. But, of course, it wasn’t. Someone invented it. Some clever cardman took the idea of the spelling bee—that is, spelling each card in a packet of cards one by one and always ending at the right card—and turned it into a new ending for the classic take-a-card effect. I believe that in the idea spelling to someone’s chosen card we have a prime example of an effect that was not only new at the turn of the century, but was also one of those ideas that became immensely popular, with its theme being varied and varied and then varied again. Who was the clever cardman who first conceived it? That controversy has raged for many decades. Some point to Walter B. Gibson, and his publication of “The New Spelling Trick” in the Magician Monthly for

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