29 October 2021

[Guest post] A review of "David Copperfield’s History of Magic"

The following is a guest post by James Alan


Review: David Copperfield’s History of Magic

David Copperfield needs no introduction. He’s absolutely in the running for greatest living magician and still top of the list for greatest magician of all time. He was undeniably the most famous magician in the world in the 80s and 90s when he was regularly producing major network tv specials. He doesn’t really appear on tv anymore but is still performing constantly in his own theatre at the MGM Grand. But unbeknownst to most people, he is also the owner of a giant secret museum of magic hidden away at an undisclosed location somewhere near Las Vegas.

In 1991, David acquired a massive collection of magic literature known as the Mulholland Library. Since then he has developed a bit of an obsession with acquiring and preserving important artifacts from magic’s history.  It far from being a hoarder, or a government agency with an Indiana Jones-like warehouse of crates, these rarities are curated and displayed in a private invitation-only museum. Being allowed to visit the museum, which usually comes in the form of a guided tour from Copperfield himself, is a magician’s dream come true. Kid in a candy store doesn’t even come close.

Of course over the last two years, visiting the museum in person hasn’t been an option, even if you knew who to be extra-nice to in order to wrangle an invitation. So with this book, Copperfield (and his expert co-authors David Britland and Richard Wiseman) has offered all of us a peek inside.
Actually, the book isn’t about things, it’s about people. It’s a collection of twenty-eight miniature biographies of prominent magicians. Magicians we’ve heard of like Max Malini and Harry Kellar, lesser known ones like Wyman the Wizard and Dell O’Dell, and who could forget our beloved Canadian magicians Dai Vernon and Doug Henning. It shows that magicians come in all shapes and sizes. Our history is more than just the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini and a bunch of tuxedo-clad dove wranglers. Perhaps even more important, it shows these magicians as profoundly human. A woman who loses her husband and has to take over and start touring his show. There are great role models overcoming adversity, but also cultural appropriators and criminals. Even in the introduction, Copperfield talks about his initial challenges getting started as a performing professionally. It gives you a taste of what you could be in store for if you want to make it in this eccentric branch of show business. This human side of magic is one of the so-called “real secrets” of the art.
The entire thing is wonderfully written; grown-up but accessible to a middle school student. The photos, taken primarily by Homer Liwag are gorgeous. The physical book itself takes full advantage of modern advances in printing. Ten to fifteen years ago, a book like this with large high quality full colour photos everywhere would have easily been an overpriced inaccessible art book. Here it’s an affordable $45 (Canadian) hardcover with a dust jacket. The design is minimal with the text spaced out and easy to read and plenty of space to appreciate the pictures. Because each mini-biography is only a few pages, you can start and stop easily and take your time to enjoy it.

And since the holidays are coming up…

Magicians in your life can be really difficult to shop for. We’re a secretive bunch and you’re never sure if they own this trick or that gimmick. And downloads sit invisibly on a computer or in the cloud. And most everything can’t be exchanged. So if you’re looking for a gift for a magician in your life or magical-curious person, David Copperfield’s History of Magic would be a perfect bet.

David Copperfield’s History of Magic
, by David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, David Britland. Photos by Homer Liwag. Simon & Schuster, 2021. 257 pages, full colour, hardbound with dust jacket. $45 Canadian, available from major booksellers.

Reserve your copy at the Browser’s Den of Magic.

All photos provided by James Alan. 

Disclosure: James received a review copy the book and has received no compensation for writing this review.


Thank you James for guest posting at Canada's Magic!


No comments:

Post a Comment