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Art and Artifice and Other Essays of Illusion

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  15 reviews
From the author of Hiding the Elephant and The Glorious Deception comes a collection of five essays that shows how the great stage illusions were integrally products of their time, based on the traditions and fashions of the people, and the offspring of the incredible, inventive personalities who brought them to the stage. Like no other author, Jim Steinmeyer gives us insi ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published October 9th 2006)
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Laura Lam
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellently written as I've come to expect from Jim Steinmeyer. However, a lot of the information in here was quite similar to Hiding the Elephant, which I read a few months ago. ...more
Craig Williams
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a surprisingly fascinating read that goes into the history and engineering of some of the world's most famous stage magic. Even casual magic trick fans would probably enjoy this.

The first essay mostly focuses on an ambitious, but failed magic theater impressario, whose inability to successfully construct a state-of-the-art theater during Chicago's first ever World's Fair was a fatal blow to his career.

The second essay covers the "The Mascot Moth" trick, in which a magician makes a lady
Sep 22, 2022 rated it really liked it
This essay collection was published before some of Steinmeyer's other works such as Hiding the Elephant and The Secret History of Magic, and covers a lot of the same material from a slightly different angle. Good on its own, but if you've read those other books (which go more in depth), you probably don't need to read this one unless you are a completionist. ...more
Hilde Helseth
Dec 24, 2020 marked it as to-read
'3. A book that has a Heart, Diamond, Club, or Spade on the cover' - They are small, but there are some Hearts & Diamonds. ...more
Steve Gross
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Fun but not especially well-written
Aug 18, 2022 rated it really liked it
A production history of four stage illusions, written by a man who is both an excellent researcher and who constructs magic tricks himself (the final chapter is his step-by-step process in the reconstruction of an old magic trick). It's thorough and often very interesting, especially when he puts some of these tricks into the context of social or theatrical history, and he provides extensive endnotes after each chapter for anyone wishing to further explore any of the many areas he touches on. ...more
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Kind of an odd little book, though I suppose I'm coming at it somewhat obliquely. I read The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction, which included Neil Gaiman's introduction to this book, and was sufficiently intrigues to hunt it down. I suspect the reader might benefit from a bit of prior knowledge about the working of stage magic because some of this went by a little quickly. Though, again, if I actually had interest in learning that stage magic I would have taken the time to carefull ...more
David Grimaud
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
ART & ARTIFICE is a collection of essays by Jim Steinmeyer, a designer/inventor of illusions and special effects for magicians of renown like Doug Henning, Lance Burton, and David Copperfield. Steinmeyer is created Copperfield’s famous "Vanishing the Statue of Liberty."

There are five essays in the collection, focusing on a handful of illusionists and theater moguls at the turn of the century. An avid amateur magician when I was young, I found this book to be interesting and worth the short time
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great read. It's been a long time since I read "Houdini on Magic"... This made me want to read more about the history of illusionists. It's not every day that I think of Doug Henning, and I'm impressed!

Favorite quotes:

"Magicians guard an empty safe."

Made me aware of this one: "Who would save an ass against his will?" - Horace
Mar 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A well-executed history of magic tricks and the people who think them up. You feel almost as if you're attending the show or getting to know the eccentric magician, the one who keeps shards of mirror under his pillow so he can play with them at night, thinking up new ways to make donkeys disappear. ...more
Dec 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Kind of dull in it's writing, facsinating in its specificity. I especially liked the essay about the Saw. The others more or less put me to sleep. ...more
Ryan Jones
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
awesome book.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Good book but covers the same ground as Art & Artifice.
Jenny Burridge
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: neil-gaiman
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction, sf
A nice mix of history of magic and craft. I have no idea why I've decided to read books about stage magic. ...more
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Jim Steinmeyer was born and raised just outside of Chicago, Illinois, and graduated in 1980 from Loyola University of Chicago, with a major in communications. He is literally the man behind the magicians having invented impossibilities for four Doug Henning television specials, six touring shows, two Henning Broadway shows, and numerous television and Las Vegas appearances.For one of David Copperf ...more

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