In this article, we’re diving into the history of magic….
Where did magic originate, and how has it changed over the years? This is a huge topic, and we’ll barely scratch the surface—but we hope it gets you interested in learning more about the origins of our craft.
Let’s start with a question you may have asked yourself before:
What’s REALLY the oldest trick in the book?
Well, it’s complicated…
Some people think an Egyptian magician named Dedi performed the cups and balls way back in 2700 BC, but it’s a highly debated take.
But the experts DO agree that the first ‘officially recorded’ instance of magic is around 50 AD, by a group called the Acetabularii who also specialized in the cups and balls.
(seems people really liked that trick back then)
Playing cards were invented in the 9th century AD in China, but it took until around the 14th century for card magic to pop up in our histories.
(which honestly makes card magic a fairly ‘new’ form of magic compared to the cups and balls!)
That’s a SUPER short ‘crash course’ on how magic progressed over the years.
Now, while there’s so much more we could explore, we’re huge fans of memorized deck magic—so we decided to try and find out more about the origin of stack work.
Here’s where things get interesting…
According to Magicpedia, the first mention of a stacked deck was in 1593 when Horacio Galasso described the Stebbins like progression in Giochi de Carte.
So although stacked deck work has existed nearly as long as card tricks themselves, the memorized deck scene really blew up in 1979 when Simon Aronson published ‘a stack to remember.’
A Brief History of Spanish Magic
If you’re a card magician, where is the BEST place in the world to hang out?
While we’d argue that London gives it a run for its money…most magicians would agree that Spain is the place to be.
How did the Spanish School (or Escuela Magica De Madrid) become such a powerhouse of magic?
It all started with a Spanish lawyer born in 1929 who was passionate about powerful card magic.
That man’s name was Arturo de Ascanio, and he’s known as the ‘grandfather’ of the Spanish School.
He was a big influence on Juan Tamariz, possibly the greatest magician of our time, and together they founded what is now known as the Spanish School…
Since then, their groundbreaking theory and work have influenced an entire generation of Spanish magicians—including rockstar names like Roberto Giobbi, Gabi Pareras, Dani DaOrtiz, Woody Aragon and many more.
Many card magicians consider it a ‘pilgrimage’ to travel to Spain and travel with the above masters!
Now, not all of us can actually pack our bags and go visit Juan Tamariz in Spain at a moment’s notice.
But that’s exactly what our friend and pioneer of modern memorized deck magic Matt Baker did.
When we had him on our podcast, we recorded an ‘exclusive segment’ all about his experience with Juan that became part of our Daily Magician Tapes collection.
The Daily Magician Tapes can be picked up for just $0.50, and when you do so you’ll get access to 29 exclusive interviews with the world’s best magicians.
In Matt Baker’s contribution to The Daily Magician tapes, he discusses:
- The reason why Juan Tamariz records magic performances with not one, not two, but FOUR cameras.
- How Matt Baker got a one-way ticket to Juan’s place in Spain.
- What it’s like to work with the master (and why jet lag is NEEDED when you’re visiting with Juan)
- The CRAZY magic lesson Juan Tamariz taught Matt Baker (that’s so simple you’ll be able to apply it in minutes.)
Access this tape along with 28 more at the link below:
A Brief History of Coin Magic
Who did the first coin trick?
But before we can decide when people started doing magic with coins, we should probably establish when people figured out they could stamp their faces on bits of metal and use them to buy goods.
The truth is that no one really knows when coins were first invented, but most historians think it was somewhere around the 6th to 5th century BC.
Fast forward a few hundred years and we come across the oldest known book with coin tricks in it— ”Tuhfat al-Ghraib” (or ‘The Gift of Wonder) by Muhammad ibn Ayyub Alhaseb Tabari, written between 978 and 1100.
(this might also might be the oldest known book with magic in it, period!)
Another major milestone was the publishing of “A Discouverie Of Witchcraft” in 1584, which featured a number of coin tricks including one featuring what we now know as a ‘copper/silver’ gimmick.
(it’s crazy how this simple gaff has been fooling people for nearly 500 years now…)
But the real birth of modern coin magic could probably be pinned somewhere in the lifetime of Thomas Nelson Downs (1867 – 1938), a self-taught coin magician known as ‘The King of Koins.”
Coin tricks were a lot more rare at that time, and Downs quickly became the leading man in the field. He could allegedly palm up to 60 coins at a time, and one of his most famous tricks was “The Miser’s Dream”, in which he seemed to pull countless coins out of thin air.
Then came J. B. Bobo, who wrote what is now considered ‘the Bible of coin magic’—Modern Coin Magic.
Of course, we should mention Slydini—who showed magicians how powerful close up coin magic could be, especially with his pioneering ‘one coin routine.’
Enter David Roth…
Dai Vernon is reported to have called Roth the greatest coin magician he has seen, and it’s undeniable that coin magic today would not be what it is without him.
According to Jamy Ian Swiss, Roth “changed coin magic for all time”.
Roth’s virtuoso execution of a “persistence of vision vanish” led to tremendous interest in his handling of the move (which he referred to as “The Retention Vanish”), and – perhaps – to increased use of this move among magicians.
So that’s a brief summary of the history of coin magic—we’re sure we’ve missed plenty of incredible magicians and contributors, but for the sake of keeping things concise we only covered the basic points.
Who are the leading people in coin magic today? There are a few names that come to mind. In no particular order, here they are…
First, our friend Danny Goldsmith has made it his mission to change how modern magicians think about and approach coin magic—and we think he’s killing it.
Secondly, Eric Jones created one of the best coin magic training products on the market when he put out ‘Metal’, and then inspired thousands of coin magicians with his success on America’s Got Talent.
Thirdly, Rick Holcombe is helping shape the future of coin magic by producing some of the most high quality coin magic content out there.
And of course, no list of influential 21st century coin magicians would be complete without Jeff Copeland.
Jeff Copeland is the founder of Copeland Coins, a company he founded to create the coin magic products he couldn’t find anywhere else.
You can listen to an interview we conducted with Jeff at the link below:
History of Magic Retail
Who was the first magician to sell magic?
Well let’s start with Reginald Scot.
In 1584 Reginald Scot published ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft’, a book designed in part to counter the activities of persecutionists which revealed many conjuring secrets of the day.
Sadly, magic and witchcraft were linked at the time and many copies of Scot’s book were burnt in the early 17th century.
(not the greatest magic book release…)
In 1634 – ‘Hocus Pocus Junior: The Anatomie of Legerdemain’ was published.
This book is one of the first to include the “Cups and Balls” effect described as it was originally performed, along with the “patter” which was used during the performance.
In 1720 – Isaac Fawkes, English magician, retires. His performance booth at fairs left him with a fortune of nearly ten thousand pounds.
($2,965,021 in todays dollars!)
In 1808 – Mayette Magie Moderne opened up in Paris becoming the first magic store!
(which by the way is STILL open in Paris today)
So there you have it, while other magicians sold their effects before this, Mayette Magie Moderne takes the honor of being the first ever magic store.
Since then, we’ve come a long way.
With the invention of the internet the first huge online magic stores began to get founded.
• Merchant of magic 1999
• Ellusionist in 2001
• Penguin magic in 2002
• Theory 11 2007
• Vanishing 2009
Which leads us all the way to 2020, when we founded The Daily Magician!
It’s crazy to think how much incredible heritage has come before us and the fantastic community that surrounds us.
A year and a half ago, we actually released what could be called our love letter to magic history and one of our hopefully many continued contributions to the future of the art.
‘The Daily Magician Classic Magic Book Collection’
Not only does it feature ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft’ and ‘Hocus Pocus Junior: The Anatomie of Legerdemain’
368 magic books, 30,000+ pages of content, 91 professional commentaries, an extensively detailed index with 4429 effects, authors featuring. Houdini, Erdanase, Tarbell, Hugard, and MORE—this is a veritable ‘cup of life’ to any and all amateur or professional magicians.
Right now you can get it for its original SALE price of just $10 at the link below.
Did you know?
This article was created by compiling 7 days worth of emails we sent to our mailing list on the topic of creativity.
Every week at The Daily Magician, we explore a new idea within magic—and our readers come along for the journey.
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