The experts at Conjuring Arts did a great job of making a fully searchable PDF with very helpful bookmarks. They tell us it is one of the first magic books to have photographs — quite a breakthrough for publishing in 1902.
Conjuring Arts produced a new edition featuring magic with coins, cards, balls, handkerchiefs, and more. Even more impressive, the text actually contains photographs are of very well known magicians performing their own effects.
You can see the greats in action including Charles Bertram, T. Nelson Downs, Paul Valadon, and H. De Manche.
David Roth, the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s Master in Residence highly recommends this work and we fully agree.
Best of all, you can download it for no cost if you get over to the Conjuring Arts’ site before 2:00 pm on July 28th. We have included the link below.
Several months ago, we published an article about T. Nelson Downs' adopted hometown celebrating his part in their history. Researching the story got us thinking and researching and reading.
That's a lot for a bear with little brains, as AA Milne noted. So it took us a lot longer than we expected to get where we are now. And where exactly are we?
We have read, re-read and corrected our distillation of the several copies of Mr. Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation floating about the public domain realm of the interwebs. None of the publicly available and public domain versions of the book were ready for publication. There were pages missing, headings applied incorrectly and very poor scanning performed. Our various attempts to run optical character recognition scans met with failure due to one or more of these flaws.
Our solution was to purchase some pretty sophisticated OCR, image and books assembly software. We were able to stitch together images from different scanned versions into one document ready for OCR and assembly. Still, we wanted to do more. Mr. Downs' book has historical references throughout that need to be chased. For instance, he begins the book with a defense of his position that he was the true inventor of the Back Palm.
He provides the place and time for his first public use of this essential sleight and suggests that those who claim to have invented the move are wrong or disingenuous. His use of the sleight was to hide and produce coins as part of his Miser's Dream routine. But he notes that other magicians use the same move for card effects.
Speaking of The Miser's Dream, Mr. Downs dedicates substantial portion of the book to teaching this classic act. His instruction is outstanding and the images are very helpful but if one hopes to duplicate his success with the act based on a quick reading and memorization of the script, that one will be frustrated and sad.
The moves taught are knuckle-busters plus. Perhaps part of his motive in writing this book was to dissuade would-be imitators from starting. If you are just starting in Magic or have worked as a professional for decades, this book will have something for you. You may not yet have the skills to perform everything but you will find something to fit your routine with a little practice.
Robert Browning was clearly speaking of magicians when he wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp / Or what's a heaven for?"
We will put T. Nelson Downs' Modern Coin Manipulation in the Inside Magic Library for those who would like a copy. The version will be revised periodically to include annotations and cross-references. Let us know if you find any problems with this or later editions. Enjoy!
As reported this morning in the very same newspaper that a century earlier crowned him “King of Koins,” Marshalltown, Iowa honors T. Nelson Downs with a new public mural.
The Times-Republican article provides a great thumbnail sketch of the magician and favorite son of Marshalltown.
The mural is part of the town’s development initiative to “beautify downtown and acknowledge the area’s celebrated history.”
Magicians know T. Nelson Downs (we can’t get used to calling him “Tommy”) as a prolific inventor and performer of great renown. The mural may tease non-magicians into learning more about this exceptional man.
After touring the world and authoring two books likely on your bookshelf as you read this (Modern Coin Manipulation and The Art of Magic), he retired to Marshalltown in 1912 where he managed the Lyric Theater on Main Street. He opened a vaudeville-movie theater just down the block from the Lyric.
T. Nelson Downs, like all magicians we know, got in trouble for distracting his fellow student in class.
Marshalltown writer Lori Wildman uncovered a note from one of the young magician’s teachers.
The unnamed instructor wrote: “Tommy Downs you may stay after school and write 100 times ‘I must not fool away my time in school,’ referring to his first attempts at conjuring in the classroom. About 20 years later the same teacher congratulated Downs on his fine talent backstage at a Los Angeles performance.” Continue reading “Coin Magic Legend T. Nelson Downs Celebrated”→