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This beautiful hardback book with custom endpapers, a photographic frontispiece and illustrated boards is the first in a series of books reproducing the writings of J. N. Maskelyne. Each book in the series will be strictly limited to 500 copies.
John Nevil Maskelyne rose to prominence in 1865 exposing the tricks of the Davenport Brothers, a pair of performers who allowed their audiences to believe spirits were creating their magical effects. With the cabinet maker George Alfred Cooke, Maskelyne toured Britain becoming a well-known stage conjurer. Within eight years Maskelyne and Cooke established England’s Home of Mystery at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly and their performances became a popular fixture of London life.
Alongside his stage magic career, Maskelyne maintained his campaigns against fraudulent spiritualists who preyed on the vulnerable and bereaved. In this book, published in 1876, a time of huge expansion for the spiritualism movement, Maskelyne gave his account of the most famous mediums of the time, exposing their trickery. It is a rare record produced when many of the first generation of spiritualist mediums were still active.
Maskelyne discussed the roots of modern spiritualism and the stories and trickery of mediums including the Fox Sisters, Daniel Douglas Home, the Davenport Brothers, Anna Eva Fay and many others. He exposed the true methods behind supposed table rapping, spirit painting, spirit writing, dark séances, spirit photography and supernatural healing. Though commercially published and critically well received, the book did not receive a second edition and, despite its importance to the history of conjuring and the battle between magicians and mediums, it has remained out of print for almost 150 years.
This is a full facsimile reprint of the original edition, produced to the same page size, including Maskelyne’s advert for his performances and a poem on his faux automaton Psycho by William Crompton.
What the critics said:
“This is a slashing exposure, from the pen of John Nevil Maskelyne, who, in conjunction with Mr. Cooke, plays the part of an anatomist of humbug to its innermost core, and a remorseless vivisectionist of its practitioners – the modern spiritists or spiritualists – of the “phenomena” of so-called spiritualism, with some exposures of “spirit media.” Mr. Maskelyne has reduced all these manifestations to the level of absurdity, fraud, and imposition; and if the spiritualists have any sense of shame or consciousness of bamboozlement lying dormant in their compositions, his trenchant chapters will cause them to perceive that they have been made the most egregious gecks and gulls that ever crazed fancy played upon.”
– Worcester Chronicle, 10th of June 1876.
“We regard Mr. Maskelyne, in connection with his practical exposures of modern spiritualistic folly, as a genuine public benefactor. Nothing short of the evidence supplied in his mysterious and famous illusions demonstrate to unreasoning, simpleminded people how thoroughly they are at the mercy of designing r-hum! say “mediums” - and how necessary it is for them to regard suspiciously the pretended miracles of modern spiritualism. The absurd doings of “spirits,” which they could not explain, and which they vainly asked you to explain, seemed to demand their belief, despite all the better instincts and feelings of their natures, until the doings of conjurers or illusionists were shown to be equally wonderful and inexplicable, both to themselves and to others. This little work is a most readable and amusing one, which has already become popular, and will ably further the good work of its talented author commenced in his extraordinary series of performances at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly.”
– The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatica News, 15th of July 1876.
Dimensions (to nearest cm): 17 X 12cm