The Whole Art of Legerdemain; or, Hocus Pocus in Perfection: by which the meanest capacity may perform the Whole Art without a Teacher. Together with the Use of all the Instruments belonging thereto. To which is now added abundance of New and Rare Inventions, the like never before in print, but much desired by many…Written by H. Dean. Henry DEAN.

The Whole Art of Legerdemain; or, Hocus Pocus in Perfection: by which the meanest capacity may perform the Whole Art without a Teacher. Together with the Use of all the Instruments belonging thereto. To which is now added abundance of New and Rare Inventions, the like never before in print, but much desired by many…Written by H. Dean.

Woodcut frontis. 132 (incl. frontis.), iv pp. 12mo, fine modern black morocco, elaborately panelled in gilt, flat spine & inner dentelles gilt, a.e.g. London: Printed for J. Bew, 1781.

“Eighth edition, corrected, and improved with an entire new set of cutts.” First published in 1722, this is the most popular English conjuring book of the 18th century; more than twenty printings have been identified, and no doubt others have failed to survive. The text is heavily dependent on Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft (1584), and on subsequent derivative works, but the language has of course been adapted for a more modern readership.

The author’s identity has long remained something of a mystery, but an advertisement at the end of the fourth edition, published in the 1750’s, suggests that Henry Dean may have been a dealer in magical apparatus, with a bookshop “near the Watch House on Little-Tower Hill, Postern Row.”

The very appealing 36 woodcut illustrations and diagrams depict playing cards, cups and balls, and other sorts of conjuring apparatus, as well as a number of effects, such as “how to eat fire, and to blow it up in your mouth with a pair of bellows.” The frontispiece is in two compartments, each of which is repeated in the text. The upper panel shows “How to cut a man’s head off and to put the head into a platter, a yard from his body.” The lower portion is a cut used to illustrate “To cut a glass, a famous invention.”

This is the first of two editions of Dean’s book to be published by John Bew, a bookseller who established his business in London in the early 1770’s, and specialized in titles for a popular audience; he also issued a “ninth edition” in 1789. Of particular interest here are four pages of his advertisements at the end, entitled “A Catalogue of Chapmen’s Books, printed for and sold by J. Bew, at No. 28, in Paternoster Row.” This unusual catalogue of chapbooks is printed in double columns and lists more than eighty titles; examples have been found at the back of several other titles published by Bew, but its presence in Dean’s book is not noted in any of the four copies recorded by the ESTC (L, Lu; NN; GOT). Toole-Stott, however, who lists a number of other copies in private collections, notes that “some copies have inserted a leaf or leaves of advertisements at the end.”

In very fine condition, elegantly bound.

❧ Toole-Stott, A Bibliography of English Conjuring, 210.

Price: $6,000.00

Item ID: 6752

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