Most magicians are hobbyists who are constantly looking for new tricks. My approach is different. I spend years – often decades – exploring the same pieces. I take the same approach with magic’s greatest resource – books. For me, Erdnase has been a constant companion, and each reading triggers some new insight.
In the late 90s, that insight was philosophical and the result was Advantage Play, my first book. Teaching or translating information is one of the best ways to develop further insight into the work at hand, and Advantage Play forced me to do just that. I extrapolated principals from Erdnase that could be used to improve problem solving and performance in every day life. Even though the book was written in the late 90s and released in 2001, I still abide by the principles and techniques I disclosed. (We have plans to reprint it at some point.)
I obtained even more insight into Erdnase when Dai Vernon’s manuscript – and accompanying technical photographs – for Revelation, his magnum opus on Erdnase, appeared on my doorstep one New Year’s Eve.
Vernon wrote the manuscript in the 1950s. A version of the book – sans photos – was published in the 1980s. The photos had been deemed ‘lost’ for decades. Not only did the photographs – which became my responsibility to organize into their proper sequence, the images being unmarked – provide great insight into the machinations of the moves, but they also rekindled an appreciation for a particular style of photography, one reminiscent of those photographs in the Stars of Magic – and, a style dating back even further to the early days of photography, Eadweard Muybridge’s studies in motion.
When sorting the Vernon images, I was also working on a book about the magic of Herb Zarrow, a mild-mannered accountant from New Jersey who had developed some amazing techniques for both magicians and card cheats alike. Herb, then in his late 70s, asked if I would write the book of his magical creations. What I thought would be a one-year project stretched into three. The best thing about writing the book, other than spending time with Herb and learning the ins and outs of his technique and philosophy, was working with my colleague Julie Eng on the photographs. She shot over 1,000 images of my hands, all to document the technical aspects of the magic. We made the conscious decision to storyboard each explanation with plenty of photographs in the spirit of both the Stars of Magic and the photoplays of Eadweard Muybridge.
All of these elements, in particular Muybridge, are incorporated into Card Table Artifice.
– DAVID BEN