Thursday, July 3rd, 2014...10:04 am

Eastern Magic

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This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the newly acquired Santo Domingo collection.

Indian Conjuring

Indian Conjuring, a book written by L.H. Branson is a detailed instruction manual to a collection of tricks that Branson discovered while living in India.  A magician himself, Branson explains tricks he has witnessed, as well as ones he does not know as well, such as the rope trick.  Although well versed in magic tricks, he was not a believer in spiritualism and thought it was based on conjurer tricks.  Branson traveled to India in the British Indian Army where he was promoted to Major and where he eventually retired.

The book begins with a chapter on different types of magic where he discusses branches from India, China, the  United States and other countries and how they contrast.
Indian Conjuring
Branson discusses the circumstances that allow for different types of magic tricks.  European and American magicians can practice illusions, and have money and props that an Indian magician could never afford.  The different loose and billowing clothing of the Chinese magician allows for different tricks as well.   He reflects negatively on the Indian conjurer, both for their lack of skill in his opinion, as well as the for complaint they do not come up with any new tricks.  Branson clearly believes sleight-of-hand illusions to be the best of the magic tricks, and does not think that anyone else can measure up to the Europeans.  He explains peoples’ fascination with Indian magic with the assumption that since magic originally comes from the east, people have the predisposition to believe an Eastern magician.

Indian Conjuring
Indian Conjuring

Despite his negative description of the Indian conjurer, he devotes the book specifically to Indian magic tricks that he has seen and learned living there.  Branson includes line illustrations to highlight the tricks he explains with step-by-step instructions.  Organized by what he describes as a typical set list of an Indian magician, he goes through each trick in the order performed.   Throughout the book he also showcases other magicians from India that he personally knew and who practice the tricks he is explaining.

Indian Conjuring

Indian conjuring, by Major L. H. Branson … With 8 illustrations London, Routledge, [1922] can be found in Widener’s collection.

Thanks to Emma Clement, Santo Domingo Library Assistant, for contributing this post.

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