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Topic: The Amateur Magicians Handbook
Message: Posted by: Raymagic11 (Apr 3, 2013 10:48AM)
Dear fellow magicians,

Although I am not entirely sure whether this is the right section, I have a question with regard to this excellent work. As many people know, this book has been out of print for a long time, and when reading it an idea struck me: why not try to get this beautiful book back in print? However, as the book was published in 1983 the copyright is still in the hands of Henry Hay, born June Barrows Mussey who has passed away, which means that the rights are now in the hands of the Mussey estate. Would anyone on this forum be up to speed as regard to any publishing company or Mussey family member who I could contact to initiate my quest for a reprint of this book? Any help would be invaluable and much appreciated!!

Kind regards,

Message: Posted by: Anatole (Apr 3, 2013 03:27PM)
A pdf version of _The Amateur Magician's Handbook+ is available from lybrary.com at
so I would imagine that they obtained permission to digitize the book from someone who has the rights.

Dagmar Mussey, Barrows' wife, passed away March 14, 2012. An obituary notice was posted at:
I spent some time with them back in the 70's. No mention of heirs is made in the obituary notice cited above.

Contact information for lybrary.com is available here:

The AMH went through several editions, updated occasionally. The latest edition I have included a new section about close-up magic.

It is still IMHO the single best book for someone seriously interested in beginning a study of magic.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: Raymagic11 (Apr 5, 2013 06:02AM)
Thank you so much for this! I'm going after it!
Message: Posted by: Prober (May 13, 2013 10:21PM)
It was actually published at least as early as 1950!
Message: Posted by: meridianfan (May 14, 2013 04:48PM)
Wonderful book! I remember reading as a kid.
Message: Posted by: george1953 (May 14, 2013 06:37PM)
His was one of the first books I read, gotit at the local library, wonderful book, brings back memories of magic friends and times gone by.
Message: Posted by: irossall (May 15, 2013 05:33AM)
It was published in 1950. I have the second printing of 1951 and a 1970's edition as well. Many here at the Café have expressed their fond memories of this fine book and for many, it was their first "real" book of Magic.
Most Libraries still have copies you can check out.
This is not a difficult book to purchase.

I am still looking for a copy of Frank Garcia's "Encyclopedia of Sponge Ball Magic" in the $100 range. So far $300 is typical when a copy can be found.
Iven :patty:
Message: Posted by: magicfish (Jun 11, 2013 10:23AM)
I have a lovely hardbound copy with a black dustjacket and white lettering.
Message: Posted by: ed rhodes (Aug 11, 2013 01:04PM)
I got one from eBay with no dust jacket, just the black binding with gold lettering which was similar to the copy I used to take out of the Newport Naval Base library (Dad was a sailor and I had an ID to get on the base.)

I think, today, "Mark Wilson's Complete Course in Magic" or its junior edition "Complete Encyclopedia of Magic" are a better "entry level" volume for beginning magicians.

But the Handbook has a warm space in my heart as it managed to walk a delicate line of being mature without being boring and being chatty without sounding forced about it.

I wish there had been some record of Mr. Hay performing that we could look up now.
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Aug 20, 2013 01:47PM)
It's been a while since I've looked at my _Mark Wilson Course in Magic_. Of course I was already a fairly adept part-time pro when it was published. But I loved the way the illustrations were laid out perfectly side-by-side with the text, and for today's visually-oriented readers, that may indeed be an advantage.

It's hard for me to assess whether the Mark Wilson course would be "a better 'entry level' volume for beginning magicians" than _The Amateur Magician's Handbook" or a more recent book like Patrick Page's _Big Book of Magic_. Since I don't have The Mark Wilson Course handy to check, can you comment on the sections in the Wilson course that deal with showmanship and theory and how it compares with the same topics in the Hay book, or are those topics embedded in the descriptions of individual routines?

One of my magic friends commented that the Mark Wilson Course was in some ways better even than the Tarbell Course since it was more "up-to-date" as far as performance styles, routines and patter are concerned. I think that's a valid point. Page for page the Wilson Course is more palatable and current. But I think the Tarbell Course was meant to be a kind of "Famous Magicians' School"--and it was indeed originally a correspondence course like the "Famous Artists School." After all, some of the routines were by pros like Ted Collins, Audley Walsh, Lou Tannen, Al Baker, Cardini, Jean Hugard, Thurston, Milbourne Christopher, Richard Himber, Joe Berg, Scarne, Leipzig, Dell O' Dell, John Booth, Jack Miller, Tommy Dowd, Silent Mora and so many more. But then--the Wilson Course lists contributors like Don Wayne, Larry Anderson, Fr. Jim Blantz, Earl Nelson, Tom O'Lenick, Peter Pit, David Roth, Brick Tilley, Alan Wakeling, U.F. Grant... That's an impressive list of names, too.

I see a section of the Mark Wilson Course titled "Practice Makes Perfect" and one called "Misdirection" in the contents listing at
but they are identified as "short essays." I'd be curious as to how the theory in those short essays compares to similar essays in other texts for beginners.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: seraph127 (Sep 2, 2013 08:49PM)
Found an excellent used copy of the hardcover edition with the Randi chapter on using videotape to rehearse. Originally bought this as a paperback in a shopping mall book store. The photos are a bit grainy and washed-out looking, but the material is classic and the "theory" stuff is excellent.
Message: Posted by: JNeal (Sep 3, 2013 05:00AM)
While I would agree that the Mark Wilson Course is an easily digested series of tricks that follows a learning progression, I think Henry Hay's book develops a more 'complete magician'.
I believe he develops a greater understanding of magic and it's subtleties in the reader.
The opening two chapters: Hard Easy Tricks and Easy hard Tricks (or some similar title), and the accompanying chapter on the psychology of deception are almost unparalleled in a beginning book and I don't think it is too difficult for a reader to absorb...even in today's era .

Message: Posted by: Anatole (Sep 3, 2013 07:43PM)
I agree completely with JNeal's assessment of the difference between Henry Hay's _Amateur Magician's Handbook_ and _The Mark Wilson Course in Magic_. I read and re-read the first two chapters of the Hay book. I think the other one was called "The Magic State of Mind."

As an educator, though, I acknowledge the value of the detailed illustrations in the Mark Wilson Course. Having said that, it is nothing short of amazing that I was able to learn the pressure fan from the description in Hay's book. One of the highest compliments I ever received as a magician was when Mussey told me that I could do a pressure fan better than he did. There wasn't one single photo illustrating the pressure fan, just the written word to go by. But I managed to pick it up extremely well. (There was a photo of Hay/Mussey's hands doing a pressure fan in _Illustrated Magic_, his translation and expansion of Ottokar Fischer's _Wunderbuch der Zauberkunst_. But the method shown in the Fischer book differed somewhat from the method in the AMH.)

I have four or five editions--hardback and paperback--of _The Amateur Magician's Handbook_. It is still the single best book ever written for the beginner who wants to make a serious study of magic.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Sep 3, 2013 07:46PM)
What also amazed me about _The Amateur Magician's Handbook_ was that I first discovered it in the public library. I still think it is a much better book for a library to have in its collection than the color photo-illustrated magic books that are ubiquitous in libraries today.

----- Sonny
Message: Posted by: manananmaclir (Sep 4, 2013 08:30AM)
I would love to see this reprinted in paperback or hardback. I like e-books, but there is something about holding a book in your hands.
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Sep 4, 2013 08:48PM)
Why wait for a reprint? There are hardback copies listed on alibris.com from $13.89 for a copy in good condition to a copy in very good condition at $133.12

I have three hardback copies of the book with different dust jackets and one without a dust jacket. The hardback copy was remaindered at one time IIRC.

----- Sonny
Message: Posted by: manananmaclir (Sep 5, 2013 08:32AM)
Good point! I forgot about alibris.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Sep 21, 2013 03:59AM)
As a teenager in the '40s, Vincent Malmstrom, loaned me his TARBELL(s). I read EVERY WORD! (well, almost!).

A few years later, I bought the original TARBELL (the mail order course) when my mentor, old pro' STUART ROSS, died.

About that time, I picked up a copy of AMH. I had appreciated (and still do appreciate) TARBELL. After reading AMH, I started calling it, the "poor man's Tarbell!

I thoroughly agree with Sonny's comments regarding AMH!
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Sep 22, 2013 11:07AM)
The nice thing about Henry Hay's _Amateur Magician's Handbook_ is that it was on the shelves of the public library, whereas the Tarbell correspondence course had to be ordered through the mail and the Tarbell hardbound books published by Tannen usually had to be bought or ordered from a magic shop. (The Tarbell hardbound books may have been on the public library shelves of some larger cities. When I visited my brother in Cleveland around 1963 I was shocked to see some of the Tarbell volumes on the shelves there. Maybe one of the Cleveland librarians was a magician.)

I was also shocked a few years ago at a library in Hampton Roads to see some instructional magic VHS tapes, including one featuring John Mendoza.

When I was in The Blackstone Ring in Norfolk back in the 60's I thought an interesting way to recruit future members would have been to slip a promo half-sheet between the pages of the books in the 793.8 section of the library. In the old days before computers, people used to sign their names on the checkout cards and I thought about copying down the names and looking them up in the phone book so I could send them promo material about the club.

----- Sonny