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Topic: When is a pocket not a pocket?
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 13, 2018 11:07AM)
Picking up from Habbrock's thread on his cups and balls routine, where Henry and I went off on a clothing tangent.


Henry Le Tregateur said:

As for pockets, I think we should differentiate with regards to function.

Yes, the pocket as we know it is later period--15th century? It originated as a way to conveniently locate purses (pouch if you prefer).

However, there is the magician's functional aspect to consider. It does not have the same function as that used by the population at large--it is an apparatus designed to conceal things. So no, it would not be what we commonly be a pocket.

But there is still the need to hide things, and I think it is probable that some form of rudimentary "pocket" may have been sewn into clothing to accommodate small items--coins, string, etc. It would have been sewn in such a way that it was "invisible" to the casual observer. When I make my "magician's" costume I plan to include a few strategically placed.

Because this is actually Aslak's thread, we may consider to continue under a new thread.



I don't quite follow, to be honest. I use pockets to hold things, both in a modern and a reenactment sense. I think I'm missing part of what you meant.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 13, 2018 11:36AM)
I think we both agree that the pocket in the Middle Ages appeared in late period. My understanding of its development was that it was a way to make a pouch (something that hangs from the body) more convenient. In terms of magic tricks, a pocket is a good place to stash things.

You would not find a pocket in a garment that dated pre-1300 (or whenever). For my persona, which dates mid-twelfth to early thirteenth, my garments would never have a pocket, because they had not been invented. So that removes the possibility of my persona using a pocket--or does it?

I am envisioning a place to hide things, such as coins, string, and other small objects. My persona would have one or more pouches--but four or more?

The specific garment would be the surcote, which came into fashion in the late twelfth century and was the primary garment throughout the 1200s. Its sides are open, which allows easy access to the hands. What is the likelihood that magicians of the period had little hidey-holes in their surcotes? And what form would these hidey-holes take? I think small pockets, which would not be found in the non-magician's clothing. Hence, they would not be what we consider to be "pockets," but what else would you call them?

These little pockets could be located anywhere, especially places like the back side of dags, along the hemline of a tunic, or in the opening of slit-sleeve tunics.

Does this make sense?

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 13, 2018 11:38AM)
With regard to the evolution of the pocket--if my memory serves me correctly, they started as a slit in a garment through which the hand could be reached to access the pouch. The logical development from this was to simply sew the pouch to the slit, which made a much simpler and efficient arrangement.

Message: Posted by: D. Yoder (Dec 13, 2018 08:49PM)
If the pocket is invisible to someone in the audience, does it really matter when pockets were invented?
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 14, 2018 11:23AM)
D. Yoder,

From the perspective of practicality I totally agree.

The issue is authenticity, which I know has been discussed ad nauseam, but here it goes again. It's fun to speculate.

I think I said this before, with regards to an another topic of debate, the TT--I am of the opinion that something of that type has probably existed this the early magicians, whom I think were pretty crafty. From a technological stand point, there is no reason for such a device not to have been used Wood, bone, ceramic, horn (which when heated becomes very maleable), leather, thin metal, etc. were available to fabricate them.

One of the arguments against them is that there is no reference to them in our early texts,Discoverie of Witchcraft, Hocus Pocus, etc. However, these texts do not mention wands either, but most illustrations of magicians during the 15th and 16th centuries show magic wands, and in one of the pictures of "Hocus Pocus" the magician prominently holds a wand.

Of course, speculation is not proof, and the texts give no confirmation of a TT-like device. I would never enter an SCA arts and sciences contest (yes, authenticity obsessed) using a TT or a pocket--I would also use a documented trick--but at a general performance it would be no big deal provided people enjoyed it.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 15, 2018 03:47PM)
Okay, I was misunderstanding. I thought you meant that non-magician pockets were somehow fundamentally different from magician pockets. Which is certainly not the case. Now it looks like what you were saying is that there is reasonable room to conjecture that pockets may have been used in secret by magicians, while not a part of regular dress by most people.

There are a lot of simple technologies that actually seem to be thought of long after they should have been. My dim recollection of the history of the thumb tip includes something I don't have time to go looking for right now, but I recall Gary Darwin saying he thinks it started with a particular person using an oversized thimble to vanish a small item. At least I think that was the earliest documentation he had and it would have been significantly later than 16th century. As to whether anyone did think of and use it, I don't know. I imagine that there would be some record of a trick as visually striking as a vanishing handkerchief or a color-changing one (dye tube could be even simpler in some ways than a TT). But even then, there are other ways to vanish a handkerchief. I'm sort of surprised that I can't find any sort of medieval/renaissance description of a "lamp chimney" p*ll gimmick, as it is entirely within the technological scope of the time. And I also argue that such is a more visually powerful vanish. (See a video of Charlie Caper doing his vanishing silk to see it in action.) But I can't find any good evidence of either method being used in the middle ages. That leaves the question of when an SCA magician would use something he knows is not documented to the time. Does a similar trick have to be described or is it enough that it uses materials and props that don't appear anachronistic?

There are card tricks recorded in HPJ and DOW, but since that time thousands of tricks have been developed with cards. We can't really claim that all of them are period just because the props are. In the SCA, there's great acceptance of the modern for convenience (I've not yet seen anyone drive to an event with a horse-drawn wagon, nor have I yet seen a good brewer who refuses to use modern cleaners to sterilize his carboys), but I also think there's respect for the folks who try to do it all historically. To continue with the example of cards, I think something like Ambitious Card could still play fine in an SCA context, but I don't know of any period or near-period source that describes it, so would not try to tell someone that it is authentic just because cards are the cards I'm using appear to be.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 17, 2018 04:40PM)
I think we are in basic agreement.

However, I do think that we are mistaken to think that DOW/Art of Juggling/HPJ are comprehensive or exhaustive. For instance, except for the balancing eggs on a pole in HPJ they do not reference tricks with eggs. However, if you look at illustrations from the 15th-16th centuries (most notably the Fall of Hermogenes) you will see eggs are frequently on tables, etc. There is also a trick in the Secretum Philosophorum (ca. 1300) about how to make an egg float around ones head.

A trick that these works do not reference is cutting and restoring a handkerchief (allegedly in the 1400s in Cologne a woman was executed as a witch for doing this trick), which is referenced in both The Illustrated History of Magic and Southworth's The Medieval English Minstrel (unfortunately neither of these works give a period source citation for the information and hence it remains an unsubstantiated). Illustrated History also references the writing of a Spaniard named Cardano (I've seen this but my ability to adequately translate it is limited) in the early 16th century of a juggler on a ship who did productions out of a man's coat as well as threw rings into the air which connected to each other, neither of which are tricks in our standard texts (he also did the color book trick).

Something interesting I came across on a book from the 1800s is a variation of the Decollation of John the Baptist, except the trick had been altered so that clowns now performed it.

Definitely actual tricks are always being created and forgotten. However, except where technology is involved, the modus operandi tends to change far less. At least that's what I think, for better or worse.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 17, 2018 04:48PM)
Patrick wrote: That leaves the question of when an SCA magician would use something he knows is not documented to the time. Does a similar trick have to be described or is it enough that it uses materials and props that don't appear anachronistic?

I think it is pretty much a question of context and purpose. For situations in which authenticity is important, then the trick should be well documented (whatever that entails). When entertaining or in a contest where authenticity, relatively speaking, does not matter then the medieval-looking trick works. (Where I am from we have the so-called "ten foot rule"--if it looks good from ten feet, then it is good enough. Of course, this rule does not apply in contests which require documentation, etc.)

Of course, you will meet people who think everything has to be authentic, which I think misses the whole point of SCA.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 17, 2018 11:58PM)
So, are there references of any sort at all to tricks that could reasonably be done with a TT? That's what I was trying to get at. We know there are references to T&R handkerchief, C&R rope, and so by extension a T&R paper could be assumed to be a variation of a known trick. Egg tricks, such as the egg "wambling" on a pole or flying around the head, do not actually justify an egg bag, though, because the basic effect is not there. The egg is there, but not the vanish and reappearance. (HPJ does describe a trick using the egg bag principle, however, so I think it could conjecturally be claimed - though the routines as we know them are unlike anything I've seen described from the time.)

I must have made my point clumsily. Sorry for that. My point is that just because the technology needed to make a TT was available does not justify the use of one. I would not assume a method was in use if I didn't see some evidence of a trick that at least would likely use that method. Now, if you know a trick was described, at least from an audience point of view, you are free to conjecture a method, even if that method isn't in any of the surviving texts on magic. If it could have been used (doesn't depend on modern substances or materials) and would make a practical method for doing a trick from the time, I think working with a conjectural method is a great thing.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 09:27AM)
Yes, there are tricks, although in some of these a different modus operandi is indicated.

Right off hand, these would be cut and restored lace (actually, these weren't rope tricks; instead they were silk ribbon and lace tricks--the illustrated "rope" trick in HPJ is actually for "tape") and the cut and restored burned thread. However, the modus operandi seems awkward, at least to me, and a TT would achieve the purpose better.

A trick that does not specify a modus operandi is pulling ribbons out of ones mouth.

There is also the blowing pepper/ginger/etc. out of the mouth under the heading "Divert [sp?] juggling knacks" in DOW (I think it might also be in HPJ). This same trick is described by Cardano, IIRC. The description of the trick does provide the modus operandi, which in principle is not that far from a TT. Also, with regards to the ribbons out of the mouth, one aspect is that the ribbons are to be handed to women. Are these ribbons going to be soaked in saliva? A TT-like device would prevent this.

Ultimately anyone claiming that TTs cannot be documented for the period prior to 1650 (or whenever) is correct. However, with regards to "justification," I would put it in the category of "might have been done." In that sense it is just an opinion, and its purpose is more along the lines to enhance entertainment by making it easier to perform certain tricks. Like I said, I would never use a TT in Kingdom A&S.

I hope I am not too muddled.


Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 10:03AM)
One other thing to clarify things.

When I talk of TT, I am actually talking about three things (yeah, that'll keep everything clear):

Modern TT (like Vernet or your thimble)--not period, this is generally not the sense I mean

TT-like Device--this is what I think is probably period, though it remains undocumented

TT Modus Operandi--method by which something is done, which is a basic and (at least in retrospect) a fairly obvious means to accomplish something does in magic tricks

I think the history of card tricks (which is well documented in DOW/HPJ) might shed some light on my way of thinking. We know that they were first (at lest in the west) created in the 1300s, and tricks were being done with them before 1500. DOW, AOJ, and HPJ (by the way, I just ordered a copy of Cleaver and Pleasant Inventions, which I have not previously seen) documents the following: KC, FC, identification of selected cards, transformation of one card into a different card by different methods (aces into jacks, kings into aces (in AOJ, IIRC)), burned card produced somewhere else, card in nut (from the description it seems to me not the entire card), card sharks, etc. The big thing missing is the modern shuffle, which was not possible because of existing paper technology, though other forms of shuffling cards were used. Cards represented an incredible explosion of new, unthought of tricks. In other words, beyond specific tricks and shuffling most of what is used today was thought of then, ie. the modus operandi were established.

And for me the most important point of this discussion is whether the modus operandi, rather than a specific apparatus, existed prior to 1650. As I have said, it is just speculation. But given the genius of the early magicians, I think that the TT would not have slipped past them.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 10:30AM)
Let me correct myself--I do think "medieval" TTs were possible, which probably closely resembled contemporary TTs. So I guess a thimble might have been used.

Patrick wrote:
My point is that just because the technology needed to make a TT was available does not justify the use of one. I would not assume a method was in use if I didn't see some evidence of a trick that at least would likely use that method. Now, if you know a trick was described, at least from an audience point of view, you are free to conjecture a method, even if that method isn't in any of the surviving texts on magic. If it could have been used (doesn't depend on modern substances or materials) and would make a practical method for doing a trick from the time, I think working with a conjectural method is a great thing.

I don't disagree with your position.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 18, 2018 10:55AM)
So, if we arenít in full agreement, it sounds like we at least are not in any real disagreement! ;)

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 11:23AM)
I would agree.

A couple of corrections. I just had a chance to look at the descriptions of the tricks. A careful reading of the DOW trick of restoring lace makes it sound like the magician is actually cutting lace attached to clothing. However, if the trick in the Secretum Philosophorum, which uses a rush, is essentially the cut and restored rope trick.

Also, HPJ does give the modus operandi for the pulling out the ribbons; it is not a TT.

Here is another set of tricks that are not documented in our traditional sources. DOW, at the end of the section on the coloring book (Book of Waggery) states the following: "There are likewise divers feats, Arithmetical and Geometrical; for them read Gemma Phrysius, and Records, &c. which being excercised by Jugglers, add credit to their Art." In the 1500s here was an English magician whose name escapes me but is known for entertaining people with math tricks--did people sit around and watch him do algebra? I think he actually wrote a book about these tricks.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 18, 2018 04:49PM)
I think first of magic squares, which were certainly used before this. Albrecht Durer included one in a woodcut (I think it was Melancholia, but I'm not positive). I imagine that fast calculation, while actually just arithmetic in general, could be made entertaining even if the audience didn't have pocket calculators to race with. See what Arthur Benjamin does with his math skills, for example. And the reference certainly does sound like a book of math tricks. How fascinating.

I am not convinced the ribbons from mouth is better with a TT. I haven't done it, but I think I'll have to try it out, because I may change my mind right away. Unless your mouth is really wet, you shouldn't be delivering significantly soggy ribbon. Think of how mouth coils are made of nothing more than tissue paper, but they don't get soaked from the short time in the mouth. The HPJ presentation is to deliver a length of ribbon, however much is called for. By using slip knots, you can count the measure as it comes out past the teeth, undoing the knots as you go. This leaves you with less and less ribbon in the mouth, but with a TT, you don't reduce the size of the object in the mouth as you feed it out. That said, it should be fairly easy to steal out, probably more so than the leftover ribbon. So perhaps the TT is a benefit there. I think I could argue both ways and until I get some ribbon and try it a few times I won't know which is better.

The "lace" used in the C&R cord trick always seemed to me to be lace in the sense of shoelace, not in the sense of decorative lace. It just makes more logical sense to me. In other words, a braided (as opposed to twisted) cord. Not very thick cord, of course, but laces used for pointing garments were indeed braided (lucet would work fine, or finger-braiding) and won't unravel nearly so much at the cut as twisted cord, while remaining more floppy and pliable. So, this is perhaps more of a cut and restored string than rope, if my interpretation of lace is correct in this context.

The other, which specifies "narrow white tape," is rather interesting. White is used for magician's rope because it is so visible. The specification of white for the tape implies that the color was a concern at the time, possible for the same reason of visibility. Without knowing more, I can't say what the tape would have been used for. I suspect twill tape would work fine, but I'd just use rope for a reenactment audience so I don't have to explain what I'm using this flat cloth tape for... Frankly, this trick always confused me because I couldn't really puzzle out the illustration and didn't go to the trouble to study the text with cord/rope/tape in hand. I'm really tempted to set aside some time to just puzzle out more of HPJ this holiday season.

Thanks for the conversation. This is a stimulating subject to think about!

I really wish there were another magic lover in the area who had an interest in puzzling out HPJ with me. That would be a great project. Sadly, I'm the only one I am aware of.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 05:21PM)
Patrick wrote:
I really wish there were another magic lover in the area who had an interest in puzzling out HPJ with me. That would be a great project. Sadly, I'm the only one I am aware of.

Me too. And what's worse is that I am a novice magician wanna be. I think I have a few friends to try things out on, and I have done some experimentation (especially cup and ball, where I've been told that I vanish the ball from the hand well). However, private practice does not give the feed back that another person can.

I think you make good points concerning the ribbon out of the mouth. It's not anything I have ever tried, and the HPJ account seems more in line with what you wrote.

As for the lace C&R, I suggest you read the account in DOW again let me know what you think. The more rope-like version seems the more logical, but . . .

Magic squares were in fact used in non-performative magic and would undoubtedly hold some fascination for an audience already open to such demonstrations. As for our mundane tricks, I really don't care for anything that requires a lot of cogitation, especially with three or more digit numbers. On the other hand, one trick I really like and plan to incorporate into a magic show is the card trick where a person names a number from 1 to 63 and the magicians names the number. Depending upon the cards used its range can be reduced to 32, 16, 8, etc. My set goes up to 100. This is a trick which by no means is documented in sources I have read, but I don't think it is outside the spirit of period magic when appropriately presented.

I also have looked at the "rope trick," and have figured it out a bit more. I think laying out the rope and concentrating less on what is written (which is so dense) might be a way of figuring it out.

I've enjoyed the conversation as well.


As for rope vs.
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 18, 2018 05:28PM)
The little trailing comment on rope that I didn't finish is that I am fine using rope. One problem with strict authenticity is that most people can't relate to what is being done. Cutting a ribbon is a bit strange, but cutting a rope is expected of a magician. Plus, rope is a lot cheaper and more available, especially when the cutting destroys the rope.

For the record, I really like Master Payne's approach to magic, although you can also see that I think different circumstances justify different approaches. But I am also mundanely an academically trained historian (Ph.D.), so at my core I like authenticity, which is why I write so much about this topic.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 18, 2018 06:53PM)
Iíll dig out my DOW. I had HPJ at hand, so thatís the one I turned to.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 19, 2018 12:10AM)
Okay, I'm home and can look at DOW. So looking in Chapter XXXII, I found "To cut a lace asunder in the middest, and to make it whole againe."

I assume you are asking my thoughts about the words "...any lace that hangeth about ones necke, or any point, girdle, or garter, &c," is that right?

I think this must have been where I read that trick first because it was the "point" that told me it was a cord. Here: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/point we can see definition 52 is "any lace made by hand." Which is what I thought. To an Elizabethan gentleman (actually from the mid 15th century onward, so a century before and at least into the 1600s), a point was a cord used to tie the hose (trousers) to the doublet, to attach sleeves to a doublet, or to fasten the front of the doublet in lieu of buttons. A good source for reproductions of such is here: https://historicenterprises.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=102_231&products_id=1596

I am certain that the "lace" meant in both DOW and HPJ is the same. It is a cord used for tying clothing together in a time before zippers. So, really, this trick is a cut and restored cord effect.

Which leaves "girdle, or garter, &c." When I wear my hose (over-the-knee socks), I used to tie cloth garters below the knees, though more recently I switched to leather garters with buckles. I suspect the use of a garter in this context was meant to indicate that a performer could have whatever color was common ready to go and if he saw someone with a matching (or close enough) garter, he could perform a feat of wonderment with a borrowed item of clothing. Girdle has a modern meaning that makes no sense in this context and I really don't know what it did mean then. But I suspect it was another small length of cord, whether flat or round, that was used to tie clothing. The context in including it with point, lace, and garter pretty much demands such an interpretation.

Sadly, so few people in the SCA dress well enough to make the borrowed cord feasible. However, I suppose one could buy some cheap Roll-o-ribbon and borrow one of the innumerable "award" danglies that so many people seem to wear. Appear to cut through the ribbon, make it whole again. That would be in keeping with the spirit of the trick. Just pay attention to what colors are most used for such awards in your area and spend 95 cents on a roll.

"May I see thy Jingling Spoon Award, my lady? Observe that the cord be a bit over-length and alloweth it to hang down into thy ampleness too far to be seen without distraction to the male eye. Allow me to rectify that situation by parting the cord asunder in the middest, that it may be knotted to a proper length. Egad! Thou likest not mine shenanigans? Observe! Blow upon the cutted ends and repeat after me: Avast Lord Henry! All present must repeat the words of power! Avast Lord Henry! And Lo! The cord of thy award be now restored! Oh joy, oh rapture! And if any present here be informers to the Holy Inquisition, I assure you that this miracle were done by legerdemain, not leger-demon. Thank you and remember to tip your servers."

The longer "tape" cutting trick is still probably a flat braid or woven band (as with inkle, which was used for such things and bookbinding). Possibly it is just specified to be something very visible to the audience. We may use a broader definition of rope than was common 400 years ago. But that's speculation. I'm not a historian, nor am I a linguist.

Just some thoughts to add to the confusion.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 19, 2018 08:29AM)
And I am not an expert on Elizabethan clothing.



P.S. Whew, I am breathing a sigh of relief.
Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 19, 2018 08:36AM)
By the way, great patter.

That is proving to be an obstacle to me, ie. thinking of what to say.

Although HPJ does include patter, it is not the best model, at least in my opinion.

One thing you may have noticed is that so much of the patter implies betting on whether a feat can be done. There are also many examples of what would come across as insults. It is a far cry from the stories that people tell today.

Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 19, 2018 09:07AM)
Tells us a bit about the performance context for the time it was written, though, eh?

Check your PMs.

Message: Posted by: HenryleTregetour (Dec 19, 2018 10:17AM)
Message: Posted by: Rik Gazelle (Dec 20, 2018 03:44AM)
[quote] Girdle has a modern meaning that makes no sense in this context and I really don't know what it did mean then [/quote]
In Elizabethan times a girdle was anything that encircled the waist. In modern parlence it would be a belt. The wealthy would adopt richly adorned and bejeweled girdles as status symbols. Hoi polloi would use a simple cord to gather their garments at the waist.
Message: Posted by: Mr. Woolery (Dec 20, 2018 09:08AM)
THANK YOU, Rik! With that, the last bit of the puzzle is in place.

In fact, now I distinctly remember a painting of Henry VIII that shows him sumptuously dressed, with only a knotted cord at his waist.

Thatís a nice bit of information to find in checking in this morning.