Digital Library of Illusion

Our dear friend the brilliant magician Luis Piedrahita recently told us about La biblioteca digital de ilusionismo (Digital Library of Illusion) – a fascinating digital resource for magicians and scholars. At the moment, this library offers access to 62 fully scanned volumes divided into categories: Card Magic, Mentalism, Prestidigitation, White Magic, Magic History, and Scientific Magic.

This database is a part of the Fundación Juan March that was founded in 1955 by Spanish Financier Juan March Ordinas. Based in Madrid, the institution is dedicated to science and the humanities, with a special emphasis on the arts. The Library of Illusion is a special collection meant to compliment the Spanish Library of Contemporary Music and Theater (as well as a massive collection from the library of Argentinean writer Julio Cortázar).

Of particular note, this database provides access to Spain’s first true magic book: Engaños a ojos vistos by Pablo Minguet Madrid, 1733; as well as many other titles, including J. Mieg’s comprehensive El brujo en sociedad Madrid, 1839. Readers will find texts in other languages, such as: Henri Decremps’s La magie blanche dévoilée Paris, 1789, and, a more recent title, Harlan Tarbell’s Crazy Stunts Minneapolis, 1929. There are a number of Spanish translations, in particular: Robert-Houdin’s French L’art de gagner a tous les jeux Paris, 1890 and Carlo Willman’s German Die Moderne Salon-Magie Valencia, 1897.

These digital books have been scanned at a high resolution so that each page looks as it would in real life. Unlike the physical volumes in a rare book room, these books require no special handling or reading stands, and can be flipped through rapidly and noisily. (A Flash animation provides this effect). They are also fully searchable.

The impetus for this project came with a donation from the library of Spanish magic historian José Puchol de Montís in 1988. With nearly 2,000 titles to draw from, we hope that this digital resource will continue to grow.

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