In 2011, I got a call from the librarian at Conjuring Arts, asking if I could spend “a day or so” looking through some books that had recently been donated. When I arrived, the place was filled from floor to ceiling with newly arrived boxes. And you literally had to walk sideways to go from room to room.
It’s been much longer than “a day or so,” but I’m very excited to announce the creation of the Conjuring Arts Lending Library. New York residents now have thousands of books and props available to borrow for free. The apparatus collection is being housed at Fantasma Magic 421 7th Avenue (entrance on 33rd st.) and the books are on display for browsing and borrowing at Tannen’s Magic showroom located at 45 West 34th St. Suite 608 (Between 5th and 6th).
The apparatus library includes props that are appropriate to every skill level and genre of magic. Professionally crafted classics like: the Cups and Balls, Linking Rings, Zombie Balls, Appearing Bird Cage, Topsy Turvey Bottles, and more. You’ll also find hundreds of simpler, commercially available effects, in their original packaging. There’s even a wooden duck that can figure out which card you picked!
Many of the books in this collection are rare or out of print. A small sampling includes: John Northern Hilliard’s Greater Magic, Frank Garcia’s Million Dollar Card Secrets, Super Subtle Card Mysteries, Maskelyne and Devant’s Our Magic, Billy McComb’s Mccomb’s Magic, Martin Gardner’s Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic, and Juan Tamariz’s Sonata. Click HERE to view the full catalog of books.
Now here’s the full story:
In the summer of 2011, Conjuring Arts received an incredible donation: the entire material remnants of Dr. Lewis M. Neporent’s life as an amateur magician. His name may not be well-known among magicians, but he was an active member (and former president) of his local magic club. He also put out a video with the International Magicians Society explaining his professional caliber renditions of the Floating Ball and Linking Rings.
From his scrapbooks and hand drawn posters, it is clear that besides his career in medicine, Dr. Neporent (whose stage name was Professor Neporoni) gave countless performances for young children and families in the greater Kingston area. Spanish card expert Arturo de Ascanio once commented that the great luxury of being a hobbyist is that one can say, “tonight’s performance is free!” Dr. Neporent took that spirit to heart, using his performances exclusively as a means for spreading his love of magic.
Ironically, it was Neporent’s professional life that brought him into contact with his most important mentor. In the early 1970’s, he was assigned to a patient named Richard Valentine Pitchford. Pitchford might be more familiar to magicians by his other name: Cardini. Under this title, he performed on stages all over the world, executing exquisite slight-of-hand while playing the role of a a slightly tipsy English aristocrat to whom magical things simply happened. And he was never without a monocle. Cardini and Neporent became close friends, and Cardini shared many of his hard won secrets. Much of Cardini’s apparatus made its way into Neporent’s possession and is now on display at Conjuring Arts. (Keep an eye out for a separate photo exhibition of these priceless artifacts).
When Lewis Neporent passed away in September of 2009, he left a stunning collection of magic with his wife Arlene. Two years later, donated the entire collection to Conjuring Arts. Her dream was for her husband’s belongings to become a lending library of books and apparatus.
In August 2011, I began the slow process of working through the 87 giant cardboard boxes that had suddenly filled every spare foot of space at Conjuring Arts. There were also trunks, plastic tubs, tackle boxes, five boxes of top hats, a garbage bag with a guillotine in it, and even a clarinet. With a great deal of help, I inspected, cataloged, and stamped every book. The props required months of sorting; sometimes it turned out that the red tube in box #63, was meant to be used with the red ribbon and the brown block in box #13, and that you could only learn how to use said items by reading the instruction sheet in box #43. On at least one occasion I had to Skype with a historian from out of state to discern what a particular item was for, or how to compress that item back to its original size. Staying true to the wishes of the Neporent family, not a single item went to waste or was sold.
While sorting through Neporent’s collection, it became clear that he possessed a uniquely organized mind and a deep passion for every branch of magic. He was as fascinated by stage apparatus as he was with close-up magic, and had books on every subject imaginable. Everyone at Conjuring Arts agreed that these items should be the basis for a lending library freely available to all members of the New York magic community, young magicians in particular.
At this point there were two big dilemmas: where to find space for these items, and how to lend them in a secure and efficient manner. Thankfully, Fantasma Magic’s owner Roger Dreyer and Tannen’s owner Adam Blumenthal both showed tremendous enthusiasm for the project and generously offered to house and administer these collections at their stores.
Employees of Fantasma, Tannen’s, and Conjuring Arts all teamed up and spent countless hours carting boxes through crowds of tourists near the Empire State Building, embossing each book, documenting every prop, assembling a 15 ft. bookshelf, and creating a computer application for smoothly checking out books and making the library’s contents visible online. The result is a spectacular resource for magicians at every interest and skill level. I hope you are already planning your visits.
For more information:
Fantasma (212) 244-3633
Tannen’s (212) 929-4500
Thanks to the following people:
Ricky Smith, Jen Spota, Adam Blumenthal, Roger Dreyer, Rich Kameda, Robert Kaldenbach, Jeffrey Kellogg, Nate Dendy, Magick Balay, Michael Feldman, Adam Rubin, Steve Cohen, Adam Krevlin, Jonathan Gelb, Frank Monaco, Taylor Smith, Asi Wind, David Oliver, Ben Pratt, Jared Molton, Lea Spencer, and the Neporent Family.