Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13

Magic 1400s-1950s, the Aesthetics of Illusionism and Stage Magic


The posters that advertised prestidigitation from the 1400's through 1950s have the ability to astonish us as if we were children; Taschen made a valuable document of this.

The powerhouse Taschen, renowned for its beautiful, elegant art books, published in 2009 a graphic compendium of the history of magic. Magic 1400s-1950s features over five hundred years seen through posters, photographs, postcards, pamphlets and other visual tools that gather popular mysticism and metaphysics for the delight of its readers.

One of Taschen undeniable attributes has been its use of creativity not only on the overall design but also, and perhaps more importantly, while choosing the subjects of each and every one of their books, at times taking fairly uncommon risks for the industry ––like in Fetish Girls by Eric Kroll or Bondage by Nobuyoshi Araki. This book about stage magic follows The Circus 1870s-1950s, edited a year before by art gallery director Noel Daniel, who is the editor of Magic.

The two authors of the book, Mike Caveny and Jim Steinmeyer, are experts on the subject prestidigitators themselves. Caveney has published over fifty books on the theory, practice and history of magic, and practices stage-illusionism. Steinmeyer has even created tricks used by David Copperfield and Siegfried & Roy, as well as illusions used for Broadway shows. The aesthetic value of this collections hides among its pages, as if they were magic tickets that show how one illusionist influenced the next one over time. Strewn together by the texts of Caveney, Steinmeyer and Ricky Jay, this visual history of prestidigitation is a book full of surprises which, additionally, renders us children again by defying our expectations and violating the laws of reason. A beauty where there is one.

Related Articles