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The Annals of Conjuring

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The Annals of Conjuring
As appeared in The Magic Wand
AuthorSydney W. Clarke
Publication Date1929

The Annals of Conjuring was advertised beginning in 1919. The prohibitive cost of book production and illustration, coupled with the disappointing response by intending purchasers, prevented the work being issued as originally intended. Thus it was first published serially in the pages of The Magic Wand from March, 1924 to 1928, then later in book form in 1929 (four copies), 1983(reprint), 2001(reprint).

It was a landmark in the recorded history of conjuring, representing the most detailed work on the subject at the time (and possibly even now) covering magic in England and Europe up until the early 1900's.[1]

Reviewed in Genii 1984 October & Genii 2001 November


  • Ancient Conjuring
  • The Medieval Jugglers
  • The Jugglers’ Tricks
  • Hocus Pocus
  • The English Showmen
  • Continental Conjurers
  • The Decline of Conjuring
  • The Wizard of the North and the Mechanical Conjurers
  • Robert-Houdin
  • From Robert-Houdin to Maskelyne
  • Maskelyne and Cooke
  • Conjurers of Yesterday and To-Day
  • Oriental Conjurers


Clarke's friend John Nevil Maskelyne was the one that suggested he should write a history of conjuring and gave him access to the records at Maskelyne’s theatre. Clarke sources included existing literature, first-hand details from reliable individuals and contemporary records; original programmes and playbills of nineteenth-century performers; engravings of conjurers; and newspaper reports and advertisements.

At the time when Clarke began working on The Annals, very few histories of conjuring had yet been published. Works available to Clarke that focused mostly on conjuring (as opposed to occult magic) was Thomas Frost’s The Lives of the Conjurors (1876), Henry Ridgely Evans' Magic and Its Professors (1902) and The Old and the New Magic (1906 and 1909), Houdini’s The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin (1908) and his Conjurers' Monthly Magazine (1906-1908).

At the conclusion of his work, Clarke acknowledged the help from John Nevil Maskelyne, Angelo J. Lewis (Professor Hoffmann), Harry Houdini, and Adolphe Blind, all who had died before the serial work in The Magic Wand was completed. He also thanked David Devant, George W. Hunter, and Sidney Oldridge for their assistance.

At the beginning of his project, he furnished references to some sections of his text, but by and large he did not adopt any academic procedure. Most likely because he was writing for a magazine catering to the general interests of magicians.

The original intention had been to publish the work as a book as seen by advertisements in The Magic Wand starting in 1919. When only a few people expressed interest, he abandoned thoughts of publishing it in book form. George Johnson, editor of The Magic Wand, did serialized it years later.

It is also known that the original intention had been to include a bibliography in The Annals. However, the decision was made to issue it as a separate entity as The Bibliography of Conjuring and Kindred Arts. It was compiled by with friend Adolphe Blind and published by George Johnson in 1920.

Clarke’s original manuscript, his earlier drafts of the text, and any notes he would have made, did not survive. In 1983, T. E. B. "Tibby" Clarke confirmed that the only relevant book in the family’s possession was copy number 1 of the limited edition of four copies of The Annals published by George Johnson in 1929, and that there were no other pertinent papers.


  • Magic Wand Serial (1924-1928)
  • London, George Johnson (1929), four copies
  • Magico Magazine, New York, 291 pages, plus an 84 page comprehensive index by Robert Lund (1983)
  • Miracle Factory, edited by Edwin A. Dawes and Todd Karr in collaboration with Bob Read(2001)

Miracle Factory edition

The Annals of Conjuring by Sidney W. Clarke, edited by Edwin A. Dawes and Todd Karr in collaboration with Bob Read was published 2001.

This new Annals added over 500 endnotes with many new discoveries; an introduction by Edwin A. Dawes; biographical essays on Clarke; Clarke's personal annotations; a new index and bibliography.

Bob Read, who had been a keen student of The Annals, made available his own notes and the resources of his collection of engravings.

In section 1 of the Additional Resources section, Read provides an account of the discovery of Arthur Watson’s important contributions.[2]


  2. Edwin A. Dawes' preface to The Annals of Conjuring, Miracle Factory.
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