19th Century Magic Trick

Hokus-Pokus. Blow Book or Magic Picture Book, amusing and interesting for young and old. Bilder-Zaubereien, eine amüsante Unterhaltung für Jung und Alt.

[Berlin]: Sala, [circa 1890]. Duodecimo (15.5 x 10.3 cm). Original illustrated wrappers; unpaginated (78 pp.), a mix of introductory text pages in various languages, silhouette-style illustrations, and chromolithographed plates. Some light soiling and handling wear or creasing to wrappers, binding coming loose, some light soiling and handling wear to interior but overall in excellent condition for a booklet which was meant to be heavily used and then discarded.

A rare late 19th century "blow book". A blow book is an ancient style of magic trick dating back to the 16th century, and has been referred to as the oldest type of manufactured prop used for magic. With a blow book, a magician presents a book and flips through it. Due to particular tabbing of the pages, when the book is flipped through for an audience, it will display only a single type of image. The magician will then have an audience member "blow" on the book and will flip through it again, secretly using a different set of tabbed pages, revealing that the images are now colored or completely different than what was seen before, or that the pages are even blank.

Some early mentions in print of the trick of the blow book include Reginald Scot's work "The Discoverie of Witchcraft", published in 1584, and "Hocus Pocus Junior", the earliest known English-language collection of magic tricks, published in 1635.

This particular blow book has a total of six different series of images: five chromolithographed: postage stamps, geometric designs, animals, caricatures, and pages with multiple images, plus black-and-white silhouette scenes, depending on which way the book is held and flipped.

There are also a handful of pages in various languages providing instructions as to how the book should be used. These languages include English, German, Italian, French, Russian, Swedish, Dutch, Danish, Hungarian, and Czech.

Scarce; as these books were often worn out and thrown away when they were no longer functional, they are hard to find and especially in this condition. As of August 2023, OCLC locates one possible holding of this book in a library in Scotland, but none in North America.

Book ID: 53037