Steinmeyer unravels some magic history.
This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone interested in magic, period.
Jim Steinmeyer is a famous designer of illusions. You have seen his handiwork in the illusions of many famous performers like David Copperfield and Penn and Teller. This book is his attempt to reveal some details about an interesting time in the history of magic, roughly the period between 1850-1950.
The period is question was a golden age of magic because this was a time when modern magic was defined and developed. Steinmeyer traces the history of magic in this period from the early performances of Robert-Houdin, to the Davenport brothers and their influence on the spiritualist movement, to the successful magical performances of John Nevil Maskelyne and others who followed him. Along the way, you will encounter a few familiar names such as Harry Houdini. You will also encounter other names that are less familiar, but not any less important such as Howard Thurston, David Devant and Guy Jarrett.
Interspersed with all this history are some tidbits about the nature of magic as a performance art. In one of the early chapters, Steinmeyer says "Magicians guard an empty safe". This statement might seem confusing and weird at first, but trust me, that sentence says a lot about the nature of magic. There are a number of such gems within the book and you will have to read the book to find them all.
In summary, this is not merely a book about tricks (even though a number of illusions are explained in here). By the end of the book, you will have a clearer idea of how Houdini might have made the elephant disappear, but the take away from the book should be a better understanding of the craft of magic, along with an appreciation of the history and the people who have shaped magic into what it is today. This book should be on every magic enthusiast's bookshelf.