The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin by Harry Houdini

(c. 1909) (Submit Review) (Submit Update)

Details: Houdini was upset that the widow of Robert-Houdin did not want to meet him. As a revenge Harry Houdini wrote “The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin”, in which Houdini tries to push Robert-Houdin from his pedestal. He tries to show that most tricks Robert-Houdin claimed as his invention were in fact not his invention and that Robert-Houdin was not this great magician he usually is thought he was. But most of Houdini’s allegations are fabricated and do not stand close inspection. Jean Hugard wrote as response to Houdini’s nasty book Houdini’s Unmasking, where Hugard point for point refutes Houdini’s argumentation.

I personally favor Hugard’s opinion, but you can now find out for yourself and get both books for a few bucks. In any case “The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin” is insofar very interesting as it shows a lot of images, clippings, and programs of well known magicians. It documents an interesting part of magic history.

Contents:

7 Introduction

33 Chapter I Significant Events in the Life of Robert-Houdin
33 Birthplace and Beginnings
38 Torrini
41 Automata
45 1840-1898
49 Robert-Houdin’s Contributions

51 Chapter II The Orange-Tree Trick
51 History of the Trick
53 Christopher Pinchbeck: likely originator of the trick
56 Isaac Fawkes & Pinetti
75 Amusements Physiques
81 M. Cornillot

83 Chapter III The Writing and Drawing Figure
83 Early Development
87 P.T. Barnum: purchases the figure
90 Wonderful Talking Machine
91 Disproving Robert-Houdin’s Claims
93 Jacquet-Droz Figure: drew dog, cupid, heads 75 years before
105 Tracing the Figure to Robert-Houdin

116 Chapter IV The Pastry Cook of the Palais Royal
116 Described and Advertised
117 Predecessors
129 Phillippe’s Le Confiseur Galant
138 Ernest Basch: claims to own original trick

141 Chapter V The Obedient Cards – The Cabalistic Clock – The Trapeze Automaton
141 The Obedient Cards
156 The Cabalistic or Obedient Clock
166 The Trapeze Automation

176 Chapter VI The Inexhaustible Bottle
176 Described
180 History Exposed

200 Chapter VII Second Sight
200 Foundation of Robert-Houdin’s Success
209 Robert-Houdin’s Claims of Originality Disputed

222 Chapter VIII The Suspension Trick
222 Suspension Trick Described
226 Examining the Claims
228 Lives of the Conjurers by Thomas Frost
230 Ching Lau Lauro
233 Heimburger “Alexander the Conjurer”

245 Chapter IX The Disappearing Handkerchief
245 Described from Robert-Houdin’s Memoirs
250 Cagliostro and the Cagliostro Seals
255 Ne Plus Ultra of the Cabalistic Art

264 Chapter X Robert-Houdin’s Ignorance of Magic as Betrayed By His Own Pen
264 Robert-Houdin as a Purloiner and Adapter of Tricks
266 Ignorance of Effects as Written in Memoirs
278 “Les Secrets de la Prestidigitation et de la Magie”

295 Chapter XI The Narrowness of Robert-Houdin’s “Memoirs”
295 Potential Charms Destroyed by Pettiness
298 Ignoring Henri Robin
300 Attacking Pinetti
302 Bartolomeo Bosco
312 John Henry Anderson

321 Index

  • Publisher: George Routledge & Sons
  • Pages: 443
  • Location: London, England
  • Dimensions: 5″x8″
  • Date: 1909
  • Binding: hardbound

Contents: magicref.net – click for details

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Approx. Price: $45.00 (2003) ***

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