Sitting proudly in one of the main display pods in The Magic Circle museum is “The Discovery of Witchcraft”, written in 1584, not by a magician, but by a Magistrate Reginald Scot, and it is this book which contains the first chapter ever written in English on the subject of ‘Magic’.
Published in the reign of Elizabeth I, Scott’s intention was to show that those who, at the time were being burnt at the stake for practising what we now know as the art of magic, were not heathens, wizards and witches, but sadly much of this fell on deaf ears and the monarchy ordered that copies of the book be destroyed
Our copy, open at Book 13 (chapter 13 as we would know it now) shows the section in the book which deals with magic, the remainder of the book concentrates on witchcraft. It is worth noting that some of the ‘tricks’ shown within this chapter, are still used today, such as the Cups and Balls, which HRH Prince Charles chose to perform for his audition piece to join The Magic Circle in 1975, and also included effects such as the ‘Cut and Restored Rope’, and a ‘Four Ace’ production
It is widely believed that Shakespeare had read Scot and that the book is one possible source for the witches of Macbeth, the mock trial of King Lear, and for Bottom’s transformation and the hobgoblin character Puck or Robin Goodfellow in A Midsummer Nights Dream.
Paperback versions of the book are still in print, but you would have to save your pocket money for many years for afford the original with an estimated value of over £50.000, and was written around the time that Sir Francis Drake was knighted (1581)
The book is considered of such importance in the history of magic, that it is depicted on the timeline mural on the beautiful helical staircase which greets you upon entry to The Magic Circle building
In 1634, Hocus Pocus Jr the first book solely written in English on the subject of ‘Magic’ was published:
But it wasn’t until the 1834 and the publication of Professor Hoffman’s Book ‘Modern Magic’, that the general public were introduced to a contempory book written on the art of Conjuring. The book was highly successful and sold over 60,000 copies in its first 30 years, which may not sound much by modern standards but this was written when William IV was on the throne of England
Next article will be on the subject of ‘A Brief History of The Magic Circle’