Hofzinser Lives!

After ninety years of entrenched knowledge, it is no easy task to shake and overturn facts that have been spread as seeming gospel in countless articles, periodicals, books, and other publications. Given this state of affairs, I hope the reader will forgive me the many citations in the following chapters and the notes necessary to support my revision of this history.

Hofzinser was a man who, in his time, did not have any great card conjurers to follow as role models, like his successors did around the turn of the twentieth century; such figures as the mysterious S.W. Erdnase, “The Professor” Dai Vernon, Nate Leipzig, Max Malini, or Chicagoan Edward Marlo (of whom it was said, with tongue in cheek, that he happily acted as if he had invented practically everything in card magic except the cards themselves). Hofzinser was a man who did not have an abundance of relevant literature to draw upon, but he was a visionary, far ahead of his time, who became and remains to this day a model for all parlor magicians who came after him, including today’s close-up performers. His significance to card magic in general, as well as to parlor magic in particular, is indisputable.

 

While today there are discussions at FISM conventions on whether a category of “parlor magic” should be introduced in addition to the tabletop magic categories of close-up magic and card magic, this man knew over one hundred and fifty years ago where, with what, and within what limits it was possible to impress an audience as a magician.

All this has been known for a long time to those who are familiar with the relevant literature in the field. What is not known, however, is that much of this information is either inaccurate or only partly accurate. Through arbitrarily enhanced or even shortened accounts, a lack of in-depth research, inaccurate transcription of documents, and the desire of some authors to distinguish themselves, many articles appeared about this gifted magic philosopher that simply incorporated the mistakes of earlier ones. Everything written about Hofzinser by the admirable Ottokar Fischer was taken as the non plus ultra; an expression that, incidentally, Hofzinser took delight in using. Yet there is far more in the way of interesting facts, stories, anecdotes, pieces of magical artistry (as Hofzinser called them), and original manuscripts.

In the present book, only authentic sources from Hofzinser’s time will be used. Along with the forty-two personal letters that have been preserved and the rediscovered descriptions of tricks that were enclosed in or added to these letters, there is a huge number of fascinating and informative notes in the literature of the time, replete with references to Hofzinser. I likewise discovered, as previously mentioned, several hundred hitherto unknown newspaper accounts from the Austrian and foreign press, as well as numerous advertisements for Hofzinser’s performances, that show this genius of the art of magic in a new light.

I want to make it perfectly clear, though, that I highly value Ottokar Fischer’s work, for without Fischer, neither my investigation nor this book would have been undertaken.