The Erdnase Bible

A strange title for a strange trick. It is another version of the Signed Folded Card plot, but has some intriguing logic in it. The signed, folded card is found clipped to the inside of a miniature edition of the Expert At The Card Table, the famous classic book we all studied (did we?) and that is the foundation of modern card magic.

I got the book from the Magic Art Centre (Bill Kalush) in New York. It is a miniature replica of the above-mentioned book. I use it not to study the moves and techniques (I did this long ago), but I use it as a presentational gimmick in my card magic. I lead into the Ambitious Card with the following words:

“Many people ask me how we magicians invent or learn our tricks. Well — in card magic, we rely on the classic books, from which we learn the tricks of the trade. A famous and mysterious book is called The Expert At The Card Table by Erdnase, an author who remains anonymous to this day. The book was published in 1902, and in it we have the foundation of all the modern card magic you have seen.

The book is not only a resource to learn card magic but also an inspiration and safety guard. Whenever I don’t know what to do when something goes wrong, I can consult the book and find a solution.”

With these words, I show the book, thumb through it and put it on the table. Then I go into the Ambitious Card, which I perform until to the point where I have the signed, folded card palmed in my hand.

In the last phase of the routine, apparently something goes wrong, and the card is not on top as expected. Therefore, I have to resort to my little book. Now I open the book and show them the folded card clipped to the inside cover of the booklet. The switch happens when I remove the paper clip and close the book.

The card is palmed in the right hand finger palm. The left hand holds the book. The right hand opens the rear cover, so the spectators see the clipped card. The palmed card is placed directly underneath the dummy card. The right thumb is placed onto that dummy.

Now the left fingers remove the paper clip. It is important that the right hand stay motionless during the next steps: The left hand closes the book and immediately pulls it to left, freeing the right hand. The palmed card under the cover is retained by the right fingers and comes into view. With the proper timing this is a perfect visual retention switch, and you swear the card never left sight. All that remains is to unfold the card and show the signature on it.

You can use any other small book, if you can’t find the miniature Erdnase book. A small dictionary or something along these lines would work well. The idea behind the Erdnase book is the presentational angle, linking it to the card magic performed. For the lay audience it is interesting to see the illustrations in the small book. They can hardly imagine that it is possible to learn sleight-of-hand from an illustrated book, and they assume this to be a very impressive and difficult feat. Which it is.