Houdini material, rare books among highlights of Swann Oct. 28 auction of the Magic Collection of a Gentleman

Swann Galleries’ auction of the Magic Collection of a Gentleman on Oct. 28 saw strong results for items pertaining to Harry Houdini, as well as for scarce posters promoting magicians Kellar and Alexander, and for rare magic books. All prices realized include 20 percent buyer’s premium.

Among the Houdini highlights were a magician’s wand received by Houdini while presiding as President of Will Goldston’s Magician’s Club, which brought $10,200; a pair of Bean leg irons with key owned by Houdini, and stamped with his name, $8,400; and a pair of souvenir pocket mirrors, one with a bust portrait of Houdini, the other with a bust portrait of his wife Bess, made for members of the Philadelphia Houdini Club, Philadelphia, circa 1928-29, $5,520.

Houdini’s copy of Henry Ridgely Evans’s The Old and the New Magic . . . Second Edition, Chicago, 1909, annotated, inscribed and signed by Houdini, realized $5,520. A Typed Letter Signed in full to magician and magic dealer Will Goldston, Brooklyn, 17 July 1917, sold for $4,560, an interesting TLS to Frederick Powell, containing information about magicians and their relations, 30 December 1918, $3,840; and a signed copy of Houdini Exposes the Tricks used by the Boston Medium “Margery,” New York, 1924, rarely found with his signature, $3,840.

Rich ephemeral material related to Houdini included his own copy of a press booklet for The Master Mystery, New York, 1918, signed and inscribed, “Please let me have this back,” $4,320; and a window card for Houdini, Greatest Magician of the Age, Master Mystifier, for a performance at the Providence Opera House during the final tour before his death, Providence, 1926, $4,080.

Featured color lithograph posters for other performers included an evocative horizontal image from 1897 promoting Kellar, who is depicted twice, seated at the left reading a large book in the company of red devils, and in the background on the right levitating a woman, while dragons lurk and bats fly above, which sold for $5,635; and a straightforward yet startling vertical image of Kellar in His Latest Mystery – Self Decapitation, New York, 1898, $6,860. The scarcest of the posters for Alexander, a two-sheet vertical example showing a bust portrait of The Man Who Knows, published in Bombay, was acquired by a young magician for $5,520.

Highlights among the magic books were William Frederick Pinchbeck, Witchcraft: or the Art of Fortune-Telling Unveiled, Boston, 1805, $6,000; and Alfred Chapuis and Edouard Gélis, Le Monde des Automates, one of 25 sets on Japan Imperial, signed by the authors, $3,600.

For complete results, an illustrated catalog with prices realized is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or can be viewed online at www.swanngalleries.com.

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