16 May 2016

The Dai Vernon Book of Magic by Lewis Ganson.

The Dai Vernon Book of Magic is at the top of my recommended book list.  It is so jam-packed with useful knowledge, you will find something new every time you read it.  In the March 2001 issue of Genii Magazine, Jamy Ian Swiss cited it as one of only four books needed to improve your magic.


At its core, it teaches the magician how to present magic naturally.  Ganson used the simple vanish of a ball to show how Vernon analyzed his magic to produce “natural movements.”  This detailed thinking came to be known as The Vernon Touch.

Ganson writes:

   “So many performers make it obvious that they are going to perform a sleight;  they telegraph the fact that the trickery is about to commence;  they make a performance of the sleight itself; a display of skill which draws attention to the fact that a sleight is being performed.  A sleight should be a secret thing, unheralded, unhurried and unseen.”

Through practice and using one’s head, we finesse our magic. We smooth out those rough edges.  We notice details. We simplify.  Vernon was a student of magic.  He asked questions and never settled.  He wanted magicians to think, analyze, practice.  “If you don’t like to practice,” he would say, “find another hobby.”

Vernon Book of Magic

The Book Of Magic

Every trick is a gem.  Most are classics.  Each page has something of value.  You will find close-up, stage and parlor magic.  Vernon held nothing back.  His generosity was a gift for the rest of us.

We have The Cups and Balls, The Vernon Wand Spin, A Chinese Classic, Linking Rings, Paul Rosini’s Thimbles, Expansion of Texture.  Then there’s Penetration of Thought, Leipzig’s Card Stab, The Challenge, Climax to a Dice Routine, The Ball, Cone and Handkerchief… I could go on.

The Wand Spin

The Wand Spin

Vernon Holds Nothing Back

The chapter on Dai Vernon’s D.L. deserves special mention.  Here we learn the real work on this often abused sleight. A playing card is a “light, flimsy thing,” He observed.  “Not a manhole cover or plank of wood,” he would add.  If you are looking for a natural way to execute this sleight, here it is.

With Expansion Of Texture, Vernon combined ideas from T. Nelson DownsL’Homme Masque and Robert Houdin to create a charming copper/silver coin routine that will elicit gasps from your audience.  John Carney uses this trick. That should tell you something.

Ganson’s initial idea was a small booklet describing a couple of Vernon’s routines.  But it grew fast.  Over a year and a half later, the Book of Magic was born.  “All of the fine magic it contains has been contributed by this great magician who,” Ganson writes, “has devoted a lifetime to this art.”

Dai Vernon B&W at Kit Kat Club.

The Dai Vernon Book of Magic was published in 1957 by Supreme.  It was re-released in 1994 by L&L Publishing.

Mr. Swiss’ three other magic books?  Mastering the Art of Magic, Eugene Burger.  Card College, Roberto Giobbi. Stars Of Magic, Louis Tannen.

For more info on Vernon and the D.L. see Jamy Ian Swiss’ essay in the July 2011 issue of Genii Magazine.

Chris Deleo is a professional magician from New York City.  Follow on Instagram @chrisdeleomagic